As a Maryland DUI/DWI Attorney I represent many individuals who receive a DUI or DWI and as a result have to deal with a suspension or revocation of their privilege to drive, although this is certainly not the only reason why the MVA would suspend one’s license.
When a person receives a DUI or DWI in Maryland, that person faces two possible suspensions of his or her driver’s license. The person will first face a suspension of his driver’s license, depending upon whether or not he took the breathalyzer. The defendant will also face suspension if he is ultimately convicted of the DUI or DWI when the matters proceeds to court. In addition to suspensions resulting from DWI’s and DUI’s a person may have his license suspended for several other reasons. By far the most frequent cause of a license suspension is that a person fails to appear in court for a minor traffic citation or fails to pay the fine after appearing. These so called “H” violations make up the vast majority of suspended license cases. A person may also have his privilege suspended or revoked due to an accumulation of points, for not paying child support, for receiving three moving violations within a a six month period, and for several other reasons.
Regardless of the reason for the suspension, in order to convict the defendant in court, the state must prove that the person was actually driving a motor vehicle (a person cannot be convicted for attempting to drive while suspended the way he or she can for attempting to drive while under the influence or impaired) on a public street or public access road or parking lot. The state must also show that person was affirmatively placed on notice by the state of the fact that the person’s license was suspended on the date of the offense. This element is the most fertile area for a Maryland DWI/DUI/Criminal Lawyer to search for a defense to these charges.
I had a case this morning in which the state was unable to meet the notice requirement. In that case, the MVA did send notice to my client that they were suspending her for accumulation of points. However, that notice was returned by the post office. Once I pointed this out to the State’s Attorney she did the right thing and dismissed the case. This was a very big thing for the client because not only was the state recommending 90 days in jail but she was on probation for driving while suspended which would have been violated had she been convicted.
While it was clear that the notice requirement was not met in my case today, it is not clear in every case that the notice requirement has not been met simply because the notice was returned by the postal authority. In my case the client had not moved in the last three years and the MVA had her correct address. Yet for some reason, as I said, the notice was returned. I have had many cases in which my client moved and failed to notify the MVA of his or her change of address. Failure to do so can prevent using the notice requirement as a defense under certain circumstances. In my case today, the client was only suspended for about 6 weeks when she was pulled over and received the driving while suspended citation. In cases in which a person was suspended for a long period of time, many courts will not allow a person to assert the lack of notice defense, citing case law that states that although the State must notify a defendant that he or she is suspended, this does not mean that a person can stick his or her head in the sand like an ostrich. This “ostrich defense” is usually is argued by the state in cases in which a person received a minor citation, failed to appear in court and simply forgot about it for an extended period of time. Many courts in this situation will rule that the defendant was certainly aware that he received the ticket and knew or should have known that if it was not taken care of his license would be suspended. The court will then conclude that these facts place the person on “constructive notice” of the suspension even if he or she was not on actual notice.
These are just a few examples of typical situations in which a Maryland DUI/DWI/Criminal Attorney can attack the notice requirement in driving while suspended cases. For whatever reason many attorneys fail to properly scrutinize the defendant’s driving record for evidence (or lack thereof) of notice. The point that needs to be stressed here is that the notice requirement is an affirmative element of the case that the state must prove in order to gain a conviction. In many cases this element can be successfully attacked by an experienced and aggressive DUI/DWI/Criminal attorney who knows the law and knows what to look for.