I am an experienced drunk driving criminal defense, attorney in Maine. I have handled many drunk driving cases all across Maine over the past decade. Below I am sharing a Maine DUI Defense Attorney’s perspective of defending Maine’s DUI law. This article contains information regarding Maine DUI Laws, penalties and a Maine DUI Defense Strategies. If you find yourself charged with a Maine DUI, the good news is that while the charges are serious, a seasoned Maine DUI Defense Attorney may be able to identify issues with the evidence. Even though Maine DUI cases seem simple, these cases have a lot of nuances from interpreting the Maine statutes to reviewing the forensic evidence. A Maine DUI charge is serious and carries significant penalties if convicted. The role of the District Attorney or prosecutor is to prove the State’s case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Without a Maine DUI Defense Attorney, the District Attorney will not be willing to negotiate with you, because they know they could get a conviction at trial. Some District Attorneys offices in Maine have well-known “no negotiation” policies for Maine DUI cases, leaving the Defendant with a stark choice: take a bad deal or go to trial and lose. Under these circumstances, a Maine DUI Defense Attorney is essential to fight for your rights and to reveal reasonable doubt so that a jury would have to say Not Guilty. This article shares several important pieces of information you need to know if accused of a Maine DUI from my perspective as a Maine DUI Defense Attorney.
- How a Maine DUI Defense Attorney helps defend against DUI Charges
- How Maine DUI is defined?
- With a Maine DUI, what happens to your driver license with BMV?
- What is the Maine Court Process for a Maine DUI in Portland, Bangor and across the State?
- What happens if my driver’s license from another state?
How an Maine DUI Defense Attorney helps defend against DUI Charges
When facing any Maine DUI charge, never assume that your case is hopeless or that the police “got you.” Maine DUI cases are defensible, and there is a wealth of knowledge and expertise that an experienced Maine DUI Defense Attorney can do to help. Some may believe mistakenly that you need to prove affirmatively that you are innocent. Not true. The role of the Maine DUI Defense Attorney is to reveal doubt whether you committed the crime as charged. In other words, were you actually impaired while operating a motor vehicle? The burden is on the District Attorney or prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated your motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants. Revealing weaknesses in the State’s evidence and the State’s case in chief, and then exploiting these weaknesses to your benefit achieve the Maine DUI defense attorney’s goal. In addition, your Maine DUI defense attorney will help you understand your case better and should assert your rights at Court and at the BMV concerning the companion administrative suspension.
Here are some common issues that a Maine DUI Defense Attorney can help you exploit in defense of your case:
- Problems with the Maine DUI Stop: Did the officer have reasonable suspicion that you were violating the Maine DUI Law or other laws? 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 Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?
- Problems with the Alcohol Breath Test or Intoxilyzer Machine: Is the officer certified to use the Intoxilyzer? At the time of the Maine DUI 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 and the preservation of the sample? Were proper procedures followed when the blood was tested? Was the proper preservative used? Was the sample contaminated by fermentation?
As an experienced Maine DUI defense attorney, I commonly lay the foundation for these issues by questioning the arresting officer at the BMV Administrative Hearing. Basically, I turn the BMV hearing in to a deposition of the officers involved in the arrest. It is very important to explore if the officers conducted a solid Maine DUI investigation. The officers’ testimony at the hearing can shed light on these issues.
Small deviations from established procedures or failure to fully investigate the Maine DUI can trigger larger problems for the District Attorney’s case against you. Identifying these problems at the BMV hearing and pounding on them at trial can support a stronger likelihood for an acquittal. I used this strategy when serving as a Maine DUI Defense Attorney for a client facing a Maine DUI charge, and a Jury ultimately acquitted the client.
Another route of attack that an experienced Maine DUI defense attorney should employ is to look at the procedural history of the case to assure that there are no irregularities. For example, whether or not the case is one that involves priors that are being used to aggravate the charge, or one that involves an arrest for a Maine DUI that is several years old, but is now just being prosecuted, it is well worth the Maine DUI defense attorney’s time to investigate if a prior could be struck from the complaint or if the case runs afoul of the Statute of Limitations. Identifying a procedural issue, such as the expiration of time under the Statute of Limitations and filing the proper motion can be very beneficial to the defense of a Maine DUI charge. I used this strategy when serving as a Maine DUI Defense Attorney for a client facing an old Maine DUI charge, and the Judge dismissed this case against my client.
Maine Definition of Operating Under the Influence OUI
In Maine, Operating Under the Influence (OUI) is a criminal charge. Maine Operating Under the Influence is also known as Maine DUI. A Maine DUI criminal charge often contains the following elements:
(29-A M.R.S.A. § 2411, Criminal OUI):
1-A. OFFENSE. A person commits Maine DUI if that person:
A. Operates a motor vehicle:
- While under the influence of intoxicants; or
- While having an alcohol level of 0.08 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath;
Under these elements, you need to be operating a motor vehicle. The “motor vehicle” can be any motorized vehicle, whether a car, truck, van, SUV, etc. A person can also be charged with Maine DUI while operating other types of motorized vehicles, such as boats, motorcycles, and ATVs.
