Basic Guide to Maryland Driving Records

Please feel free to review the Law Office’s basic guide to Maryland traffic court.

The most commonly obtained driving record in Maryland 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.  A complete driving record will list all convictions in the database and a separately ordered “PBJ record” may provide a list of all offenses for which the motorist received “probation before judgment” as discussed below; those records are available to law enforcement, courts, prosecutors and motorists but to insurance carriers per Maryland statute.

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 from the issuance date, retroactively as needed. Take a look at the attached sample.

Driving Record Sample

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 or the “V/ADM DT” on the left as in the sample driving record above.  The record above was issued in 2009; the asterisks on the right of the “PTS” total on the right column mean that those points are more than two years beyond the date of the pulling of this record.  Out of state violations, with few exceptions for some major offenses, do not carry Maryland points; it’s important to note that the converse is NOT necessarily true with other states’ DMV authorities and laws (i.e. another state might impose upon its own licensees points or other consequences from a Maryland ticket that Maryland would not impose in the same way on a Maryland driver getting a similar violation while visiting in that state.)

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 – even if by trial some or all other points have by then fallen off.  One should think of this as a “high tide rule” – even if it’s now “low tide” for your license, you can still get flooded from the prior “high tide”/high water mark of points, relating back to the maximum total even if for only one day.

Once your point total – current or for any moment in the past, relating back – rises to 3 points or higher in Maryland, you will get a warning letter from the MVA, as the example above shows. When the point total rises to 5 for any date, MVA will require a in-office point system conference with the motorist and/or a referral a driver improvement course (DIP). 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 major injury to your privilege to drive that is difficult to reverse.  Forestalling a suspension or revocation requires quick action by the motorist to request a hearing and pay the applicable hearing fee.

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 and other means. 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 treated as full convictions by the United States Department of Transportation, Maryland criminal procedure notwithstanding to the contrary. 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. In some cases, a conviction for 14 over the speed limit may be better than PBJ for 20 over, for example.

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.  Please note again that this law office cannot comment on the converse situation – how another state may or may not treat a Maryland conviction on a driving record of a licensee of that state’s DMV.

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. Bottom line: no substitute exists for a Maryland-specific legal analysis of a Maryland motoring citation or driving record.

You can pick up a copy of your Maryland driving record through this link to the MVA website.