Gone to Carolina in My Mind...Going to Jail in Maryland

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PBJ, and I'm not talking about peanut butter and jelly, is what every person guilty of drunk driving wants to hear when sentenced. Recently, Maryland law changed extending the period of time defendants for susequent offenses are eligible for probation before judgement from five years to ten years for certain crimes. DUI/DWI is one of them. Don't be surprised if you didn't know about this change; neither did a Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge who gave out a second PBJ to an Anne Arundel County official even though he was given a PBJ within the past ten years. I blogged about this controversy a few months ago. In short, you can't double up on a PBJ.

This week I was in court twice dealing with this very issue. Wednesday I had to drive to Hagerstown for a hearing to reconsider a sentence. My client was sentenced to four days in jail and twenty-four months supervised probation for his second drinking and driving conviction. I wasn't his attorney at trial, but I thought the sentence was a little harsh (actually this sentence isn't that bad compared to what many judges have been handing out recently for subsequent offenders). He also refused to blow. By that I mean he wouldn't take the breathalyzer. There is a dispute about whether you should submit to a breathalyzer when you are pulled over if you are a subsequent DUI/DWI offender. Without detailing the consequences of refusal or going into every subtle argument that can be made for and against taking a breathalyzer, let me simply point out that judges absolutely hate if you refuse to blow. With that being said, my client's refusal to blow, along with the fact that he was a subsequent offender, by law, led to enhanced penalties.

I didn't have much to work with at this point. My client did complete an alcohol program, regularly attended Alcoholics Anonymous classes and obtained a sponsor, and was enrolled in the ignition interlock program. I asked the judge to consider any or all of the following options for modification. First was a PBJ, which the States Attorney said was barred by § 6-220(d)(1). He may have been right but I wasn't about to give up.....I drove all the way out there. My client's prior conviction was in North Carolina and he didn't get a PBJ. Section 6-220(d)(1) specifically refers to violations of § 21-902 and makes no mention of out of state drunk driving convictions. I argued that the statute needed to be strictly construed because some jurisdictions, such as Washington, D.C., have zero tolerance. Someone could be convicted of drinking and driving in D.C. and not qualify as legally drunk in Maryland. Also some states don't offer PBJ. The judge was not persuaded, however, I think the argument is there to be made. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. I also asked the judge to shorten my client's probation or make it unsupervised since he was enrolled in ignition interlock. After all, ignition interlock is, for all intents and purposes, supervised probation. Again, the judge was not persuaded. He wasn't changing the sentence.

On Friday morning I found myself at a show cause hearing in Prince George's County Circuit Court that morphed into some type of preliminary inquiry. I was in Judge Femia's courtroom. An experience which, in itself, is a subject for another blog, and I started to get Deja Vu. Long story short, I was in court again with a client who was arrested for his second drinking and driving offense, and, you guessed it, he refused to blow. Wait, it gets better, his prior conviction was in North Carolina. I will keep you posted.

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