November 26, 2014

Washington County has state's highest DUI conviction rate

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At 89.7 percent, Washington County had the highest conviction rate in Maryland last year for driving-under-the-influence cases.
Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong said he attributed the 462 drunken-driving convictions in 2013 to good police work.
"We have a good group of police officers in the field making good cases," he said.
Washington County's conviction rate was followed by Howard County at 88.8 percent, Frederick County at 87.64 percent, Charles County at 87.56 percent and Wicomico County at 87.3 percent, according to the Maryland State's Attorney's Association.

The average conviction rate statewide was 77.56 percent.
"We do have a number of experienced prosecutors who have been at it a while," Strong said. 
"Experience breeds success. It goes back to experience at the police level and the prosecutor level," he said.     
Law-enforcement officers made 23,225 DUI arrests across the state in 2013, according to the state's attorney's association. Of those, 6,008 were found guilty and 11,003 received probation before judgment, for a total of 17,011, the statistics show.
Probation before judgment means that the court has heard enough facts to support a guilty finding, but the judge wishes not to burden the defendant with a criminal conviction on his or her record.
The statistics show 1,293 of the people who were charged statewide failed to appear in court, and 72 people died with charges pending. A total of 4,921 people were found not guilty, the state's attorney's association said.
In Washington County last year, 550 people were arrested and charged with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. Thirty-five of those cases have not been resolved because one person died, 15 failed to appear in court and 19 were unable to be located, according to statistics. 
Of the 515 cases that went to court, guilty convictions were obtained on 184 of those charged in Washington County, and an additional 278 received probation before judgment, the statistics said.
Fifty-three cases were dismissed.
Lt. Michael Fluharty, commander of the Maryland State Police barrack south of Hagerstown, said aggressive enforcement of drunk or drugged driving has always been a top priority for troopers.
He said he agreed with Strong that the high conviction rate for DUIs should be attributed to the "excellent working relationship between law enforcement and prosecutors."
"Law enforcement has a duty to our community to bring strong evidence for the cases the state's attorney presents for prosecution," Fluharty said. "We must work together to ensure the message gets to the public that any drunk or drugged driving will be strictly enforced and prosecuted." 
Strong said he anticipates that the upcoming holiday season would produce a fresh batch of drunken-driving cases for prosecutors to handle.
"Unfortunately, we're looking at another busy year," he said.  
In Maryland, drivers are charged with a DUI if their blood-alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher, according to the state Motor Vehicle Administration.
A first offense carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The offender also loses his or her driver's license for six months. 
For a DWI, drivers must have a blood-alcohol content of 0.07 percent or lower, the MVA said.
A first offense for a DWI carries a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. A 60-day license suspension also applies.


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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