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Fourth DUI could soon lead to up to 10 years in jail

A fourth conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs could soon net a defendant up to 10 years in prison if legislation in the Maryland General Assembly continues to move forward.

Senate Bill 312, introduced as part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda, passed the Senate by a vote of 46-1 on March 17 and is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday afternoon. It makes a fourth drunken-driving conviction a felony in addition to the increased penalty.

The current maximum penalties for a third or subsequent conviction for driving while under the influence, DUI per se, driving while impaired or DWI while transporting a minor are three or four years plus a fine, depending on the violation.

The four-strike policy becomes a one-strike policy if an individual has a past conviction for homicide, manslaughter or life-threatening injury by motor vehicle.

The bill also authorizes an award of punitive damages if it is determined a person caused personal injury or wrongful death while driving under the influence.

Hogan included the bill in his Justice for Victims Initiative, announced in January.

“Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also supporting victims and the community in the process of healing,” Hogan said in a prepared statement during the announcement. “The Justice for Victims Initiative we are announcing today is bipartisan, common sense legislation that will help protect the most vulnerable among us, improve services for the victims of crimes, and help us reduce and prevent the number of future victims of crime.”

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