All-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, are popular in Maine for both transportation and recreation. Maine residents and tourists alike enjoy Maine’s ATV trails as a way to get closer to Maine’s natural beauty. Since many ATV riders are taking this time away on vacation, some might also like to enjoy their ATV ride along with a drink or two. Unfortunately, these people would be taking a risk, just like as if they had been drinking and driving on a crowded highway. Often, people can get confused when it comes to the concept of operating under the influence (OUI) while operating your ATV. While many people might know that OUI while driving your car is a crime with serious consequences, people might not know what to expect when the OUI charge is from driving an ATV. In fact, there are consequences for an ATV OUI, and many of these consequences are similar to OUI from driving a car.
The drunk driving laws In Maine are referred to as “Operating Under the Influence” or simply Maine OUI. This term, Maine OUI, is used to describe the DUI, DWI, impaired or drunk driving. According to the Maine Revised Statues, riders who operate an ATV while intoxicated or under the influence of any narcotic drug may be in violation of the Maine OUI Laws, however instead of under title 29-A (motor vehicles) a Maine Operating ATV under the Influence charge rises under title 12 (conservation). Simply stated OUI on an ATV is very similar to Operating Under the Influence while driving.
Those charged with Operating an ATV under the influence in Maine need to understand what the law actually states and what the penalties and sentence could be. This article will highlight:
With a decade of experience, providing legal counsel to Mainers accused of a crime, I have helped countless Mainers accused of various Operating Under the Influence charges. If you or someone you know is accused of operating an ATV under the Influence, please feel free to contact me. In order to answer your questions and help you through this time our first confidential legal consultation is always free. As there as subtle nuance and facts to understand the repercussions and impacts of being charted with an OUI on an ATV in Maine, below is a scenario of how a person can end up getting charged with OUI on an ATV through the fictional client, Andy.
Story about OUI on an ATV in Maine
Andy is an avid ATVer in Maine. He lives on a rural Maine road within easy access to several ATV trails. Hardly any motor vehicle traffic passes through. Andy has a physically demanding job in construction, and so he takes out his ATV for a spin as often as possible to unwind. Andy likes also to enjoy a few beers while out on his ATV rides.
OUI on an ATV in Maine
One Saturday afternoon, Andy gets a total surprise turning a corner on one of his favorite trials. An Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Game Warden had set up an ATV roadblock to check everyone’s ATV registration. The warden signals for Andy to pull over, and then asks for a copy of Andy’s ATV registration. Andy is indignant about being stopped and mutters, “what is this, a ‘North Woods Law’ gotcha?” The warden comments that he smells alcohol on Andy’s breath, and a quick look-over of his ATV reveals a half-consumed 6-pack of beer hanging off of Andy’s ATV handlebars.
The next thing Andy knows that he is performing field sobriety tests, which he feels that he “passed,” and then the warden takes him down to the local county jail for an alcohol breath test, where he blows a 0.09. Andy is charged with OUI on his ATV.
Maine Statute for OUI on an ATV
While a typical OUI charge is governed by Maine’s Motor Vehicle statute, operating an ATV under the influence is governed by Maine’s Conservation statute, which focuses on outdoor activities such as boating, hunting, and fishing, among others:
12 M.R.S.A. Section 10701: Hunting under the influence; Operating watercraft, snowmobile or ATV under the influence.
1-A. Prohibition. Prohibitions against… operating under the influence are as follows:
- A person may not operate or attempt to operate an ATV:
- While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs or a combination of liquor and drugs;
- If 21 years of age or older, while having 0.08 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath; or
- If less than 21 years of age, while having an alcohol level of more than 0.00 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath.
Just like the OUI statute for motor vehicles, the legal limit for OUI on an ATV is 0.08, and the “impairment” can be from alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription medication. If you are under 21, then operating an ATV with any amount of alcohol in your system is considered to be OUI on an ATV.
The Minimum Sentences for Maine Operating an ATV Under the Influence
A charge of OUI on an ATV is a Class D misdemeanor in Maine. The maximum penalties for a Class D misdemeanor include up to $2,000.00 in fines and up to 364 days jail time. If the OUI on an ATV caused someone to be badly injured or seriously hurt, then the charge can be elevated to a Class C felony. The maximum penalties for a Class C felony include up to five (5) years jail time and up to $5,000.00 in fines.
Like your typical OUI, a conviction for OUI on an ATV carries with it certain mandatory minimum penalties, including the following:
- First Offense OUI on an ATV:
- Minimum fine of $400.00. Within the past 6 years, if you have ever been adjudicated for refusal to submit to a chemical test, such as provide a breath sample, then the minimum fine for a first offense OUI on an ATV is $500.00.
- Mandatory 48 hours jail time with the presence of certain aggravating factors:
- A blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher;
- The defendant refused to stop upon request of an officer in uniform while operating their ATV under the influence;
- The defendant refused to submit to a chemical test, such as a breath sample.
- Second Offense OUI on an ATV within the past six (6) years:
- Minimum fine of $600.00. Within the past 6 years, if that person was adjudicated for failure to comply with a chemical test, the fine is a minimum of $800.00.
- Mandatory minimum 7 days jail time.
- Third Offense OUI on an ATV within the past six (6) years:
- Minimum fine of $1,000.00. Within the past 6 years, if that person was ever adjudicated for failure to submit to an alcohol breath test, the fine is a minimum of $1,300.00.
- Mandatory minimum 30 days jail time.
Upon conviction, the Court may also order the Defendant to participate in alcohol and/or substance abuse education, evaluation, and treatment programs for multiple offenders.
What about my driver’s license?
In Andy’s case, he was stopped on an ATV trail not on a road. Because of this, only the Conservation statute would apply. As long as Andy was on an ATV trail and not on a public road, Andy’s driver’s license should not be affected.
