I’m a criminal defense, drunk driving, DUI, DWI & OUI lawyer in Portland Maine. Here’s info about Maine OUI laws, penalties and defenses for DUI & OUI in Maine.
DUI or OUI in Maine is rarely a “whodunit.” Issues like alternative suspects, DNA testing, fingerprints and alibis rarely apply. Because of this, some think that there’s no point in hiring a DUI attorney. But in the real world, most criminal cases are not about who did it, or even what happened, instead the question is “can the prosecutor prove it?”
The State of Maine must prove every criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt and drunk driving cases are no different. Though OUI cases seem simple, they involve complex issues of constitutional law, statutory interpretation and forensic science. In the right hands, these issues might be the key to your defense.
This page covers a lot of ground. You can use these links to skip to a section:
- DUI or OUI, what does Maine call Drunk Driving?
- How an OUI Attorney Defends DUI Charges
- Court Process for Portland OUI Charges
- Court Process for District Court OUI Cases outside of Portland
- Bureau of Motor Vehicles Alcohol Driver’s License Suspension
- Maine DUI charges for Drivers Not Licensed in Maine
- Client Testimonials
- Links to More Information About OUI
Is it DUI or OUI in Maine?
Under Maine law, all impaired driving charges are referred to as Operating Under the Influence or OUI. The majority of other states refer to the crime as Driving Under the Influence and so, many people will refer to OUI in Maine as DUI. In order to connect with a wider audience, I sometimes use the term DUI even though it’s not used in Maine law.
Maine chooses to refer to Operating Under the Influence since it expands the group of people who can be convicted of the crime. While driving a car certainly counts as “operation” operating a motor vehicle does not actually require driving down the road. Maine’s Supreme Court has held that “operation” occurs when a person applies power to the car’s wheels or attempts to do so. The fact that the operator never drove anywhere is not always a defense to OUI.
How a Maine OUI Lawyer Defends DUI Charges
An OUI attorney can help you understand what the law actually says, what your rights are, what the police procedures are, how alcohol and drug testing works, and what defenses you might be able to raise to your an OUI charge. To win the case, the defendant does not need to prove they were sober, our system makes the prosecutor prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. This means that the defense need only cast doubt on the quality, reliability or interpretation of the prosecutor’s evidence. Here is a list of just some of the issues that a Maine OUI attorney can investigate in your defense:
- Was the traffic stop legal?
- Was the driver legally detained to do field sobriety tests (FSTs)?
- Was the officer trained to do FSTs?
- Were FSTs administered as described by the NHTSA manual?
- Does video of FST performance differ from the written report?
- Does the driver have health conditions that could impact FST performance?
- Was there enough evidence to arrest the driver?
- If there was a blood test, was the blood taken with consent or a warrant?
- Were proper procedures followed in drawing the blood?
- Were proper procedures following in testing the blood?
- If a breath test was used, was the officer trained and certified to use that model of machine?
- If the driver refused a breath test, were they correctly given implied consent warning?
- Was the machine certified by the State at that time?
- Was the machine properly calibrated?
- Was the machine properly maintained?
- Did the officer observe a proper deprivation period prior to breath testing?
- Was the machine functioning properly at the time of the test?
- Were there any error codes returned on this or other tests during that period?
- Was proper procedure followed in obtaining the breath samples?
- Does the driver have any physical or medical problems that could impact breath alcohol testing?
- How much time elapsed between driving and breath testing?
- How does the breath test result correspond to the officer’s observations and the driver’s performance on FSTs?
With so many issues to consider, we often find something to work with. I have very rarely seen an OUI in Maine that did not present at least some issue with at least one of these topics. What first seems like a minor issue can lead to a bigger problem that unravels a significant portion of the prosecution’s case. You can read this article for details on how an OUI case that looked bad on paper ended in a not guilty verdict. Sometimes small issues don’t generate a defense, but they can often create negotiating leverage. That coupled with a likeable defendant, and an attorney who knows how to work with the prosecutor might make all the difference.
