In Maine, we have some harsh driving laws when you are a repeat offender. Did you know that you can lose your driving privileges if you are convicted of 3 criminal driving offenses with 5 years? Drivers who are classified with Maine Habitual Offender Status will have some serious charges and fines if they are caught driving during the revocation period. Let’s take a look at the Maine Habitual Offender Status as we attempt to answer:
- What is Maine Habitual Offender Status?
- What types of crimes count towards the Maine Habitual Offender Status?
- What is the BMV Hearing for Habitual Offender status?
- How can I remove my Maine Habitual Offender status?
- How can I avoid Maine’s Habitual Offender?
What does it mean to have Maine Habitual Offender Status?
A Maine Habitual Offender Status is a person who has accumulated three (3) serious driving-related criminal convictions within a five (5)-year time frame. A person becomes designated as a Habitual Offender by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), and not the criminal court. In this way, Habitual Offender is like a “three strikes” rule. After the third “strike” or conviction, your driver’s license is revoked, or suspended permanently.
For those living in a rural State like Maine, where public transportation might not travel anywhere near you, not being able to drive legally can be devastating. Having no driver’s license to drive to and from work can make someone lose their job, and not being able to get places independently without having to get a ride from someone else can make living highly inconvenient and difficult.
While being able to drive a car is arguably a necessity, unfortunately having a valid driver’s license in Maine is considered a privilege. If you do not stay within the parameters of what is allowed, then the privilege can be taken away. Habitual Offender designation is the most severe removal of your driving privileges. And once designated as a Maine Habitual Offender, there are few opportunities for relief.
Types of Crimes That Count Towards Maine Habitual Offender Status
There are several types of driving-related criminal convictions that can be counted towards a potential Habitual Offender status, including:
- Vehicular Homicide
- Operating Under the Influence (OUI/DUI/DWI)
- Driving to Endanger (DTE, Reckless Driving)
- Operating or Driving After Suspension (OAS)
- Operating Without a License
- Failure to Report an Accident
- Criminal Speeding
- Eluding an Officer
- Passing a Roadblock
- Any crime committed with the use of a car or motor vehicle
At the same time, certain motor vehicle convictions are not included towards HO status, including:
- Operating After Suspension (OAS) due to:
- failure to pay child support
- failure to pay license reinstatement
- Operating Without a License when the license has simply expired
It is possible to avoid going Habitual Offender in Maine when the wrong charges are counted. Therefore, it is important that you hire a Maine criminal defense attorney to assist you if you are facing potential Habitual Offender status.
What is the BMV Hearing for Maine Habitual Offender Status?
After your third driving-related conviction, you would receive a letter in the mail from the Maine Secretary of State indicating that you are about to become designated as a Habitual Offender in Maine. When you get this letter, you should retain an experienced Maine criminal defense lawyer immediately, because you have a short window of opportunity to request a hearing at the BMV to challenge going Habitual Offender. In the case of Maine’s Habitual Offender status, no stay (postponement) is placed on the suspension when a hearing is requested. Once at the Administrative Hearing, the question will be “Did the three driving related convictions indicated by the BMV happened? Do they count towards having the Maine Habitual Offender status? “
For the Administrative Hearing, a Maine criminal defense lawyer is essential to review the BMV’s administrative records along with your criminal record to see if there are any inconsistencies or administrative errors which might have resulted in you receiving the Habitual Offender (HO) notice. Your lawyer should advocate for you at the Administrative hearing. If you have any questions on this process, please feel free to contact me at 207-571-8555. I will help you to understand the process.
If we are successful at the Administrative Hearing, then you will not be designated with a Maine Habitual Offender Status. If you do not prevail at the Administrative Hearing, then you are designated as a Habitual Offender. Once designated, you become eligible for license reinstatement after six (6) years. Six years is an awfully long time to be without a driver’s license.
How can I remove my Habitual Offender Status?
After you are classified with Maine Habitual Offender status, there are extremely few opportunities for relief. If you adhere to your Habitual Offender requirements and do not drive during your revocation, you can become eligible for a stay (reprieve) from your Habitual Offender status with a work-restricted license. Your lawyer can assist you with this process at the appropriate time. After you have your stay and work restricted license, if you get into trouble on the road, you will go back onto Habitual Offender revocation immediately.
On the other hand, if you violate your Maine Habitual Offender status and drive a vehicle for any reason, you can be charged with a new crime, such as Operating After Habitual Offender Revocation, which has its own proceedings in the criminal court and its own separate penalties. If you violate your Habitual Offender status, you do not become eligible for reinstatement until the end of the six-year period.
How can I avoid going to a Habitual Offender in Maine?
The best way to avoid the difficulties and challenges of Habitual Offender status is to avoid being designated a Habitual Offender in Maine in the first place. Some of the things that you can do to prevent having the Habitual Offender status include:
- Know what is on your driving record. For a small fee, the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles will let you download an electronic copy of your driving record. Feel free to take advantage of this service.
- Take care of any outstanding fines or fees due to the BMV, no matter how small they may be.
- If you ignore outstanding fees or fines, it can result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Once your license is suspended, and you continue to drive, then it can be easier and quicker than you think to go HO.
- Fight all driving-related criminal charges in Court while they are still pending.
- When the charge is pending in the criminal court, a criminal defense attorney can fight it most effectively. After you have been convicted, the Court does not generally allow you to go back and change your plea to Not Guilty.
If you fight the pending charges, then they can be dismissed, or resolved in a way that does not put you in danger of being designated an Habitual Offender in Maine. If you or someone you know is facing a potential Habitual Offender status, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free consultation with an experienced Maine criminal defense attorney.
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