However, what if Andy had been stopped on a public way or a road instead while on his ATV? Had Andy been stopped by a local police officer on the public way or road and found to have been driving his ATV while drunk, then the Motor Vehicle statute (Title 29-A) would apply, and the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) gets involved. If the Maine BMV gets involved, then Andy would be looking at a suspension of his driver’s license in connection with this offense. For more information about what to expect with the BMV, check out my articles about first offense OUI in Maine.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
When the Court considers sentencing for OUI on an ATV, the Court is allowed to consider the Defendant’s prior history of OUI violations and OUI refusals in other activities, such as hunting, snowmobiling, and boating. For example, if in the past Andy had been caught earlier in the year for operating his boat while under the influence while he was out fishing, the Court is allowed to consider this when calculating Andy’s sentence this time around. A criminal defense attorney would be able to warn Andy of this risk, and recommend that he fight the charge so that it might be dismissed.
Regardless of what type of a vehicle Andy was driving, or what law enforcement agency pulled Andy over, the OUI investigation still has to be conducted properly, and in a way that respects the criminal defendant’s constitutional rights. In many ways, Andy’s criminal defense attorney will approach this case in the same way as defending a typical OUI case:
- Fact finding to Verify the State’s Evidence– Your criminal defense attorney can help to determine the accuracy of the State’s records regarding priors, whether it is based on oral testimony alone, or where any such records have been documented.
- Problems with the SFSTs– Was the law enforcement officer trained to execute the standardized field sobriety tests? Did the law enforcement officer execute the standardized procedures for the SFSTs properly? Did the law enforcement officer ask about any potential health problems that would affect your performance on the SFSTs?
- Problems with the Intoxilyzer Machine– Is the law enforcement officer certified to use the Intoxilyzer? Was the Intoxilyzer machine calibrated properly? Did the law enforcement officer observe the proper wait period before obtaining a breath sample? Did the Intoxilyzer read any error messages during testing?
- Preserving Video Evidence from the Intoxilyzer room- In an OUI where the stop was made at an OUI sobriety checkpoint, the video evidence would be from the Intoxilyzer room at the police station. The single best piece of evidence in an OUI case, whether for the State or the defense, is video evidence.
Possible Outcomes for OUI on an ATV
Here are some of the possible outcomes for a case involving an OUI charge on an ATV:
Dismissal– A dismissal is the best possible outcome in a criminal case. In a dismissal, the criminal defense attorney convinces that District Attorney that the offense should be dropped. A dismissed charge does not have any lasting impact on the person charged.
Filing Agreement– A filing agreement is when the District Attorney “files” away the case, and then waits for a period of time pending the defendant’s good behavior and meeting any filing requirements. For example, for a filing fee, substance abuse evaluation, and one year of staying out of trouble, the State might agree to dismiss the charge against Andy. A filing agreement is considered to be a very good outcome in a criminal case.
Plea Deal – One possible outcome with the assistance of a criminal defense attorney is to resolve the case with a plea arrangement with the District Attorney’s Office. This plea deal ideally would avoid the negative consequences of a conviction, and one that ultimately preserves Andy’s ability to ride and enjoy his ATV.
Note: Before pleading guilty to any charge, you want to 100% understand what pleading guilty for that charge will mean for you. I always recommend to never plead guilty unless under the informed advice of legal counsel.
Jury Verdict– In some District Attorney’s Offices, there is a policy of “no negotiating” OUI related cases. Therefore, depending on Andy’s circumstances, he might have to take his case to trial if he wants to beat the charge. If this is the case, the criminal defense attorney might advise Andy to go forward with a case in front of a jury.
A jury trial is your day in court. If the jury finds reasonable doubt you had committed the crime as charged, then the jury would acquit you. On the other hand, if the jury agrees with the District Attorney that you committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt,” then you would be found guilty.
In Maine, the process is well underway to transfer all criminal court procedures to the Unified Criminal Docket. In the Unified Criminal Docket system, all criminal court dates are held at the same court and are scheduled to go through the same court date procedure as follows:
A typical OUI on an ATV is a Class D misdemeanor, and so the first court date is an Arraignment. Andy’s criminal defense attorney could attend his Arraignment with him in order to see if the District Attorney might be open to negotiating an early resolution to the case. However, at Arraignment, the District Attorney is not obligated to negotiate a resolution at Arraignment. Often at this point, the remaining court dates for Andy’s case are set.
The first opportunity for a potential resolution to the case is at the Dispositional Conference. Here, the criminal defense attorney and the State’s attorney meet to see if common ground can be reached and the case resolved without going to trial. If the attorneys are not able to come to an agreement at the Dispositional Conference, then the case would progress to pretrial motions and potential jury trial.
Pretrial Motions Hearing
Any motion filed pertaining to issues with specific evidence is considered a “pretrial motion.” These motions are heard and argued at the Pretrial Motions Hearing. Since the pretrial motions depend on what specific evidence is contained in the discovery, pretrial motion hearings are not always necessary. If there are no issues for a pretrial motion, then the defendant would not go to this court date.
Docket call is “last call” for plea deals and resolutions before heading to trial. At this point, both attorneys are thinking about putting trial arguments together and prepping trial witnesses. Sometimes, the attorneys can come to a favorable agreement at the 11th hour before a potential trial. If no resolution is reached at Docket Call, then it is too late to negotiate, and trial moves forward.
Jury Selection and Jury Trial
At Jury Selection, 12 jurors plus a few alternates are selected. After a jury is selected, a trial date is set. A trial is the defendant’s “day in court” to determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. When the jury makes their determination of guilty or not guilty, that is the end of the legal case.
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