Driving to Endanger (DTE) is often referred to as reckless driving or dangerous driving. While it might be acceptable to drive like Dale Earnhardt competing in NASCAR, outside of the track, that kind of driving would be considered Driving to Endanger (DTE). If you find yourself accused of Driving to Endanger, you should be aware that the penalties range from a license suspension for a minimum of 30 days to a maximum of 180 days and a fine of $575.00. A Driving to Endanger conviction counts towards a Habitual Offender Revocation of your Maine driver’s license.
If you or someone you know is facing a charge of Driving to Endanger, you most likely have questions about how to fight the charge and what the impacts of simply pleading away the charge are. Please feel free to call me and we can discuss your specific situation to see what the impacts are to you driver’s license. Our free and confidential legal consultation is to give you an opportunity to have your questions and answered. Let’s start with understanding a bit about the Driving to Endanger Law and the penalties. In this article we will review:
- How Maine Driving to Endanger is defined and what must be proven?
- What are the penalties for Driving to Endanger?
- How a Maine criminal defense attorney can help defend against a Driving to Endanger Charge.
- The Maine Court Process for those facing Driving to Endanger Charge.
- The impacts to your Maine Driver’s License.
How Maine Driving to Endanger is defined
As with all charges, there are clear criteria which need to be proven by the prosecution to earn a guilty verdict. Under Maine Statue 29-A M.R.S.A. §2413 (1), Driving to Endanger occurs when a person “drives a motor vehicle in any place in a manner that endangers the property of another or a person, including the operator or passenger in the motor vehicle being driven.”
Let’s start looking at the facts the prosecution must prove.
- You must be the driver of the motor vehicle. The driving to endanger charge is placed upon the driver.
- You were driving in a criminally negligent manner. Here the key point is the manner which you were operating the motor vehicle placed either yourself, the people in the car, or the other drivers on the road in a potentially dangerous situation. The law also extends to the property of others or yourself.
You should note that there are no clauses for intention here. The State’s attorney does not need to prove that the crime was purposefully committed. The reason behind this is that with a Driving to Endanger charge, the statutory “state of mind” of the offender is that of “criminal negligence.” Looking at Maine Statute 17-A M.R.S.A. §35(4) for guidance. “Criminal Negligence” is “when the person fails to be aware of a risk that the person’s conduct will cause such a result, or when the person fails to be aware of a risk that such circumstances exist.” Criminal negligence standard looks at how a “reasonable and prudent person” would view the situation. “Criminal negligence” means acting oblivious as to the risks created by their course of conduct. In summary, it is just not necessary for the State’s attorney to allege the facts pertinent to the person’s state of mind (i.e. intentionally, knowingly or recklessly) in a Driving to Endanger charge.
The State of Maine does allow for a few exceptions to the Driving to Endanger statute. Specifically excluded from Driving to Endanger are participants in an auto race and those driving on private land to which the public does not have access or with the authorization of the landowner.
The Penalties for a Driving to Endanger Conviction
A charge for Driving to Endanger is a Class E misdemeanor, which is the least severe class of crime in Maine. The penalties for a conviction for a Class E Driving to Endanger include the mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days loss of license and a mandatory fine in the amount of $575.00. The maximum license suspension period is 180 days. In my practice, I see far more mandatory minimums than maximum penalties for a Driving to Endanger conviction.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
In order to convict you, the State needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions met the statutory elements of the crime accused. As your criminal defense lawyer, it is my responsibility to reveal the reasonable doubt whether your actions rise to the level of a charge of Driving to Endanger. When examining your case, I often look at these aspects:
What does your driving record look like?
Since a Maine charge of Driving to Endanger is a motor vehicle-related crime, it is included in the list of offenses that are counted towards a potential Habitual Offender revocation. Because of this, it is important for your criminal defense lawyer to know what your recent driving history looks like. Do you have other motor vehicle-related convictions within the past five (5) years? If so, does the Driving to Endanger charge count as a third towards a Habitual Offender revocation? We will need to work together to mitigate the risks.
Where were you driving?
The Driving to Endanger (DTE) statute indicates that you need to be driving on a public road. Usually this is not an issue because so many roads are public roads.
Was there any danger present?
Did your driving almost take out a mailbox, or in fact damage another person’s property in any way? Was your own car damaged? Was anyone seriously hurt, including you?
Could a Driving to Endanger (DTE) charge be used as a bargaining chip in a different criminal case?
Sometimes, a charge of Driving to Endanger does not come up by itself, but a Driving to Endanger charge can be used as a bargaining chip to resolve a criminal case for a more serious charge, such as drunk driving. Sometimes if a person’s blood alcohol level is 0.08 or less in a drunk driving case, I can often see an offer from the State to resolve the case in the form of a Driving to Endanger (DTE) charge. However this usually raises a red flag for me regarding the OUI charge. It is just not common for the State to offer the Driving to Endanger (DTE). The State may be aware of problems with the OUI charge.
Example of a Driving to Endanger (DTE) Case
This is an example of a Driving to Endanger (DTE) case based on an experience from a client. Whether or not someone can be described as driving dangerously often depends on the way that driving is perceived by others. In this case, my client was driving home at night with a friend. Because the road was not well lit, my client claimed he did not see an obstruction in the road until he was nearly on top of it, forcing him to maneuver abruptly around the obstruction into oncoming traffic. Typically, I feel that swerving your car to avoid hitting an obstruction is the right thing to do, but reasonable minds may differ. Unfortunately for my client, when he swerved across the center of the road to avoid the obstruction, he had the bad luck of nearly driving a Maine State Trooper off the road.
