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Maine OUI Attorneys

Maine OUI Attorneys

Operating Under The Influence (OUI)

A person commits OUI if that person:

  1. operates a motor vehicle,
  2. while under the influence of intoxicants, or
  3. while having an alcohol level of 0.08 grams or more alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath.

Operating under the influence of intoxicants means that the operator has been impaired to the slightest degree. There are then two ways in which the state can prove you are operating under the influence of alcohol. The first is by means of a test result, and the second is by means of observation of operation plus other evidence of alcohol intake.

A law enforcement officer may arrest, without a warrant, a person the officer has probable cause to believe has operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants if the arrest occurs within a period following the offense reasonably likely to result in obtaining probative evidence of an alcohol level or the presence of a drug or drug metabolite.

Penalties

The penalties in Maine have just become much more severe for OUI primarily due to the license suspension period.

First OUI Offense

The following minimum penalties apply for a person having no previous OUI offenses within a 10-year period:

  • A fine of not less than $500 (except that if the person failed to submit to a test at the request of a law enforcement officer, a fine not less than $600)
  • A court-ordered suspension of a driver’s license for a period of 150 days
  • A period of incarceration:
    • Not less than 48 hours when the person
      • Was tested as having an alcohol level of 0.15 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 201 liters of breath
      • Was exceeding the speed limit by 30 miles per hour or more
      • Eluded or attempted to elude an officer
      • Was operating a with a passenger under 21-years-old

If you fail to submit to a test by refusing the breathalyzer or other testing which may be available, the jail sentence must be not less than 96 hours.

Second OUI Offense

The following minimum penalties apply for a person having 1 previous OUI offense within a 10-year period:

  • A fine of not less than $700 (except that if the person failed to submit to a test at the request of a law enforcement officer, a fine not less than $900)
  • A period of incarceration of not less than 7 days (except that if the person failed to submit to a test at the request of a law enforcement officer, a period of incarceration of not less than 12 days)
  • A court-ordered suspension of a driver’s license for a period of 3 years
  • A court-ordered suspension of the person’s right to register a motor vehicle

Third OUI Offense

The following minimum penalties apply for a person having 2 previous OUI offenses within a 10-year period:

  • A fine of not less than $1,100 (except that if the person failed to submit to a test at the request of a law enforcement officer, a fine not less than $1,400)
  • A period of incarceration of not less than 30 days (except that if the person failed to submit to a test at the request of a law enforcement officer, a period of incarceration of not less than 40 days)
  • A court-ordered suspension of a driver’s license for a period of 6 years
  • A court-ordered suspension of the person’s right to register a motor vehicle

A third OUI offense within a 10-year period is a Class C Crime, which is a felony.

Three Or More Previous OUI Offenses

The following minimum penalties apply for a person having 3 or more previous OUI offenses within a 10-year period:

  • A fine of not less than $2,100 (except that if the person failed to submit to a test at the request of a law enforcement officer, a fine not less than $2,500)
  • A period of incarceration of not less than 6 months (except that if the person failed to submit to a test at the request of a law enforcement officer, a period of incarceration of not less than 6 months and 20 days)
  • A court-ordered suspension of a driver’s license for a period of 8 years
  • A court-ordered suspension of the person’s right to register a motor vehicle

Four or more OUI offenses within a 10-year period is a Class C Crime for which you can receive up to 5 years in jail and a substantial fine.

OUI Involving Serious Bodily Injury

In addition to these penalties, under some circumstances involving serious bodily injury, the penalties can be substantially increased:

  1. a period of not less than 6 months;
  2. a fine of not less than $2,100; and
  3. a court-ordered license suspension of up to 6 years must be imposed. 

OUI Causing A Death

Under certain circumstances, if the OUI causes death, a sentence must include a period of incarceration of not less than 6 months, a fine of not less than $2,100 and a court-ordered suspension of a driver’s license for a period of 10 years.

Under additional circumstances, the Court must order an additional period of license suspension of 275 days for some people charged with OUI if the person who was operating the motor vehicle at the time of the offense with a passenger under 21 years of age.

DEEP Course Certificate

All people convicted of an OUI must obtain a DEEP Course Certificate in order to reinstate their license.

Maine DEEP stands for the Maine Driver Education and Evaluation Program. It is administered by the Office of Substance Abuse of the Maine Department of Health & Human Services. If you have been charged with OUI, you must complete a Maine DEEP Course to get your license back after suspension. You must also obtain a DEEP Course Certificate to obtain your ignition interlock device.

It is important to understand that license suspensions do not end automatically. You must apply for reinstatement, pay the necessary fee, and provide the necessary DEEP Certificate.

It may be helpful to take the DEEP Course as soon as possible after having been charged. While you may have a successful outcome and obtain a not guilty verdict in your criminal case, it is always good to have a backup plan. It is unfortunate when clients ignore the DEEP Course until the last possible moment and have to obtain the certificate after their period of suspension has already passed, delaying their ability to drive beyond what the law would otherwise require.

DEEP Courses are offered at locations throughout the state. There are various levels of DEEP requirements.

The Risk Reduction Program is the most common Maine DEEP Course. This is a 20-hour program for adult OUI offenders. It commonly takes place on weekends.

