When it comes to drunk driving there is almost universal agreement that those who cause injury by getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, should be held responsible for their actions, both civilly and criminally. For the most part, laws are in place to make sure that this happens.
But there is a sticky area of law when it comes to being drunk behind the wheel when it involves those who provide alcohol to others who then get behind the wheel intoxicated and cause injury.
But along with many other new laws coming into effect, Maryland’s laws are set to bring at least some clarity to this area of law with a new change.
Penalties for Adults Providing Alcohol
The new law provides for criminal penalties, up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, to adults who provide alcohol to underage minors that then cause injury by driving under the influence. The law is called Alex and Calvin’s law, named after two Maryland high school graduates killed by an underage driver who had been provided alcohol before driving.
The law is targeted at adults who often will allow underage kids to drink at their houses at house parties, as well as organizers of teenage events that will often either allow alcohol to be consumed, or who may take a blind eye to the practice. In many cases, adult hosts have operated under the belief that teenagers may drink anyway, so it is safer for them to do so under the supervision of an adult, or in a home or organized event.
Now, the law will put responsibility on the people or groups that serve the alcohol, in the event that guests get behind the wheel and cause injury. In fact, the driver involved in the accident that lead to the law, is believed to have been drinking at a house party.
New Law Has Limitations
The law is only a partial solution, as it does not apply to those who provide alcohol to adults who then get behind the wheel and cause injury—although even though there is no criminal penalty for this, there may still be civil liability when a business owner or homeowner allows somebody who is knowingly imbibed to get behind the wheel.
The law also does not apply to minors who provide alcohol to other minors that drive drunk. While that is still illegal, the minor providing the alcohol is still only subject to a citation, not the heightened jail time provided by the new law.
There are also some poison pills in the bill which water down its efficacy. There is only criminal liability where somebody “knows or should have known” that the minor would eventually drive, and only where ”serious injury” or death occurs. This statutory language can be used as a defense to the crime, or as a way for those charged civilly to avoid liability.
If you have been arrested or being charged with a crime in Maryland, including DUI, make sure your lawyer understand the laws in effect that could affect you. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your case.