A commercial driver’s license (CDL or CPL) is a special driver’s license which allows someone to drive commercial motor vehicles (CMV), such as large trailer trucks and busses.  A CDL is required when the commercial motor vehicle weighs in excess of 26,000 pounds.  Keeping a CDL is necessary in order to maintain employment that involves driving a CMV.  A criminal charge for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) in Maine for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder can put your CDL at risk.  In fact, even if a CDL holder is below a .08 test result but above a .04, this triggers a charge for a “rule violation” and has the same administrative consequences for the your CDL as would an OUI.  In this article we will refer to a Maine CDL OUI as an OUI charge which is different from a charge for a rule violation for operating over a .04 BAC while driving a commercial motor vehicle.  Being convicted of a Maine CDL OUI, for clients that are CDL holders, can prevent you from continuing to drive as your chosen line of work.

Without a lawyer, the District Attorney will not be willing to negotiate with you.  Some District Attorneys offices in Maine even have “no negotiation” policies for all OUI cases, leaving the Defendant with a stark choice: take a bad deal or go to trial and lose.  Under these circumstances, a criminal OUI defense attorney is essential to reveal reasonable doubt and to defend the rights of CDL holders charged with an OUI or a rule violation for operating in excess of a .04 BAC.

I am an experienced OUI Defense lawyer in Maine.  I have handled many drunk driving cases all across Maine.  For answers to specific questions about your case, I encourage you to contact me.  I am happy to take the time to meet with you for a free legal consultation and to answer your questions and to put your mind at ease.

As we talk about the details of your Maine CDL OUI at the free consultation, one of things we will go over is drawing a line in the sand. On our side of the line is your future how you want it to be. On the other side of the line is the State of Maine, with their charges and fines. Also the repercussions a conviction will have on your ability to support your family, maintain a profession, and maintain your CDL.

As your lawyer, we will do everything in our power to stop them from crossing that line and taking your desired future. We will fight for you using all of our passion, conviction and skill.

If you are fighting a Maine CDL OUI, you need to be aware of a few things.  Given my decade of experience, this article is to help answer some of your questions about facing a Maine CDL OUI and how an attorney can help defend you against the charge:

  1. How is a Maine CDL OUI proven in the courts?
  2. What are the fines and penalties if convicted of a Maine CDL OUI Offense?
  3. What is a “Rule Violation” for operating with a .04 or higher BAC?
  4. How an OUI defense attorney can mount a successful defense to fight a Maine CDL OUI Offense?

How is a Maine CDL OUI proven in the courts?

Regardless of whether a CDL holder is driving a CMV or not at the time of a stop by law enforcement, the CDL holder will experience a negative impact on his or her commercial driver’s license. 

Driving a non-commercial motor vehicle with 0.08 BAC



If a person with a CDL is stopped for suspected OUI, and that person was driving their car at the time of the stop, the applicable law for Maine Criminal Operating Under the Influence  contains the following elements:

A. Operates a motor vehicle:

1) While under the influence of intoxicants; or

2) While having an alcohol level of 0.08 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breadth;

Let’s closely examine the specifics of each of these elements.

Operating a Motor Vehicle

Operating a motor vehicle can be interpreted as driving or getting ready to drive.  If you are in the motor vehicle in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, you are considered to be operating the motor vehicle.  According to the law, a motor vehicle can be your average car, a commercial motor vehicle, ATV, motorcycle, boat or other motorized vehicle.

Under the Influence of Intoxicants

According to Maine OUI Law, being “under the influence of intoxicants” includes alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, or a combination.

BAC Level of >= 0.08 grams

A blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher means you are legally “intoxicated” in Maine.  The evidence used to prove this element of the crime is either a breath or blood test.  As Maine has an “implied consent” law, all drivers are required to consent to a chemical test when requested by a police officer.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

If you have been stopped for an OUI Offense in Maine, the police officer will request that you complete three standard field sobriety tests. There are other, “non-standardized” field sobriety tests, which you may have also been requested to perform. These test’s purpose is to determine if the suspect is physically impaired.  This information is used to help substantiate your impairment.  There is not a law in Maine which requires that you submit to the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. There are no impacts when you choose to politely refuse taking the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.

Chemical Tests

Maine has an “implied consent” law.  If you are driving a motor vehicle within Maine, you are required to consent to a chemical test when requested by a law enforcement officer.  The chemical test given is the choice of the officer.  It can be a urine, breath, or blood test.  If you refuse the chemical test, there are automatic penalties and sentence enhancements if you are convicted.

