Today the New York Times featured on its front page a story about a Baltimore woman who had to endure a $25,000 bond, numerous court appearances, a suspended drivers’ license, and 34 days in the Baltimore City Jail for a first offense DUI with a 0.09 BAC reading: On Probation Lives Can Run Far Off Track – A Maze of Fines, Court Dates and Penalties by Shaila Dewan. The judge assumed the defendant was a problem drinker without first getting an evaluation and ordered three AA meetings a week as well as required permission for her to move. Failure to request permission before attempting to move was the first alleged violation of probation. The failure to provide proof of all of the required AA meetings landed her in jail for 34 days with a $5000 bond she couldn’t afford, before she saw a judge. The judge gave her a conviction which led to a six month driver license suspension.
The article quoted Leonard R. Stamm.
For a woman of Mrs. Hall’s weight, assuming drinks were consumed over a four-hour period, the difference between 0.06, considered “neutral,” and 0.09 would have been about one glass of wine, according to Leonard R. Stamm, a Maryland defense lawyer who specializes in drunken-driving cases.
Drunken-driving penalties vary widely depending on the judge, but Mr. Stamm said a typical sentence for a first offense might be a year of unsupervised probation. Most judges will offer what in Maryland is called “probation before judgment,” or P.B.J., in which a defendant’s guilty plea is set aside. If the defendant violates probation, the judge may reimpose the conviction and sentence the person under the original offense — in Mrs. Hall’s case, up to 60 days in jail. If the defendant is successful, she avoids a criminal conviction.
The article also acknowledged what breath test experts have known for years:
The officers arrested Mrs. Hall and took her to jail, where she agreed to take a breathalyzer test. Again, she ran into trouble. She failed three times to blow hard enough into the machine. Breathalyzers can be more difficult, and less accurate, for people as short as Mrs. Hall, who is five feet tall, because they have less lung capacity than average.
If you are facing criminal or traffic charges in Maryland state or federal court, call Leonard R. Stamm of Goldstein & Stamm, P.A. at 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.
Author: 2015 update to Maryland Evidence: State and Federal by Professor Lynn McLain (coming this fall)
“Patience, Perseverance, Persuasion”