MVA

The Outcome of an Administrative Hearing for a DUI/DWI

If you are charged with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, your license will be taken by the police and you will be issued a temporary license that lasts 45 days.  On the 46th day your license will be suspended.  To continue driving, you can fight your suspension in an administrative hearing or enter the ignition interlock system.  You can extend the length of your temporary license to the date of your administrative hearing, by asking for a hearing within 10 days of being charged. You have 30 days to request an administrative hearing, but the 45 day time limit of your temporary license will not be extended if you request your hearing after the 10th day.  

When a driver enters the ignition interlock program, he or she can only drive cars that are equipped with an ignition interlock system.  These systems prevent a car from starting until the driver has breathed into a device and the device has determined the driver is sober.  The driver will have to breathe into the device periodically while driving. Typically, there is an installation cost and a monthly service fee with the ignition interlock program.  The driver will need to breathe into the interlock system at least 50 times per month or explain to the Motor Vehicle Administration why he or she was unable to breathe into the device 50 times a month. Drivers in the interlock program, must file a monthly report with their interlock system provider so that providers can make sure that drivers are complying with the program. 

If having your license suspended or only being able to drive cars equipped with ignition interlock systems is not acceptable, you can request an administrative hearing.  In an administrative hearing, the judge does not have to allow you to participate in the ignition interlock program.  You are only guaranteed entry into the program if you enter into the program prior to the hearing. At the hearing, the administrative law judge can decide to suspend your license, allow you to enter into the ignition interlock program, enter the ignition interlock system and allow you to drive work vehicles that are not equipped with ignition interlock devices, or find that your license should not be suspended.  If you can show that the officer induced you into refusing the chemical test by providing misinformation you can beat the suspension. 

At the hearing, the only facts the administrative law judge will consider are:

  1. Whether the police officer had reasonable grounds to believe you were driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of or impaired by alcohol or drugs;
  2. Whether there is evidence that you used alcohol or drugs;
  3. Whether the police officer advised you of administrative sanctions before requesting the in-station chemical breath test;
  4. Whether you refused to take the test;
  5. Whether you drove or attempted to drive while having a alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;
  6. Whether you drove or attempted to drive while having an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more; and
  7. If the hearing involves disqualification of a commercial driver’s license, whether you were operating a commercial motor vehicle or held a commercial driver’s license.

For help navigating the administrative hearing, contact the Law Office of Phillip E. Chalker at (443) 961-7345 or at phillip@attorneychalker.com.

Refusing to Take a Chemical Test When Pulled Over for a DUI/DWI

In Maryland, if an officer pulls over a vehicle and suspects that the driver was driving while impaired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer will ask the driver to take a variety of tests.  Drivers can refuse all of these tests.  Except for the chemical breath test in the police station, drivers will not be penalized for refusing to take these tests. 

Maryland is an implied consent state.  This means that if a driver was lawfully stopped and detained by an officer, and the officer had probable cause to believe the driver was impaired, at the request of the officer, the driver must either take a chemical breath test at the police station or have their license suspended. 

The suspension is an administrative penalty that is not related to any criminal penalties that a driver may face.  The suspension will begin 45 days after the incident, unless the driver requested an administrative hearing within 10 days of being charged.  If the driver requests an administrative hearing within 10 days of being charged, their license will be suspended on the day of their administrative hearing.  (A driver can choose to have their license suspended earlier.)   Drivers have up to 30 days to request an administrative hearing, but their license will still be suspended after day 45 if they did not request the administrative hearing by day 10.   Rather than facing a suspension,  drivers that refuse to take a breath test can keep their license if they enter into the ignition interlock program.  However, except for a potential exception for work provided vehicles, the driver will only be able to drive vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock system.  (For more information on the ignition interlock system, click here.)

When a driver refuses to take the in-station breath test, an officer should inform the driver that their license will be suspended for refusing to take the test.  The officer should also tell the driver what happens if the driver takes a chemical test and has above a 0.08 or above a 0.15 blood alcohol content.   Prior to suspending a driver’s license, the officer will have the driver sign a DR-15 form.  This form advises drivers of their administrative rights.  The police officer should read the DR-15 to the driver or play a recording of someone reading the DR-15.  An officer’s failure to follow these steps might be considered misleading. 

If a driver can prove in an administrative hearing that the officer gave misleading information or induced the driver into refusing the test, the driver will only be without his or license for a short time – the period between the administrative hearing and going to the Motor Vehicle Administration to get a new driver’s license.  Licenses are confiscated at the administrative hearing, so drivers leave without their license.

If you refused to take a breath test and need help with the resulting legal matter, contact the Law Office of Phillip E. Chalker at (443) 961-7345 or at phillip@attorneychalker.com.

High Stakes in Maryland Administrative Hearings

At the Maryland state level, administrative hearings are extremely important and are used to decide appeals of administrative agency decisions.  For example, these agency decisions might preclude someone from collecting insurance, result in a suspended driver’s license, or require someone to pay a fine. Generally, before appealing an agency’s decision to a court, a party has to exhaust all administrative remedies, including having an administrative hearing.   

In Maryland, administrative hearings are presided over by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and are commonly held by the Office of Administrative Hearings, an executive branch agency.  (Almost half of the administrative hearings are related to issues concerning the Motor Vehicle Administration.) Depending on the matter, after the hearing, the ALJ either makes a decision on the appeal or makes a recommendation to the agency with jurisdiction over the matter.  The agency can choose whether it follows the recommendation. 

Once all administrative remedies are exhausted, a party typically has 30 days to appeal to a court an agency decision by filing a petition for judicial review.  (Filing a petition for agency review does not automatically stop an agency action.  The petitioner has to file a motion with the court to delay the agency action until the court has ruled on the matter.) An appeal can be filed in any county where a party resides or has a principal place of business.  In order to overturn an ALJ’s decision, a reviewing court needs to find that the ALJ’s opinion was arbitrary.  In most instances in Maryland, courts review the administrative decision in the light most favorable to the administrative court.  A court will not reverse an ALJ’s decision simply because it would have ruled differently.  The ALJ’s decision will stand as long as it is legally sufficient and reasonable given the evidence.  (In worker’s compensation cases, the reviewing court will hear the case de novo, meaning the court will issue a new decision and not rely on the Administrative Law Judge’s decision.)  If a party wants to admit additional evidence at the circuit court level, they must provide the court with a good reason why the evidence was not offered at the administrative level.  At the conclusion of the case, the reviewing court can then remand the decision for additional consideration by the ALJ or uphold or reverse the ALJ’s decision.

If you would like assistance with your administrative hearing or the appeal, contact the Law Office of Phillip E. Chalker at (443) 961-7345 or phillip@attorneychalker.com.