Portland Maine Court Process for OUI or DUI Charges
OUI is most commonly charged as a class D misdemeanor but prior offenses can elevate the charge to a class C felony. In Cumberland County Maine, DUI is processed just like any other criminal case. Cumberland County no longer has a distinction between district and Superior Court for criminal matters. All criminal cases are processed through the Unified Criminal Docket or UCD. This means that the defense no longer needs to transfer the case to superior court for a jury on a misdemeanor OUI. Jury trials are now automatic in all Cumberland County criminal cases unless the defendant chooses to have a single judge hear the case.
The UCD is good news in some ways, but it does mean that an OUI case is less likely to be resolved in the district courts which may be much closer to the location of the offence. This article gives more information on the Structure of the Portland Maine DA’s Office and the prosecutors likely to handle your case. You can read this article for more on Portland’s Criminal Court Process.
An individual arrested or summonsed to court for operating under the influence will be given an arraignment date in either Portland Unified Court, Bridgton District Court, or West Bath District Court. If the defendant hires an attorney the lawyer can enter a written plea of not guilty thereby eliminating the need to attend the arraignment. After the not guilty plea is entered all further proceedings will be in the Portland Unified Criminal Court.
The next court date will be a “dispositional conference.” Here, the defense and prosecution will meet to discuss the case and explore the possibility of reaching a negotiated resolution. The two sides may conference the case with the judge who can sometimes help convince one side of the other that they are being unreasonable. This date is normally about six weeks after the arraignment date.
If the defense wants to litigate pretrial motions, they must be filed no later than the day after the dispositional conference. Once filed, motions are set for a hearing normally about two weeks after the dispositional conference.These often include motions to suppress evidence, Motions for additional discovery, and any other motions generated by the facts of the case. At the motion hearing the judge will hear evidence from the defense and prosecution and rule on the issue.
OUI cases often require litigating motions to suppress evidence. These are defense motions alleging that the police somehow acted improperly: maybe in stopping the vehicle, detaining suspect, deciding to arrest the driver, or searching the person or car. In OUI cases these issues can often dispose of the matter. For instance, If the traffic stop was illegal then any evidence obtained after that point is excluded from court and the case is effectively unprovable.
Jury Selection and Jury Trial:
If the motion hearing does not resolve the case, or if no pretrial motions are needed, the next date is for jury selection. This is always held on Monday generally a few weeks after the motion hearing date. On this day the defense and prosecution appear in court for some last-minute negotiation. If the case cannot be resolved, a jury will be selected in the case will proceed to trial in the two weeks following that Monday jury selection date.
Before trial, so called “motions in limine” can be filed and litigated. These motions will shape the evidence allowed before the jury. Often times these motions seek to limit the testimony of the state’s witnesses like police officers or the state chemist. Sometimes, the prosecution will file motions in limine trying to prevent the defense from offering certain arguments or witness testimony. Motions in limine are usually heard on the morning the trial is scheduled start. Once they are settled, the trial can begin and the jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Portland OUI trials generally take between one and two days.
OUI Process in York, Biddeford, Springvale, Lewiston and other District Courts.
Operating under the influence charges in most of Maine’s other counties are still handled in a District Court system. That means that OUI defense attorneys need to make important decisions at a very early stage. York County has three district courts in Biddeford, York, and Springvale, Maine. There is only one York County Superior Court, it’s in Alfred, Maine. Androscoggin County has a District Court in Lewiston and a Superior Court across the bridge in Auburn. You can read this article for more on York County Criminal Court process. This article explains the Criminal Courts in Androscoggin County.
Normally, misdemeanor operating under the influence charges start with an arraignment date in District Court. This date is written on the summons or bail bond that a person receives when they are initially cited for the offense. An OUI attorney will first enter an appearance and written plea of not guilty in the District Court where the person is initially charged. That will eliminate the need for the individual to appear at their arraignment date. The rules allow a not guilty plea to be entered in writing when the DUI defense attorney is retained and the person is facing misdemeanor charges like OUI.
Jury Trial Request:
It is also important for you or defense attorney to file a jury trial request so that any potential trial can be held in front of a jury. If the case is left in District Court you will only have a right to what’s called a “bench trial.” There a single judge will decide whether you’re guilty or not guilty. Once a jury trial request is filed, the case will be transferred to that county’s Superior Court and all future proceedings will be there. These request must be filed within 21 days of the arraignment date or you waive your right to a jury trial.