What are the penalties if convicted of a Maine CDL OUI Offense?

A First Maine OUI Offense is a Class D misdemeanor. Upon conviction for a first offense OUI in Maine, the mandatory minimum penalties include fines, possible jail time, and court-imposed license suspensions.

In my experience, the sentences for those convicted is often more than the mandatory minimum, so I have also shared the maximum penalties for this crime.

Penalties for a Maine CDL OUI Offense

Mandatory Minimum
Fine$500 fine (plus fees and surcharges)$2,000 fine (plus fees and surcharges)
Jail TimeNo Time ServedUp to 364 days incarcerated
Driver’s License150 day period of a suspended Maine
driver’s license.
150 day period of suspended Maine
driver’s license

Upon conviction for a first offense OUI in Maine, the mandatory minimum penalties include fines and court-imposed license suspensions.

In addition to the penalties and administrative consequences attached to a typical OUI charge in Maine, a CDL holder will experience the following administrative consequences to their commercial driver’s license:

  • 1 year suspension of their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for a first offense.
    • 3 year suspension if the operator was hauling hazardous materials.
  • Lifetime disqualification of their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for a subsequent offense)

Driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) with 0.04 BAC

If a person with a CDL is stopped while operating a CMV, due to the highly regulated nature of the profession, CMV operators face more stringent standards to assure their compliance with Federal Regulations.  One of these important regulations is that a CDL holder may not operate a CMV with a BAC of .04 or higher.  A person only needs a 0.04 blood alcohol content in order to be found in violation of the law.  A CDL holder who drives while having a 0.04 blood alcohol content faces a charge of a class E misdemeanor for a “Rule Violation,” as it is a violation of Federal Regulations to operate a CMV with a BAC of .04 or higher.  This is a different charge then from an OUI, but this charge also triggers an administrative 1-year suspension of their commercial driver’s license.  A subsequent offense for operating at a .04 BAC or above results in a lifetime disqualification of their CDL as well.

Driving a commercial motor vehicle carrying hazardous materials

Sometimes, a CDL holder is responsible for driving with loads carrying hazardous materials, such as those that would cause harm to others like noxious chemicals or flammable materials.  Because of this, driving a CMV while having a 0.04 or more BAC and carrying hazardous materials triggers a three (3) year administrative suspension of the person’s commercial driver’s license for a first offense.

Refusal to take an alcohol breath test

In Maine, CDL holders, like all other driver’s license holders, are subject to the Implied Consent law.  Implied Consent means that having a driver’s license alone gives “consent” to taking an alcohol breath test upon the request of a law enforcement officer.  If a CDL holder refuses to submit to an alcohol breath test, their commercial driver’s license will be “suspended immediately,” and the suspension period is for one (1) year for a first refusal (3 years if carrying hazardous materials), and a lifetime disqualification upon a second refusal.  For the first refusal, your regular driver’s license will be suspended for 275 days, you will be required to serve 96 hours of jail time, and you will be fined $600.

Aggravating Factors

Other aggravating factors can increase the mandatory minimum penalty for a first OUI offense in Maine.

  • Blood Alcohol level of .15 or higher – adds an additional 2 days of jail time.
  • Going over the speed limit by 30 mph – increases the necessary jail time by an additional 2 days.
  • Eluding police – adds an additional 2 days of incarceration.
  • A passenger under 21 was in the vehicle – adds an additional 2 days of incarceration and adds a additional 275 days of license suspension

How an OUI Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

As you will read below, although the laws surrounding commercial driver’s licenses and alcohol are stringent, the same tactics and strategies used in defending an OUI lend themselves to defending an OUI concerning a commercial motor vehicle or CDL holder.   Aggressive OUI strategies also lend themselves to rule violations concerning operating in excess of a 0.04 BAC.  Here are some common issues that an OUI Criminal Defense Lawyer can help you exploit in defense of your Maine CDL OUI:

  • Problems with the Stop: Did the officer have the requisite reasonable articulable suspicion to pull you over? Did the officer have the requisite probable cause to get you to take an alcohol breath test or other chemical test?
  • Problems with the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST): Was the officer trained properly to execute the standardized field sobriety tests? Did the officer execute the tests in accordance with standardized procedures?       Did the officer fail to ask about any potential health problems that would affect your performance on the SFSTs?
  • Problems with the Alcohol Breath Test or Intoxilyzer Machine: Is the officer certified to use the Intoxilyzer? At the time of the arrest, was the Intoxilyzer machine calibrated properly and well maintained? Did the officer observe the proper wait period before breath testing? Did the machine read any error messages during testing?
  • Problems with a blood draw for a chemical test: Were proper procedures followed for the blood draw? Were proper procedures followed when the blood was tested?
  • Questioning the Arresting Officer at the BMV Administrative Hearing: Did the officer conduct a solid investigation of the incident? The officer’s testimony at the hearing can shed light in this matter.