When the Trooper stopped my client, he attempted to explain to the officer that he had been avoiding the obstruction in the road, but the Trooper still felt that my client committed a Driving to Endanger (DTE) . The Trooper issued my client a Summons for Driving to Endanger.
In my client’s case, the biggest weakness in the State’s investigation for Driving to Endanger was that the trooper’s report failed to document my client’s assertions that he had swerved his car to avoid the obstruction in the road. After the Driving to Endanger (DTE) stop, my client and his friend returned and took pictures of the obstruction. These pictures, as well as the witness statement of my client’s friend, tended to bolster my client’s version of the event.
The question was whether or not it was negligent of my client to have not observed the obstruction in the road. Since the alleged victim was a Maine State Trooper, the State wanted a trial and we were ready for it. Remember that reasonable person standard? During a dispositional conference before trial I had argued that it was objectively reasonable under the situation to have avoided the obstruction. The State felt that my client was not paying enough attention to the road and had he been he would not have nearly caused an accident with the Trooper. Ultimately, to avoid the possibility of losing the case, the District Attorney offered to dismiss the criminal Driving to Endanger (DTE) charge, if my client accepted, a civil traffic ticket, requiring only a fine. When I shared with my client this offer, my client focused on
- The fact that there would be no criminal conviction. The Driving to Endanger (DTE) would be dismissed.
- There would be no license suspension with this offer.
- The proposed fine was significantly less then the mandatory minimum $575.00.
- The new civil traffic ticket could not be counted as a motor vehicle crime with respect to a Habitual Offender calculation. (There would be no additional conviction which would count towards a Habitual offender revocation.)
The offer made my client very happy as the criminal charges were dismissed and he did not have to roll the dice with the Jury. As you can see, a charge of Driving to Endanger (DTE) in Maine is defendable, especially if you have a good Maine Criminal Defense Lawyer on your side.
Maine Court Process for a Driving to Endanger Charge
Another area your lawyer can help is to review the legal procedure and what to expect. In Maine we have two processes which I’ll review to give you a frame of reference on what to expect and how an attorney can assist you in fighting a Driving to Endanger (DTE) charge. You will only go through one process, but it depends upon the county where the charge was placed. As always if you have any questions, please give me a call.
Unified Criminal Docket Procedure DTE
Since a Driving to Endanger charge is a misdemeanor, the first court date is an Arraignment at the Unified Criminal Docket, which is in effect in Cumberland County and Penobscot County only. Often, I will submit a plea of Not Guilty in writing to the Court prior to Arraignment, and so the first court date that the defendant attends in person is the Dispositional Conference. A Dispositional Conference is where the attorneys negotiate a potential resolution to the case without going to trial, and the attorneys conference with the Judge or Justice about any specific issues.
District Court Procedure DTE
A Driving to Endanger (DTE) charge is a misdemeanor. The first court date for a Driving to Endanger charge is an Arraignment at the Maine District Court. Maine District Courts are located throughout Maine excluding Cumberland County and Penobscot County Depending on the facts of the case, I might choose to keep the Driving to Endanger case at the District Court, with a Bench Trial in front of a Judge as a fact finder. Immediately preceding the Bench Trial, a Suppression Hearing can be held. The purpose of the Suppression Hearing is to determine whether certain evidence was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, and thus whether that evidence can be used at trial. In some Driving to Endanger (DTE) cases, the charge is transferred to the Superior Court for a potential Jury Trial. In order to transfer the case to the Superior Court, your criminal defense lawyer would submit what is called a Jury Trial Request.
What are the impacts of a Driving to Endanger Charge on my License?
If convicted a Driving to Endanger Charge, your Maine driver’s license will be suspended for at least 30 days. You will not be able to drive for 30 days. Once thirty days has passed, you will need to request your license is be reinstated at the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). BMV will look to see if there are any other cases pending which would prevent the reinstatement. If all looks good from the evaluation, BMV will reinstate your driver’s license.
What happens if my Driver’s License is from a different State?
If you do not have a Maine Driver’s license, the outcomes change a bit.
Technically, the State of Maine can only suspend your driving privileges in the State of Maine. If your license comes from a different State, you will not be able to drive in Maine However, the state of Maine will notify the department of Motor Vehicles in your home state. Your Department of Motor Vehicles might also suspend your driver’s license in your home state. How long such a suspension might be depends on the laws of your home state. For example, if you are from Massachusetts, the Mass. RMV will suspend for 60 days if notified of a Maine DTE conviction.
Contact a Maine Criminal Defense Attorney
When you are facing a Driving to Endanger Offense, your driving license is in jeopardy. Taking swift action to have an aggressive seasoned criminal defense attorney will help to assure there is minimal impact. Your attorney can also help you navigate the Maine legal system. As we have reviewed, there e are proven strategies to defending a Driving to Endanger charge. 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 criminal 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 Driving to endanger charge is due to speeding, property damage, or a plea offer, it only helps you to contact our firm as quickly as possible after the arrest.
Our committed legal team is determined to take immediate action to seek a positive case outcome. If you or someone you know is charged with Driving to Endanger in Maine, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. We will take the time to answer your questions and to put your mind at ease as we work with you to determine a defense strategy.
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If you would like to call us now at (207) 571-8555, we can begin to develop your case strategy.
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