Frank lives in Portland, Maine, where the state permits adults over 21 to possess small amounts of recreational marijuana. Frank goes to visit friends at their Old Port apartment, and he smokes marijuana during the evening. Because Frank does not want to drive drunk, he does not drink any alcohol. Later that evening not being aware of Marijuana OUI in Maine, Frank is confident that he is in the clear to drive home.
While driving home, Frank stops way too short of a stop sign, and then turns too soon so that his back wheels hit the sidewalk. Shortly thereafter, Frank is pulled over by a Portland Police Officer. The officer asks Frank for his license and registration. The officer asks Frank to step outside the car to perform standardized field sobriety tests. The next thing Frank knows is that he is being placed in the police cruiser in handcuffs and being driven to the Cumberland County Jail for an Intoxilyzer 8000 test.
Frank feels indignant. Why is he being arrested for Pot OUI when he did not drink any alcohol? He blows a 0.00 on the alcohol breath test and asks “Can I go home now?” Instead of going home, Frank is asked to undergo a Drug Recognition Exam (DRE) to find out what drug, other than alcohol, might be causing Frank’s impairment. Frank is charged with an OUI because he was impair by pot and was driving.
Frank has run into the problem of Marijuana OUI. Unfortunately for Frank, the State of Maine expects Frank to drive his car while not being impaired by any substance include pot. Just like any other drug, such as alcohol or prescription pills, consuming marijuana can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle.
This is a fictional story highlighting what one commonly experiences when charged with a Marijuana OUI in Maine. A Marijuana OUI is treated just as seriously as an OUI due to alcohol. If you or someone you know is facing similar charges of pot OUI in Maine, please take a moment and contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced Maine OUI defense attorney. Attorney Nielsen will help answer your questions and put your mine at ease.
In this article, let’s get a deeper understanding of Marijuana OUI in Maine and what you need to know if facing criminal charges.
- OUI is not just for Alcohol
- Marijuana OUI puts your driver’s license at risk
- What to expect without a lawyer
- How a Maine OUI defense attorney can help
- Possible outcomes for a Marijuana OUI in Maine
- Maine Court Process for Marijuana OUI
OUI is not just for Alcohol
Under the Maine statute, the legal limit for alcohol is 0.08 BAC. But what about testing for Marijuana? In the State of Maine,the tools to investigated OUI are:
- Performing a Drug Recognition Exam (DRE) and.
- Securing a urine or blood sample and conducting a drug screen.
Administering DRE exams is more of an art than a science, and getting the results back from a blood toxicology lab can take time.
To help this process, Maine is considering a chemical test that would be used to test for marijuana impairment. The measurement would be 5 nanograms of THC in the blood. THC is the chemical component in marijuana that makes a person high. In other words, while 0.08 of alcohol is legally impaired from alcohol, 5 nanograms of THC would be considered legally impaired from marijuana.
For the State of Maine, the benefit of a standardized measurement for marijuana that would indicate being legally impaired, would be that the same law would apply to everyone, which would be good for law enforcement. And, having a specific test for marijuana would eliminate the uncertainty of a DRE test, which functions as a “best guess.”
Just like the alcohol breathalyzer test, there are potential pitfalls in testing a person’s blood for THC marijuana content. First, how do we know that 5 nanograms is the right amount of THC in the blood to cause impairment? Just like alcohol, different people could process marijuana through their system at different rates. In this way, some people could be more or less impaired with 5 nanograms of THC in their blood, resulting in the law impacting people differently. And, a blood test is a highly invasive search from law enforcement. Currently, a blood test is conducted in certain situations, such as when a person is not an appropriate candidate for a breath test or has given a result of 0.00 (indicating impairment by a means other than alcohol), or when there has been an motor vehicle accident resulting in serious injury or death. If the blood test for marijuana becomes mandatory for all OUI investigations, this could raise issues with potential civil rights violations.
Marijuana OUI Puts your Driver’s License at Risk
In this case, Frank is facing his Maine First OUI Offense. A First Offense OUI in Maine is a Class D misdemeanor. If convicted, Frank could face the following mandatory minimum penalties:
- $500 Fine (plus fees and surcharges)
- 150 day loss of driver’s license (both the BMV and the Court can suspend your driver’s license)
These are just the minimum penalties. For a Class D misdemeanor, the State could impose penalties of up to $2,000.00 in fines and up to 364 days jail time.
For Frank, it was the license suspension that upset him more than anything else. He needs to be able to drive to get to and from work at a local restaurant. If he can’t get to work reliably on time every day, then his employer might let him go.
Without a Lawyer, District Attorney Refuses to Negotiate
Not knowing what to do, Frank went to his Arraignment date alone to see if he could work things out with the District Attorney. To his unhappy surprise, the District Attorney was not interested in hearing anything he had to say. Instead, the District Attorney simply said that the State’s “best” offer was for him to plead guilty as charged and be sentenced to the mandatory minimum penalties.