Secondly, the charge of Maine DUI includes that you are “impaired” by an intoxicant. Maine considers a person to be legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. However, intoxication can be by drugs, prescription pills, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. To determine intoxication by drugs, a drug recognition exam can be employed. A certified Drug Recognition Evaluator or DRE must conduct this examination. When these elements are met, a person can be charged with Maine DUI. For more information about intoxicant and Maine DUI process, it would be well worth your time to take a look at my article about Maine DUI involving Drugs.
The penalties upon conviction for Maine DUI include mandatory minimum penalties, such as fines, jail time, and court-imposed license suspensions, which are the least severe penalties allowable by law and cannot be reduced. With each subsequent Maine DUI on a person’s record within a ten-year time frame, the mandatory minimum penalties become more stringent. You should have a good conversation with your Maine DUI defense attorney to assure you understand the impacts and penalties of a Maine DUI Charge.
Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles Administrative Suspensions for Maine DUI
After your arrest for Maine DUI, law enforcement will send their police report, along with the test results from any alcohol or other chemical tests, to the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), who would use this report a basis to suspend your driver’s license administratively. If you refused to take an alcohol breath test, then your license would go under administrative suspension immediately.
You can expect to receive a notice in the mail from the Secretary of State indicating the BMV’s intent to suspend your driver’s license. Since you have a constitutional right to an administrative hearing, this letter also informs you of your short window of opportunity to contest the BMV’s suspension and request said hearing. If the address listed on your driver’s license is not up-to-date, there is a risk that you might miss this notice, and so it is in your interest to make sure that your address with the BMV is up-to-date. Upon submitting a timely request for a BMV Administrative Hearing, this request stays (postpones) the suspension date until after the BMV Hearing. If you have retained a Maine DUI defense attorney, that Maine DUI defense attorney should enter an appearance with the BMV and request the BMV Hearing on your behalf so that you do not have to worry about this proceeding. If your Maine DUI Defense attorney prevails at the BMV Hearing or the arresting officer does not appear, then your license would not be suspended.
Despite the fact that the BMV Hearing is a separate proceeding from the criminal matter, it is no less important to your defense. As I indicated earlier, the BMV Hearing provides an opportunity for your Maine DUI Defense Attorney to question the arresting officer about the investigation and to develop the record for later court proceedings.
Unified Criminal Docket Court Process- Portland and Bangor
Currently, the Unified Criminal Docket court procedure? is in place in Cumberland County and Penobscot Counties. In the recent speech from Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Lee Saufley about the State of the Maine Judiciary, she described the Unified Criminal Docket as a success in increasing efficiency in moving criminal cases through the system. With such a favorable review, it is likely that the Unified Criminal Docket will be coming to a courthouse near you. 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 Initial Appearance if charged with a felony, an Arraignment where you would enter a plea of Not Guilty, Dispositional Conference, Motion Hearing, and Trial. In Maine DUI cases, Motion Hearings usually take the form of a Suppression Hearing and can include issues 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 submit to a chemical test, and whether the officer obtained any incriminating statements from the driver without properly reading them their rights, often referred to as Miranda rights.
District and Superior Courts- York, Oxford, Kennebec, Androscoggin, etc.
The majority of Maine Counties still handle DUI cases within the network of District and Superior Courts. This structure is what most people think of when they think of court process. For misdemeanor Maine DUI charges, your case would start at the local District Court. For felonies, your case would start at the Superior Court. Another 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 only. At the Superior Court, a Jury Trial would be available. Therefore, if the case is appropriate, I will request that a District Court case be transferred to the Superior Court for the benefit of the jury trial. If there are any issues pertaining to any set bail, these concerns can be addressed at either court.
Your court dates would be similar at the District and Superior Courts as the Unified Criminal Docket, including 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 Bail Modification Request, a Motion to Dismiss, or other relevant pretrial motion. For more information about Maine District and Superior Court procedures, I encourage you to take a look at my Article about Maine District and Superior Court Procedure.
What if I get charged with a Maine DUI but my driver’s license is from another State?
In many instances, I am contacted by clients who have been charged with Maine DUI, but the client is not a Maine resident, and so their driver’s license is from a different state. For the most part, my defense of the person’s DUI would be the same, except for the following considerations for clients “from away”:
- Out of State clients might not be able to attend court in person. If the client got the Maine DUI while they were vacationing, they might not be able to address their case in person.
- Mind you that even if you do not attend Arraignment in person, if your case goes to trial you would have to attend the trial in person, especially if you were testifying on your own behalf.
- Out of State clients have different concerns with regard to the Maine BMV administrative suspension. While the Maine BMV can suspend a person’s driving privileges within the State of Maine, this suspension might not affect the out-of-State client in their home state unless their home DMV is notified of the BMV suspension or a Maine DUI conviction. Therefore, the best defense to a license suspension in your home state is to fight the BMV suspension and get the Maine DUI dismissed or found Not Guilty. A Maine DUI Defense Attorney can help you in this pursuit.
For More Information
You should be able to use the below information to help understand Maine DUI Laws and how a Maine DUI Defense Attorney advocates for you throughout your legal defense.
- 10 Mistakes People Make During a Maine DUI Stop
- Maine First DUI Offense
- New Maine Drunk Driving Law Takes Effect December 2013
- Questions to Ask your Maine DUI Defense Attorney
- Court Process for Maine DUI Laws