Administrative Proceedings for Commercial Driver’s License Suspensions

If a CDL holder drives a CMV with 0.04 or more blood alcohol content, an Administrative Hearing from the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is available.  This is the same if the CDL holder is charged with an OUI.  If the CDL holder does not request an Administrative Hearing, then the suspension of their commercial driver’s license is automatic on the effective date given in the notice.  If you have retained a Maine OUI defense attorney, that attorney should enter an appearance with the BMV and request the BMV Hearing on your behalf.  Requesting an administrative hearing triggers a stay on the effective date of the suspension, save for cases involving a refusal.  The BMV Administrative Hearing provides an opportunity for your criminal defense lawyer to question the arresting officer about the investigation and to develop the record for later court proceedings.  If your lawyer prevails at the BMV Hearing or the arresting officer does not appear, then your CDL would not be suspended.

At the Administrative Hearing, the issues would be:

  • Whether there was probable cause to believe the person operated a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.04 or more;
  • Whether the person in fact operated a commercial motor vehicle;
  • Whether the person had a blood alcohol content of 0.04 or more at the time of operation.

If the State prevails at the Administrative Hearing, the CDL holder’s license to operate commercial motor vehicles would be suspended.  For any subsequent offenses, the driver faces a lifetime disqualification of their CDL.  At the end of the suspension for a first offense, the CDL can be restored if the person pays any reinstatement fees and meets their DEEP requirements.

Unified Criminal Docket Court Process- Portland and Bangor

Currently, the Unified Criminal Docket court procedure is in place in Cumberland County and Penobscot County only.  One unique characteristic of the Unified Criminal Docket procedure is that all of your court dates are scheduled up front, all the way through a potential trial if necessary.

Your court dates at the Unified Criminal Docket include an Arraignment where you would enter a plea of Not Guilty, Dispositional Conference, Suppression Hearing, and Trial.  In commercial motor vehicle OUI cases, the issues in a Suppression Hearing can include whether or not the officer had reasonable articulable suspicion to make the stop, whether or not the officer had the requisite probable cause to ask the driver to step out of the vehicle, and whether the officer obtained any incriminating statements from the driver without properly reading them their constitutional rights.

District and Superior Courts- York, Oxford, Kennebec, Androscoggin, etc.

The vast majority of Maine Counties handle criminal cases within the network of District and Superior Courts.  For misdemeanor charges, your case would start at the local District Court.  A significant difference between the District and Superior Courts is the availability of a Jury Trial.  At the District Court, your trial would be in front of a Judge.  At the Superior Court, a Jury Trial would be available.  If appropriate, I would request that a case be transferred to the Superior Court for a jury trial.  If there are any issues pertaining to any set bail, these concerns can be addressed at either court.

Your court dates at the District and Superior Courts include the Arraignment where you would plead Not Guilty, Docket Call, Motion Hearings, and a Jury Trial.  The Motion Hearings could include a Motion to Suppress, but it could also include a Motion to Dismiss  or other relevant pretrial motion.

Contact a Maine OUI Defense Attorney

When you are facing a Maine CDL OUI Offense, your lifestyle is at risk. Taking swift action to have an aggressive experienced OUI attorney helping you navigate the Maine legal system and assure there is minimal impact to your future.  There are proven strategies to defending a Maine CDL OUI Offense. The sooner our legal team becomes involved in the intricate details of case, the more time we will have to do our own fact finding as we help to prepare your defense. Effective action taken by a skilled Maine OUI defense lawyer as soon as the charges are filed by the DA sometimes can result in a lesser charge or in some cases prevent any additional charges from being filed. Whether the Maine CDL OUI is due to alcohol, drugs or prescription drugs, it only helps you to contact our firm as quickly as possible after the arrest.

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