Frank was in a panic thinking that he might lose his job over this. Frank realized that he needed the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer. Frank did the right thing by calling an experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight the Marijuana OUI charge.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer can Help
After hiring a criminal defense lawyer, Frank felt much better knowing that he had an aggressive advocate and a legal expert in his corner. Frank learned more about the many ways in which his criminal defense lawyer could defend his case, including:
- Build a defense by attending the BMV Administrative Hearing. Several weeks ago, Frank got a letter in the mail from the Maine Secretary of State. Why was he getting a letter from the Secretary of State when his court date was at the District Court? And so he missed the deadline to request an administrative hearing and his license was suspended. With the assistance of the criminal defense lawyer, the opportunity for a BMV Administrative Hearing was renewed. At this Administrative Hearing, the criminal defense lawyer questions the arresting officer to build a stronger defense for the criminal court.
- Identify any potential problems with the OUI stop. When conducting an OUI stop, law enforcement officers must respect your constitutional civil rights. Any statements or evidence obtained in violation of your constitutional rights are not admissible as evidence at trial.
- Identify any potential problems with the credentials of the arresting officer or DRE examiner. In order for any chemical tests to be considered valid, the officer has to complete certain courses and to sustain any continuing education requirements. If the officer’s certification to perform tests like standardized field sobriety tests or DRE exams have any gaps, then this fact is important to Frank’s defense.
- If there was a blood draw, identify any potential problems with chain of custody or contaminated sample. If the officers took a sample of Frank’s blood, then the blood sample needs to be taken properly by a properly certified person, and the blood sample itself needs to be treated carefully so as to not contaminate the quality of the sample.
Possible Outcomes for Marijuana OUI
With the assistance of criminal defense counsel, Frank’s possible resolutions to his case increased significantly. Here are just a few examples of possible resolutions to Frank’s case.
Resolutions Not Involving a Guilty Plea
- Dismissal– The Marijuana OUI charge could be dismissed outright due to constitutional violations or significant weaknesses in the State’s case. A dismissal is the best possible outcome in a Maine OUI case.
- Filing Agreement– In a filing agreement, the State sets aside the Marijuana OUI charge for a period of time, usually for one year, pending Frank’s good behavior. At the end of a Filing Agreement, the charge usually gets dismissed.
Resolutions Involving a Guilty Plea
Frank’s criminal defense lawyer told him to never plead guilty to a criminal charge without knowing all of the possible consequences he would face. Therefore, it was very important for Frank to understand and be okay with the full impact of any guilty plea he entered.
- Dropdown to a lesser charge– One possible resolution to Frank’s Marijuana OUI could be to enter a guilty plea to a lesser charge. In some instances, the Maine District Attorney can offer that the defendant plead guilty to a less serious charge, such as Driving to Endanger (DTE).
- Deferred Disposition– In this case, a deferred disposition is when Frank enters a guilty plea to Marijuana OUI, and then the State revisits the issue of a sentence at a later date, usually for one year. Frank inst convicted because the sentence has not been imposed. If Frank meets the requirements of his deferred disposition agreement, and he stays out of trouble, then he would get the benefit of the plea agreement, which could be a dismissal of the Marijuana OUI charge.
Maine Court Process for Marijuana OUI
As a first offense OUI for Marijuana, the first court date for Frank would be an Arraignment, where the Judge reads the details of the charge against Frank, and Frank answered to the charge in the form of Not Guilty. If there are any issues pertaining to bail, conditions of bail could also be addressed.
In Portland’s Unified Criminal Docket, Frank’s next court date after Arraignment would be a Dispositional Conference. A Dispositional Conference is where the lawyers meet to negotiate a possible resolution to the case outside of a trial. At the Dispositional Conference, Frank’s criminal defense lawyer would present any arguments about any flaws in the police investigation, as well as any arguments pertaining to the reliability of the blood sample or DRE exam, to show the State that they might not have a strong case against Frank. If after reviewing the State’s offers, Frank does not want to accept any of the plea deals on the table, then the case would progress to pretrial motions, jury selection and trial.
Pretrial Motion Hearings
At the Unified Criminal Docket, pretrial motion hearings are intended to resolve any potential issues in the evidence. If certain evidence was obtained in violation of Frank’s Constitutional rights, the criminal defense lawyer could file an appropriate pretrial motion, such as a Motion to Suppress. After the motion is filed, a Suppression Hearing is held. After the Suppression Hearing, the Judge decides whether any potentially questionable evidence will be kept out of evidence at trial. If successful, this can result in key pieces of the State’s case being kept out of trial.
At trial, it is the role of District Attorney to attempt to prove that Frank committed Marijuana OUI beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the role of the criminal defense lawyer to reveal reasonable doubt whether Frank had in fact committed a crime. At trial, Frank has the right to confront the State’s witnesses in cross-examination. The outcome of a trial for Marijuana OUI is decided by a jury of Frank’s peers or by a Judge. Most OUI cases do not reach trial stage.
For More Information on Marijuana OUI
If this article on Marijuana OUI in Maine interests you, you might want to explore these related articles:
- Questions to Ask When Hiring an OUI Lawyer
- 10 Mistakes People Make During a DUI Stop
- Drunk Driving Involving Drugs
- New Drunk Driving Law Takes Effect December 2013
- Questions to Ask your OUI Defense Lawyer
- Court Process for Marijuana and Alcohol OUI Laws
- What Are the Maine OUI Laws?
- Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in Maine