Under Maine OUI Laws, “Operating Under the Influence” is the term used to describe DUI, DWI, impaired or drunk driving. Those charged with OUI in Maine need to understand what the laws actually say and what penalties are possible. This article will explain:
- How Maine OUI laws define the crime
- The minimum sentences for DUI or OUI
- Aggravating factors that increase the minimum sentences
- OUI alcohol and drug testing
- BMV license suspensions
- Other consequences of an OUI conviction
- Some of the ways a lawyer can help
You can click this link to see all my articles about Maine OUI Offenses.
How Maine OUI Laws Define the Crime
In order to convict someone of OUI in Maine, the prosecutor must prove that the person:
- Operated or Attempted to Operate
- A Motor Vehicle and,
- At the time, had a breath or blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more or,
- Were under the influence of intoxicants. Meaning impaired to any degree by any intoxicant such as alcohol, drugs or prescription medications.
In some States, there are several different kinds of DUI or OUI charges depending on what substance the driver has taken. Under Maine OUI laws, the Operating Under the Influence charge is the same whether a person is impaired by alcohol, illegal drugs, or even their own prescription medication. The Maine Law that defines Operating Under the Influence is found here.
Alcohol and Drug Testing Under Maine OUI laws
Normally, Operating Under the Influence cases are proven by showing that a driver had a breath alcohol test of .08 or more. The law allows police to use a different chemical test, usually a blood test, if they so choose. In cases where police suspect drug intoxication, they will normally do a urine test. Under Maine OUI laws, it’s up to the officer, not the driver, to decide on the proper testing procedure.
Maine also has a so call “implied consent” law which requires drivers to consent to a chemical test at the request of a law enforcement officer. A recent supreme court decision may limit the use of these laws under some circumstances. Understand that breath alcohol testing is not the most accurate process. We commonly see major problems with Maine’s Intoxilyzer Machines. You can read this article for more information about how breath alcohol testing works and how to understand the results.
Sometimes, there will be no test because the person refused the test or could not be tested. Sometimes the test will be below .08, even .00. In all these cases, the Prosecutor can still charge OUI if there is reason to believe that the person was impaired by intoxicants to some degree.
Minimum Sentences For OUI in Maine:
First offense OUI in Maine is a Class D misdemeanor and so the maximum jail sentence of 364 days and a maximum fine of $2000. Second offense OUI is a misdemeanor too, but third offense OUI is a felony. Prior convictions within 10 years of the current offense count. You can read this article for more information about Maine Criminal Sentencing. Probation is generally allowed only for felonies, but Maine OUI laws allow Probation for some misdemeanor OUI crimes.
First offense OUI, DUI Minimum Penalties
- Class D Misdemeanor
- A $500 fine
- A 150 day driver’s license suspension
- Effective 12/1/13 the first offense OUI suspension increased from 90 to 150 days
Second Offense OUI, DUI Minimum Penalties
- Class D Misdemeanor
- $700 fine,
- 7 days jail
- 3 year license suspension
Third Offense OUI, DUI Minimum Penalties
- Class C felony
- $1,100 fine
- 30 days jail
- 6 year license suspension
Fourth Offense OUI, DUI Minimum Penalties
- Class C Felony
- $2,100 fine
- 6 months jail
- 8 year license suspension
OUI, DUI Refusal of Chemical Test
Minimum penalties increase if driver refuses a breath, blood or urine test. The officer, not the driver, gets to choose which test is appropriate.
- First offense refusal: $600 fine, 275 days additional suspension, 96 hours jail.
- Second offense refusal: $900 fine, 3 year suspension, 12 days jail.
- Third offense refusal: $1,400 fine, 6 year suspension, 40 days jail.
- Fourth offense refusal: $2,500 fine, 8 year suspension, 200 days jail.
Increased Minimum Sentences for Some Maine OUI offenses:
Other aggravating factors can increase the mandatory minimum sentences for first and subsequent OUI offenses. Maine OUI Laws only count prior offenses within 10 years of the present offense.
Aggravating factors trigger these minimum Maine OUI sentences. 29-A §2411
- Alcohol level of .15 or higher: 48 hours jail.
- Exceeding the speed limit by 30 mph: 48 hours jail
- Eluding police: 48 hours jail
- A passenger under 21: 275 days additional suspension, 48 hours jail minimum
- Crash: Though not in the statute, many DAs request at least 48 hours jail.
Maine OUI Laws and Administrative Penalties
Even if the State does not charge Operating Under the Influence or later dismisses the case, the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles can still pursue an “administrative suspension.” The Bureau of Motor Vehicles can suspend your license for at least 150 days if there is enough evidence to show that, more likely than not, you operated a motor vehicle with an alcohol level of .08 or more or while Under the Influence of Drugs confirmed in your system. The driver has the right to contest this administrative OUI suspension and might be able to avoid the suspension all together. As noted above, Maine OUI statues will change on 12/1/13 and the first offense suspension will increase to 150 days.
OUI In Maine is considered a “major motor vehicle offense.” That means that a conviction is counted toward Habitual Offender Status and can lead to a three year Habitual Offender License Revocation if the driver has a total of 3 major motor vehicle offenses within a 5 year period. This is not a court imposed sanction. Habitual Offender Classification is a maintained by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Once they learn of a conviction, they will review the person’s driving history to see if they fall within the so called “H.O.” definition. If they do, they will be sent a notice of Habitual Offender license revocation.
Other Consequences of OUI in Maine
OUI in Maine is a crime and, under Maine Law, criminal convictions stay on a person’s record forever. There is no expungement process and the governor will not grant a pardon for OUI convictions. The OUI conviction will be on your criminal background and accessible to anyone who wants to run a background check. This can cause major problems for many groups of people:
- Those who hold professional licenses and who must report convictions to a overseer.
- People who need security clearances may have problems based on any conviction.
- Non-citizens may have problems in extending certain visas, or in reentering the county.
- U.S. Citizens who travel internationally, especially to Canada, may find it difficult or impossible to enter some countries.
A Maine OUI Lawyer Can Help Defend Your Case
Maine OUI laws use broad definitions and impose serious minimum sentences. It may seem like the deck is stacked against the defendant and that’s because it is. A Maine OUI attorney is your best chance at building a defense. Here’s the good news: as in any criminal case, the prosecution must prove all elements of the crime beyond all reasonable doubt. If they can’t do that, you are not guilty and no sentence can be imposed. Click this link for an example of an OUI with a .20 breath test that I took to trial and won.
Even cases that look bad on paper sometimes look good at trial. There are defenses and the prosecutor has a lot of work to do to get a conviction. OUI in Maine presents federal constitutional issues, issues of statutory interpretation, scientific and forensic science problems, and basic factual issues about what happened and what it all means; there’s a lot more room to defend OUI or DUI cases than many people think. You can read this article for more detailed information about Operating Under the Influence Defenses.
Image used above is from Highway Patrol Images via filckr