The Under 21 Program is a 16-hour course designed for OUI offenders under the age of 21.

The Treatment Completion Program for High-Risk Offenders might require the offender to engage in one-on-one counseling with a certified substance abuse counselor. This level of DEEP Program is quite variable and is usually much more extensive than the above-referenced other levels.

You cannot use an old DEEP Course completion toward a new OUI. New OUIs require new DEEP Course certification.  If your driver’s license is from another state, you still must take a DEEP Course. Under some circumstances, the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles may accept completion of an out-of-state program, but you will need to confirm this before taking the course.

Work Restricted Driver’s Licenses

A work-restricted driver’s license is available only under some circumstances.  See 29-A §2503.

To obtain a Maine work restricted driver’s license, you must petition the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (“BMV”) clearly stating your need for a work license. You must then submit the petition, along with your Maine driver’s license and a $50 reinstatement fee. Work restricted licenses do not have any effect on the mandatory minimum license suspension time required by Maine if you are convicted of OUI. Work restricted licenses mean just that: you must only be driving to and from work.

A better alternative can be the use of the ignition interlock device.

Ignition Interlock Devices

Since 2013, Maine has allowed certain OUI offenders to get their license reinstated earlier than had been previously allowed. An ignition interlock device is essentially a mobile breathalyzer with certain safeguards which tie into your car’s ignition system. The device tests your blood alcohol level in a variety of ways before you can start the car and while you are driving the car to make sure you are not cheating the system.

The benefit of the ignition interlock device is that license suspension times can be dramatically decreased:

OUI OFFENSE MANDATORY SUSPENSION PERIOD IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE
1st 150 days 30 days
2nd 3 years 9 months
3rd 6 years 3 years

 

How Will The State Suspend My License If I Am Charged With OUI?

Once you are charged with OUI, your case enters the criminal court process. At the end of that process, after either conviction or plea, the court will impose the appropriate license suspension.

What people do not understand or appreciate is that once you are charged with OUI, the officer will send his arrest records to the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which will then begin a completely separate, parallel suspension process.

Shortly after your arrest, you will receive in the mail a letter from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. This letter will be sent to the address on your driver’s license, and it will not be forwarded to any new addresses. If you have a new address that does not appear on your driver’s license, you need to take affirmative steps to make sure that a letter is sent to you showing the date your license will be suspended and your right to request a hearing.

Many people are pulled over and charged with the additional crime of Operating After Suspension (“OAS”) because they did not change the address on their license and, therefore, did not get the notice of suspension.

It is quite common that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles acts faster than the courts in scheduling a suspension hearing or requiring suspension of your license. You have a right to contest the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ suspension. These hearings are very difficult and operate at a much lower evidentiary standard than is the case in criminal court.

If you acquiesce to the suspension or go to the hearing and lose, your license suspension began either on the day of the notice or the day of the hearing if you lose. If you then go to criminal court and lose at trial or plea, the court imposes a separate suspension.  You will get credit for the BMV suspension. In other words, you will not be suspended for two suspension periods.  There may, however, be a short overlap between suspensions. If you have served your license suspension through the BMV process, the criminal court will still require you to surrender your license to be returned to the BMV to be reissued to you. This may take several days.

Click here to learn more about Bureau of Motor Vehicles OUI Hearings.

The Arraignment

Most OUI charges are misdemeanors. Misdemeanors can be handled by your attorney through the mail by filing a special piece of paper telling the Court that your attorney has read you your rights. This can save you from waiting around all morning or afternoon in court while the court calls name after name simply to make sure that you understand the charge and to ask you how you plead.

Pretrial Motions

Your attorney should be skilled at filing motions to suppress, motions in limine and other appropriate motions to keep evidence or to limit or shape certain types of evidence. As you can imagine, if evidence is kept out, it may affect how a jury or judge perceives your case. This is a subtle and complex area of law, and every case is different.

Dispositional Conference

At some point, your case will typically be scheduled for a dispositional conference. A dispositional conference is a glorified name for a plea-bargaining session. You will arrive at the court with your attorney, you wait in the hallway or the courtroom, your attorney goes in the back room with the Judge and the prosecutor, and they talk about your case. Your attorney will then come out, give you an offer, and give you the Judge’s take on that offer. You can then accept the offer, reject the offer, or make a counter-offer.

If you decide to accept the offer, your attorney should be able to work with the Court to manage any jail time. It is our practice (and the law) that the client ultimately chooses whether to accept or reject any plea offer.

Trial

At trial, the state goes first and bears the burden of proof. The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every element of the offense.

In an OUI case, they must prove that you were operating under the influence. If the state has alleged a second offense, they must present proper paperwork showing that there was a first offense, and so on.

If the state does not meet their burden of proof, you win. You do not have to prove anything. Your defense lawyer can both attack the state’s case and present his own witnesses to rebut the state’s case. The defendant need not put on any case at all and may still win, because the defense lawyer shows that the state has not proven their case.

Potential defenses in an OUI are many and varied, and they are very fact dependent. You should discuss your trial strategy closely with your OUI Trial Lawyer.

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