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Waldorf, MD DWI/DUI Criminal Defense: Is DWI/DUI a Felony or a Misdemeanor in Maryland?

Most DWI/DUI cases are charged by Maryland prosecutors as misdemeanors. However, Maryland criminal statutes identify a significant number of circumstances where a DWI/DUI must be charged as a felony. These include circumstances where:

  • The current arrest is the third DUI in 10 years
  • An accident was caused an accident, and there were significant injuries or fatalities
  • The arrested person had a blood alcohol content above 0.20% — DUI is a crime in Maryland at 0.08% level
  • The defendant was driving more than 20 miles per hour over the applicable speed limit
  • The defendant had passengers in the car who were 14 years old or younger

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor? Generally, misdemeanor charges/convictions are considered less serious and, thus, carry less severe legal consequences. It used to be that distinguishing a misdemeanor from a felony was relatively easy. It used to be that misdemeanors were crimes that had potential jail sentences of less than a year, and felonies were those crimes that could result in jail time of more than a year.

However, here in Maryland, the definition depends on how the crime is described in the criminal statute. Thus, a second DUI offense is still defined as a misdemeanor even though the potential jail time is up to two years.

Legally and practically, the distinction between misdemeanor and felony crimes is important. This is true for many reasons. As noted above, the first reason is that a misdemeanor charge will result in a lesser potential jail time. In addition, the potential fines for misdemeanors are much lower. There are other important distinctions. With respect to criminal procedure, misdemeanor charges are handled by the Maryland District Courts without juries which allows for an automatic new trial at the Circuit Court level. This can be “good” if the new trial generates a better result.

With respect to “life consequences” of a criminal conviction, employers, landlords, and others are less worried about hiring or renting to a person convicted of a misdemeanor. Thus, arrests and convictions for misdemeanors are less disruptive to living a normal life. Further, Maryland laws allow for certain crimes to be sealed or expunged, but generally, those legal remedies are available only for misdemeanors. Having arrests and convictions sealed or expunged is another important method of avoiding long-term injury to one’s future potential normal life.

In addition, the distinction between a felony and misdemeanor conviction matters if there is a future arrest/conviction. Past convictions are used for sentencing guidelines for second, third, and additional convictions. But convictions for misdemeanors often do not “count” or “count” less for purposes of enhanced sentencing. Finally, felony convictions have large impacts on the exercise of certain rights like gun possession, voting, serving on juries, and the ability to hold public office. Generally, misdemeanor convictions do not impact such rights.

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301) 705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD, Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD, 20601.