Motions, Motion Hearing:
The same 21 day deadline applies to pretrial motions. I generally file these motions as early as possible in order to preserve my client’s rights; motions can always be withdrawn but they can’t be filed late. DUI cases often present so called “suppression issues” where improper police conduct, like a traffic stop, leads to incriminating evidence. Good Maine OUI lawyers regularly file a “motion to suppress” asking the judge to exclude any illegally obtained evidence. The motion is set for a hearing date where the judge hears evidence and decides if any evidence should be excluded.
Courts that still have a district and superior court distinction have a docket call day before a case can go to trial. This is a day where the list of pending cases is called and the parties are required to discuss each case to try to reach a resolution. If no agreement is reached, the parties will discuss any unresolved pretrial issues. The case case can then proceed to jury selection and trial.
Jury Selection and Trial:
A pool of citizens is selected from the voter rolls and ordered to attend court on the day of Jury Selection. In Maine, the prosecution and defense do not directly question the potential jurors. Instead the judge asks questions to the jury pool and the attorneys may exclude certain people from the pool based on their responses. Once the challenged jurors are removed, a group of 12 or more is selected randomly from the remaining pool
Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Administrative OUI Suspensions
Often, the first government action against the driver charged with OUI is a BMV administrative license suspension. If there is an alcohol or drug test, the police will forward that result to the BMV so that they can suspend the driver’s right to operate in Maine. Even if the State does not charge OUI or later dismisses the case, the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles can still issue this “administrative suspension.” The BMV can suspend a driver’s license for at least 150 days if there is enough evidence to show that, more likely than not, the driver operated a motor vehicle with an alcohol level of .08 or more or while Under the Influence of Drugs confirmed in the driver’s system.
Maine law requires that the person be notified of the suspension, usually by mail. If your address on your license is wrong, you might miss the notice so make sure to update BMV at 207-624-9000 with any address change.The driver has the right to contest this administrative OUI suspension and might be able to avoid the suspension all together. A Defense lawyer can attend this hearing as the driver’s representative. If they have an attorney, the driver does not need to attend.
BMV hearings are not a criminal prosecution and the standards are much lower. An officer needs to testify, and some chemical test must be presented but that’s about it. Still, if the cop does not show up at the hearing, you win. This happens about 20% of the time. Even if your DUI attorney can’t win at the hearing, it’s still an important opportunity to question the police officer and get him on the record with details of his investigation. Having a record of these proceedings can really help as the case develops. NOTE: Maine OUI statues changed on 12/1/13 and the first offense OUI suspension increased from 90 to 150 days.
Maine OUI or DUI for Drivers Not Licensed in Maine
For those who hold a driver’s license from another state, facing Maine DUI or OUI charges can get a bit more complicated. Maine’s BMV can issue a suspension, but Maine only has authority to suspend licenses it granted, or to suspend a person’s right to drive in this State. Of course, out of state drivers are not untouchable. A driver’s home state may take action based on a conviction for OUI in Maine. The suspensions in other states can be significantly more severe that those imposed for DUI in Maine. For instance:
- New Hampshire DWI suspensions are at least 9 Months
- Massachusetts DUI suspension are at least 1 Year and become 2 Years for Second Offense DUI
For drivers charged with drunk driving in Maine but not licensed here, the stakes can be higher and hiring a Maine OUI lawyer becomes even more important. The good news is that Maine law allows your attorney to deal with some court proceedings without you needing to attend. Also, with the proper resolution of your Maine OUI case, your home state might not be authorised to suspend you.
A lot of OUI lawyers will tell you they’re great but, let’s be honest, their biased. Today, it’s easy to find out what past clients thought of a given attorney. You can see some of the client reviews I’ve collected for this site or you can go directly to review sites like AVVO or Google+ local where many of my former clients have posted positive reviews. Below is a recent example:
On this website I’ve tried to bring together a lot of information about DUI and OUI laws and how a Maine OUI lawyer can help. Here you can find a page listing all of my DUI and OUI articles. Here are links to some of those articles: