Were you aware that in Maine you can be charged with impaired driving if you are under the influence of drugs? Most Maine drunk driving cases are due to impairment by alcohol, but you can also get in trouble for drunk driving if you were impaired by illegal or prescription drugs. In Maine, the consequences for drunk driving involving drugs are similar, and the risks the person accused of drunk driving involving drugs faces is also similar to that of a person charged with drunk driving involving alcohol.
An arrest pertaining to Criminal OUI charges in Maine can be a scary and confusing experience, which can ultimately have serious impacts on your future, including fines and maybe even jail time in some cases. If you have been accused of a crime pertaining to Criminal OUI charges due to drugs, it is important to quickly determine your defense strategy.
Let’s take a moment to review what an accused should expect and what the accused can do to help in their defense.
- What are the Maine OUI Laws and how are prescription drugs included?
- How can one be arrested for drunk driving involving drugs?
- Drunk Driving involving drugs and the BMV
- Penalties for Drunk Driving involving Drugs.
- How a DUI Defense Attorney can help?
- The Maine Drunk Driving due to Drugs Court Process
What are the Maine OUI Laws and how are prescription drugs included?
A criminal OUI offense in Maine means that the district attorney is looking to prove that the accused:
- Operated or Attempted to Operate a Motor Vehicle
- At the time, had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more
- Or at the time, was under the influence of intoxicants. Simply this means impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medications.
Arrest for Drunk Driving Involving Drugs
An arrest for drunk driving involving drugs can begin in much the same way that an arrest for drunk driving involving alcohol: some contact with law enforcement. Here are some of the ways that you can come into contact with law enforcement for drunk driving:
- Officer Observes Operational Impairment- An officer observes the way you are driving and sees certain signs the might suggest impairment, such as weaving in and out of the lines on the road, performing a turn improperly, or driving too slow. Such an observation gives the officer a reason to pull you over to see what else might be going on.
- The Sobriety Checkpoint- Law enforcement can set up roadblocks as a sobriety checkpoint, talking to the drivers to see if anyone might be impaired while behind the wheel.
- Routine Traffic Stop- Often, a client can have the misfortune of being stopped by law enforcement for a routine traffic stop, such as speeding or a tail light not working properly. From that point, the officer will identify other signs of possible impairment.
If the contact with the officer offers some sign that you might be impaired, the officer might ask you to step out of the vehicle to perform the standardized field sobriety tests, which are voluntary. If the officer has probable cause that you might be impaired from his contact with you, then you would be taken to the police station for an alcohol breath test.
But wait! Here, we are talking about impairment by drugs, not alcohol. Here, if the person did not have anything to drink, and the person takes the breathalyzer test, the breathalyzer result would be 0.00. At this point some might believe that this is the “get out of drunk driving free card.” Sadly, it is not. If you blow under a 0.08 on the alcohol breath test, but otherwise seem to be impaired from the total circumstances, that is not the end of the story.
Blowing less than a 0.08 on the alcohol breath test only tells the officer that you may not be impaired due to alcohol. At this time, the officer might bring in what is called a Drug Recognition Expert to perform a Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE) in an effort to find out what might be causing your impairment. The purpose of the DRE is to evaluate your symptoms in an effort to identify what drug might be causing your impairment. This ends up with you providing another kind of “sample,” such as a urine sample or blood sample to be tested for the presence of drugs.
When the officer believes that the cause of your impairment has been identified, then you would be summonsed for DUI or Operating Under the Influence of drugs. Then you would be taken to the county jail for processing and for bail to be set. Usually, bail in an OUI matter can be met relatively easily.
Drunk Driving Involving Drugs and the DMV
In Maine, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) also becomes involved with DUI involving drugs. In a few weeks after your arrest, you should receive a letter in the mail from the Maine Secretary of State warning you what your license is about to go under suspension. When this letter arrives, you have only a small window of time to request a BMV Hearing or risk administrative suspension of your driver’s license. To fight this license suspension, you need to request a BMV Hearing. The question at the BMV Hearing is whether or not there is probable cause was that you operated your motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs.
At the BMV Hearing, your attorney will present a case on your behalf and obtain testimony from the arresting officer for later use at trial. If you prevail at the BMV Hearing, your license does not go under suspension. If you do not prevail at the BMV Hearing, your license will go under suspension.
Penalties for Drunk Driving Involving Drugs
The penalties for drunk driving involving drugs in Maine include the same mandatory minimum penalties as for an OUI case involving alcohol. See 29-A M.R.S.A. §2411. These consequences include:
- First Offense OUI Conviction- A First Offense OUI charge is a Class D misdemeanor. The mandatory minimum penalties upon conviction include (but are not limited to):
- $500.00 fine (plus fees and surcharges)
- Court-ordered license suspension for 150 days.
- Some aggravating factors can result in an additional 275 day suspension.
- A jail sentence of 48 hours if:
- The BAC was 0.15 or higher (only in cases involving impairment by Alcohol).
- The suspect exceeded the posted speed limit by 30 MPH.
- The suspect eluded or attempted to elude the officer.
- There were passengers in the vehicle who were under 21 years of age.
- Second Offense OUI Conviction in 10 years- A Second Offense OUI charge is also a Class D misdemeanor. The mandatory minimum penalties upon conviction include:
- $700.00 fine (plus fees and surcharges)
- 7 days jail time
- Court-ordered license suspension for three (3) years
- Court-ordered suspension of your right to register a motor vehicle
- Third Offense OUI Conviction in 10 years- A Third Offense OUI charge is considered a Class C felony. The mandatory minimum penalties upon conviction include:
- $1,100.00 fine (plus fees and surcharges)
- 30 days jail time
- Court-ordered license suspension for six (6) years
- Court-ordered suspension of your right to register a motor vehicle
All of these penalties are increased automatically in the event of a conviction for OUI Refusal, in which the accused refused to provide an alcohol breath test, blood, or urine sample.
How a DUI Drugs Defense Attorney Can Help
The one action that you should take quickly is to hire experienced legal representation. Maine OUI Defense Attorney Chris Nielsen, is willing to help guide you through the process and manage your case. When interviewing with a potential OUI Drugs defense attorney, here are some things to consider:
Is the OUI Drugs Defense Attorney Experienced in Defending OUI matters involving Drugs? Attorney Nielsen is experienced in this aspect, and he has taken similar courses taken by law enforcement officers pertaining to the administration of the DRE exams, which are common in OUI Drugs cases.
Does the OUI Drugs Defense Attorney Look for Any Evidence Obtained in Violation of your Constitutional Rights? When conducting their investigation when determining what caused your impairment, your constitutional civil rights need to be respected. Any evidence obtained in violation of your rights can be suppressed (excluded) from being used against you at later court proceedings.
Does the OUI Drugs Defense Attorney Look for Any Flaws in the State’s Evidence? OUI Drugs cases are defensible, especially when the State’s evidence is potentially flawed. For example, the DRE exam is a very subjective exam that can potentially come to an incorrect conclusion. A good OUI Defense attorney will want to point out all of the weaknesses in the State’s case.
The Maine Drunk Driving involving Drugs Court Process
After your release from custody on bail, you will be provided with a court date where you will be formally Arraigned. At Arraignment, you will have an opportunity to have the charges read to you by the judge and to answer to the charges in the form of Not Guilty. If there are any remaining issues concerning bail, then the issue of bail can be discussed and addressed at Arraignment also.
Discovery and Expert Witnesses
When your OUI Defense Attorney receives a copy of the discovery materials (police reports, etc) from the District Attorney’s Office, a review of these reports will show whether the assistance of an expert witness might prove helpful, such as an expert to contest the State’s technical or scientific evidence, or perhaps a police procedural expert or forensic expert to test the reliability of any blood sample results.
Your OUI Drugs Defense Attorney will be able to discuss with you what kind of expert might be appropriate in your case.
In addition, your OUI Drugs Defense Attorney should file a Motion to Suppress any evidence obtained in violation of your constitutional civil rights. After this Motion is submitted to the Court, a pre-trial hearing will be scheduled. Arguments from both sides would be heard at the hearing and memos drafted. Ultimately, it is up to the Court to determine whether or not the evidence in question is admissible at trial.
The other pretrial hearing in Maine is the Dispositional Conference or Docket Call, where the attorneys from the State and criminal defense meet to attempt to reach a resolution to the case without going to a trial. In some counties in Maine, District Attorneys Offices have an official policy of “no negotiation” of OUI matters, including OUI by alcohol and by drugs. When the District Attorney’s Office has such a “no negotiation” policy, then the Defense Attorney should be focusing on trying the case at Trial.
At the trial, the District Attorney will use the written police report, DRE results, witness accounts, and physical evidence to prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating your vehicle while under the influence of drugs. Your Maine OUI defense attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine the witnesses, relentlessly examine the evidence to assure correct procedures were used, and perhaps even provide expert witnesses to contest the breathalyzer or other technical evidence. The outcome of a Trial is that you will either be found guilty or not guilty either by a Jury or by the Judge.
Chris Nielsen is a results-oriented Maine criminal defense attorney who has defended the rights of his clients in the Portland area for over ten years. A conviction for Drunk Driving involving Drugs in Maine can carry very long lasting and significant negative impact on your future. Please call the Nielsen Group for your free consultation today. We will answer your questions and put your mind at ease as we work with you to determine your defense strategy.
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