Criminal Speeding in Maine is no joke. Courts take these cases very seriously and judges do not hesitate to impose jail sentences for serious violations. Pleading guilty will trigger large fines, a mandatory license suspension and possible jail time. These cases can seem pretty open and shut. Though the statutes are designed to favor the police and their radar gun, there are defenses, some that don’t have anything to do with the speed the car was traveling.
Criminal Speeding, Elements of the Crime
Speeding violations usually get you a civil speeding or traffic ticket. But if the police think you were going really fast, you can end up facing criminal charges. Maine title 29-A §2074(3) defines Criminal Speeding as a class E misdemeanor crime. One commits the offense when they:
- Operate a Motor Vehicle which
- Exceeds the maximum speed limit
- By 30 miles per hour or more
The statute requires that a complaint for criminal speeding allege a specific speed. Note that there is no state of mind requirement; the driver does not need to intend to break the speed limit or even know they are speeding. The state must simply prove that the speed exceeded the limit by at least 30 miles per hour.
Sentences and Other Consequences
Since the offense is a class E misdemeanor the maximum sentence is a $1000 fine and 6 months in jail, you can click this link to read more about Maine’s misdemeanor sentencing. Listing the maximums does not really say much about what the real penalties will be. Here is what is likely to happen if the driver is convicted:
- License Suspension: The court will not impose a suspension but, criminal speeding is one of the offenses that triggers at least a 30 day administrative license suspension through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
- Fines: A fine of at least $500 is normally requested in these cases.
- Jail Time: If the driver is clocked at 100 miles per hour or more, the prosecutor will almost always request at least 48 hours in jail and often much more.
- Habitual Offender Status: Criminal Speeding is a “Major Motor Vehicle Offense” and can trigger Habitual Offender Status and a 3 year license revocation for drivers with 3 major offenses within 5 years.
- Criminal Record: Pleading guilty will get the case concluded, but it’s also a criminal conviction on your record for life.
Proving the Vehicle’s Speed
Since criminal speeding is a crime, the State must prove all elements beyond a reasonable doubt. To make that a bit easier, the law requires that the court accept the police speed measurement as prima facie evidence that the vehicle was traveling at that speed. These measuring techniques include:
- A speed measuring radar gun
- Other electronic measuring device such as a laser
- A device that measures time over distance and computes the vehicle speed
Such Prima Facie evidence must be taken as proof of the fact, unless it is challenged in some significant way. Your defense attorney might be able to show that the device was not calibrated, or that the officer was not trained on the radar he used, that the police used improper procedure or methods, or that the distance over time calculation was done incorrectly. If there is a problem with the measurement, two things could happen: (1) The judge might exclude the evidence from trial or (2) the jury might find the evidence unreliable and decide the State has failed to prove the vehicle’s speed.
Proving the Speed Limit
Before anyone can be charged with a crime, the law requires “notice” that certain conduct is prohibited. In the case of criminal speeding charges, the notice is provided by speed limit signs which tell drivers that exceeding a certain speed is illegal. As with vehicle speed, the presence of signs is taken as prima facie evidence that:
- Signs were erected, and
- That they provide the notice required, and
- Speeds indicated were set in accordance with the law.
Again, it is up to the driver’s attorney to challenge that proof. Maine has detailed regulations for setting speed limits. Certain limits must be supported by a traffic study, approved by the Department of Transportation and the Chief of the State Police. Signage must comply with federal regulations set by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Maine is a rural state and some roads are better studied, regulated and marked than others.
Think about your experience driving on Maine roads: Have you ever driven on a road that seems to be missing speed limit signs or has signs that are damaged, vandalized or hard to read? How about a construction zone that has some signs blacked out but others left exposed? Such roads may not be properly posted with a legally enforceable speed limit and driver may have a defense if they exceed a speed limit that was not legally set.
Every case is unique and the specific facts will determine what issues might help the defendant’s case. Even cases with no defenses might be negotiated down to a lesser charge that avoids the most serious consequences. No attorney can guarantee a result, but a lawyer who understands the law and the possible defenses might help save your license and your criminal record.