Frequently Asked Questions
What is BAC?
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is a measurement of the alcohol content in the blood by volume. In most states, the limit is .08 alcohol content. Blood-alcohol content is generally measured by a breath test. Roadside breath tests are done with handheld devices, while breathalyzer machines, such as the Draeger are used at police stations to provide scientifically accurate results.
Should I hire a lawyer if I want to plead guilty?
Yes, a skilled attorney can negotiate on your behalf and provide advice throughout the entire ordeal. Often, your attorney may be able to negotiate terms more favorable to your needs because they know the system’s requirements.
Can I refuse a breath test?
Yes, but beware that many states have an implied consent law that suspends your driving privileges when you refuse a breath test. If acted upon quickly enough, your attorney may be able to request an administrative hearing regarding your driving privileges prior to the criminal trial in your case. The administrator can hear evidence limited to the circumstances of the breath test. Such hearings can be important devices in your attorney’s preparation for the trial.
What are SFSTs?
Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are tests used by trained law enforcement officers to detect impairment in people’s reactions and ability to follow instructions. By administering these tests, officers are able to form an educated opinion as to as to your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Typical examples of field sobriety tests are the walk and turn, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (eye test), and the one legged stand. Officers are also looking at physical clues such as bloodshot eyes and trouble standing or walking. If you have any injuries or physical conditions, tell your lawyer. These facts may be important concerning your case. Also, tell your attorney about any roadside conditions that may have affected your performance on the SFSTs.
What if I drive while my license is suspended?
Driving on a suspended license is a further traffic offence that can lead to fines fees costs and further suspension of your driver’s license.
What is the punishment for a DUI?
All DUI convictions result in fines, fees and other costs. These fines can escalate if you have prior offences. If you have prior DUI convictions, some states have mandatory jail time. Jail time may be suspended, meaning that if you do not comply with the court’s conditions, you may have to complete the jail time that was suspended. Probation is likely to involve monitoring, treatment or education, drug testing and other things such as AA meeting attendance. Some states allow the use of ignition lock systems where a breath sample must be done before the car will start. Most all DUI convictions involve a suspension of the Driver’s License for a period of time.
This is my first DUI, is there a chance it can be kept off my record?
Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be pretrial diversion or deferred adjudication programs available to you. Your attorney will be able to lead you in the right direction if or when these options are available. Many of these programs have testing and treatment requirements like those giving in probation. The benefit to these programs is that with completion, the DUI never hits the record as an adjudication or conviction.
How much of your legal practice is devoted to criminal defense/traffic defense?
Many attorneys have general practices, where they handle criminal cases as well as personal injury cases, family law or other legal areas.
Jonathan Fellner’s legal practice is directed to criminal and traffic defense—trials, appeals and post-conviction work—with one small offshoot that fits in with the above work, peace and protective orders. We defend against and obtain such orders, considered civil orders, when requested to do so by clients.
How do you bill for your time?
Criminal cases can be billed on an hourly basis or a flat-fee basis. In a flat fee case, a lawyer tells you the full cost of the case up front. You pay the fee, say $2,500 for a drug case and you do not have to pay any more fees. In cases billed on an hourly basis, you pay an initial retainer, say $2,500, and you are billed on a monthly basis at the attorney’s hourly rate. The legal agreement you sign indicates that you will replenish the retainer once notified by the attorney that more funds are required. Usually, clients are billed in 6-minute increments for time expended.
Jonathan Fellner offers clients either of the above options and also offers a maximum cap on hourly cases for more serious cases. An example of a maximum cap for serious cases would be $100,000 on a first-degree murder charges. The cap means that regardless of the hours expended, a client could not be charged for any hours that go above the cap.
We also offer additional flexibility, via payment plans, if requested by clients
Should my agreement be in writing?
Absolutely. All agreements should be in writing, detailing the responsibilities of the lawyer and the client.
How much do you charge for a consultation regarding my case?
Jonathan Fellner offers free consultations by phone or in his office to discuss your case.
What is Probation Before Judgment often referred to as PBJ?
Maryland has a unique law that allows judges to strike your conviction and give you Probation Before Judgment commonly referred to as a PBJ. Under Maryland Criminal Procedure Section 6-220, judges have the authority to place you on probation and, essentially wipe out your conviction. With the exception of drunk driving cases, all PBJ cases can be expunged from your record at a later date.
While Maryland allows PBJs for drunk driving cases, they can not be expunged. The Maryland law on PBJs for drunk driving recently changed. As of October 1, 2009, a judge can only give PBJs to people who have not had a drunk driving conviction within the last 10 years. The law used to permit PBJs on drunk driving cases if a person had not had one within the previous 5 years.
Maryland Criminal Procedure section 6-220
What are the possible consequences for a Driving Under the Influence case in Maryland with the Motor Vehicle Administration?
Breath tests: If you took a breath test and your breath score was .08 or less than .15, you receive a 180-day license suspension for a first offense. Usually, a first-offender with under a .15 breath score will receive a license for 45 days that restricts your driving to and from work or school and to and from any substance abuse program you are taking.
If your breath score was .15 or greater, your license is suspended for 180 days for a first offense and 270 days for a subsequent offense. Unlike, the breath score of under .15, you can not get a restricted license; you are only eligible for a one-year ignition interlock device that is attached to your car.
Refusals: In Maryland, the penalty for a first refusal of a breath test is a license suspension of 270 days; for subsequent offenders the penalty is a license suspension of 2 years.
In some instances, if you install an ignition interlock device on your car for one year, you can continue driving.
Finally, if you have a valid legal defense in your case, the administrative law judge can take no action and you will keep your license without restriction.
Remember, you must ask for an administrative hearing within 10 days of your arrest to ensure you continue driving until the hearing. Even if you miss the 10-day deadline, you MUST request a hearing within 30 days of your arrest or you will not get a hearing.
These hearings are in front of an administrative law judge at the MVA and are completely separate and apart from the criminal charges.
What are the Possible Consequences of a Driving Under the Influence criminal conviction in Maryland?
In Maryland, first offenders usually will not be sentenced to jail, unless there was an accident, belligerence toward an officer or other conduct beyond a generic speeding-type traffic stop. You will usually be required to attend an alcohol education program ranging from 6 weeks to 26 weeks. In addition, a Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim panel meeting is possible as are fines and a period of supervised probation. Some judges impose ignition interlock—even if the MVA did not-community service and AA meetings.
Many judges impose jail time for a 2nd offense, with the range being from a weekend to 30 days.
A 3rd conviction can carry a longer period of jail time and Jonathan Fellner often recommends clients try to get in-patient treatment on these kinds of cases to mitigate their punishment.
Do you handle non-DUI traffic cases?
Definitely. Jonathan Fellner represent clients on a wide array of non-DUI traffic cases, such as driving on a suspended license, driving without a license, hit and run, and driving without insurance just to name a few.
In many counties, especially for first-time offenders cases can be dismissed, if a client gets his license back or shows that he is insured.
You should contact an attorney to address these or any questions you might have pertaining to DUI. If you’ve been arrested in Maryland for a DUI, or have had your license suspended for refusal to submit to a test, contact an attorney as soon as possible who will understand what steps to take to help you avoid a conviction or reduce the suspension. For a free consultation on your DUI, contact a dedicated Rockville criminal defense attorney at Jonathan Fellner, Attorney at Law, at (301) 209-2000.