Written by attorney Theodore B Godfrey

Basic Guide to Maryland Drivers Records and Drivers Licenses

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) driving records are something of a mystery to the casual observer; perhaps this basic description will help.

The most commonly obtained driving record is the "three-year record" which lists all events for the previous three years to the date of pulling the record. On this record, changes in name or address, reissued lost cards and motorist citations identified as a CONVICTION under Maryland law or those of another state with reciprocity with Maryland are listed on the record.

Moving violations, defined in the Code of Maryland Regulations and Maryland's Annotated Code, provide for applicable points to last two years from the date of the issuance of the violation, not the date of the conviction. It's important to note that moving violations stay on the record from three years from the date of the issuance, but the points last only two years. This matters because even if the trial dates for violations are scheduled on wildly different dates or are appealed after conviction, the dates for the points derive the dates of issuance. There is thus no advantage from a "points accumulated" standpoint from appealing cases merely for delaying the imposition of points; if you get four 2-point tickets on four successive days and you ultimately get convicted of all four tickets, you will show eight points for the day of the final ticket and the eight points will be considered to have endured for two years from the date of the earliest ticket. If 1 year 11 months and 5 days later, you get another 2 point ticket, your point total for that day will rise to 10 points and you will face all of the "high points" administrative consequences of 10 points, regardless of the dates of trial of the prior tickets.

Once your point total rises - currently or for any date relating back to the date of any ticket within the applicable 2-year range - to 3 points or higher in Maryland, you will get a warning letter from the MVA. When the point total rises to 5 for any date, MVA will require a in-office point system conference with the motorist at which MVA may demand that the motorist take a driver improvement course. At 8 points, the motorist will be suspended unless an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at the Office of Administrative Hearings modifies the suspension. At 12 points, the motorist risks revocation - a very serious state from which to emerge.

Suspensions of a driver's license can occur from a number of sources: failure to pay a federal or state traffic fine, failure to appear in court, failure to pay child support, alcohol violations or "pointing out" as noted above. In addition, the MVA Medical Advisory Board (MAB) can suspend a motorist's license upon information regarding a motorist's health that makes driving either impossible or unsafe; in some cases those suspensions can be reverse upon proof of successful treatment of the condition for a period of time. Suspensions "cuff" the record and likewise must be "unlocked" to enable the motorist to be eligible for a new license card; for some motorists who have multiple suspensions, it can be a tricky "seek and find" task to pair up the suspensions on the driving record with the liftings of the suspensions accurately. Suspensions of a record will continue on a motorist's regular three-year record even if they are longer than three years old.

In addition to the regular three-year record, a motorist or law enforcement may obtain a full lifetime driver's license record. Insurance companies cannot obtain this record for their insureds, by law. Attorneys usually request that their motorist clients obtain this record, since judges have access to it in traffic court. A motorist or law enforcement (and certain other persons designated by statute) may also obtain a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) record; this special record is not listed on the most recent edition of the MVA license record application form as an option, but may be obtained by entering the term "PBJ record" into the "Other" blank at the bottom. This record will list every time that a court has granted Probation Before Judgment under section 6-220 of the Maryland Annotated Code, Criminal Procedure article, formerly codified as Article 27 section 641. It is important to collect this record as judges will often ask not only about convictions but about prior grants of PBJ by traffic courts in the past.

An important point to note about probation before judgment for Commercial Drivers License holders is that probation before judgment dispositions are not respected as non-convictions by the United States Department of Transportation. Accordingly, probation before judgment on a "serious traffic violation" (defined federally and in all states for CDL drivers as going 15 mph or more over the speed limit) can result in the same administrative sanctions as a conviction for that violation. In short, truckers, teamsters, bus drivers and other CDL drivers facing speed violations while operating a commercial vehicle must take the violation extremely seriously and fight the ticket to protect themselves; PBJ is no "hiding place." CDL drivers should consult closely with legal counsel and examine the statute and their entire driving records carefully if they receive any points.

With specific exceptions, points on out-of-state violations do not generally impose points on Maryland driving records. Maryland is a member of an interstate compact on driver's licenses, as are almost all other U.S. states. Under that compact, codified in Maryland at Md. Ann. Code, Transportation Article, Title 16 subtitle 7, Maryland will impose points for out-of-state convictions for:

  1. Manslaughter or negligent homicide resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
  2. Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a narcotic drug, or under the influence of any other drug to a degree which renders the driver incapable of safely driving a motor vehicle;
  3. Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;
  4. Failure to stop and render aid in the event of a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death or personal injury of another.

As to any other out-of-state convictions, Maryland's MVA records the conviction on the motorist's driving record, but may not assess points for the conviction. Since the out-of-state conviction is still recorded, the motorist's insurance carrier will learn of it in due course and may re-rate the motorist for coverage accordingly.

While not directly related to the issue of license records, it's worth noting that Maryland definitions for certain moving violations and other states' definitions may differ substantially. The "big ones" listed above for which all compact state impose reciprocal points tend to have similar definitions but some of the smaller violations differ dramatically. In Virginia, for example, "reckless driving" includes going only 20 miles over the speed limit and is in fact jailable, and it carries the same Virginia point system penalty as driving under the influence of alcohol. In Maryland, driving 20 miles over the speed limit carries a maximum of 2 points, while driving under the influence is a 12 point offense - sufficient to revoke on conviction, though probation before judgment is often granted on a first offense. In Maryland, "reckless driving" carries no risk of jail and is defined fairly narrowly, but does carry 6 points under Maryland's point system.

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