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Maine Marijuana OUI

The law of operating under the influence (OUI) in Maine prohibits driving while intoxicated by anything that can impair your ability to drive. This includes drugs like marijuana as well as alcohol.

While the law is the same for marijuana as it is for alcohol, the way police enforce drugged driving is much different from how they enforce drunk driving. As a result, defending against OUI charges that involve marijuana is different, as well.

Maine's OUI Law and Marijuana

In Maine, the law prohibiting OUI is written down at Maine Revised Statute 29-A §2411. This law penalizes anyone who “operates a motor vehicle” while either:

  • Under the influence of intoxicants; or
  • Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the legal limit of 0.08%.

The first possibility makes OUI law broad enough to include people who are not drunk, but who are feeling the effects of any intoxicating substance. This includes:

  • Illegal drugs, like heroin, cocaine, LSD, or ecstasy;
  • Semi-illegal drugs, like marijuana;
  • Prescription drugs like sleeping pills;
  • Over-the-counter medication, like allergy pills that can cause drowsiness; or even
  • Caffeine.

Law Enforcement Struggles to Detect Drugged Driving

While Maine's OUI law includes almost any impairing drug under the sun in addition to alcohol, that does not mean that drugged driving and drunk driving are treated the same by police.

Simply put, police have breathalyzers and blood tests that can quickly determine an OUI suspect's BAC, which can show whether a driver is per se over the legal limit of 0.08%. When it comes to drugged driving, though, there is no legal limit of THC that makes a driver per se inebriated, and no reliable way to even detect THC in a driver.

Instead, when a police officer conducts a traffic stop and is confronted with someone who seems to be under the influence of something, but who passes a breathalyzer test with flying colors, what happens next is easily challengeable in court. Whether the officer conducts field sobriety tests or just makes an arrest based on a hunch that the driver is high on marijuana or other drugs, the prosecutor's case against the driver may have holes in it that a skilled OUI-defense lawyer can take advantage of.

Even when the arresting officer has passed the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, also known as DEC, their decision to arrest someone for driving under the influence of drugs is often inaccurate. This Program aims to train police officers on how to detect the presence of different drugs in different people based simply on how they're acting.

However, traffic stops only give police a few minutes of interaction with which to note the signs that a driver is high. Worse, the DEC program can only deal in generalities – showing police officers how people usually act while under the influence of particular substances. Different people act differently when they have taken drugs, and the DEC program cannot cover all of the possibilities.

Legalization of Marijuana and OUI

Maine is in the middle of steady progress of legalizing marijuana. While marijuana is still considered a controlled substance under federal law, Maine was one of the first states in the U.S. to allow people with certain medical conditions to grow and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Additionally, Mainers voted to allow the recreational use of marijuana in 2016, triggering a long process of regulatory steps by the state that needs to be completed before legal marijuana can be safely bought and sold in the state.

In the context of OUI law, neither Maine's medicinal marijuana law nor the development of its recreational marijuana law will help drivers who have been pulled over, arrested, and charged with drugged driving. Just like alcohol is a legal substance but can lead to an OUI conviction, marijuana can still serve as the basis for an OUI arrest, even if it is legally obtained and used.

Penalties of a Conviction for a Marijuana OUI in Maine

A conviction for a marijuana OUI carries the same penalties as a conviction for one involving alcohol, and depends largely on whether you have had any prior OUI convictions in the past ten years:

 

Fines

License Suspension

Jail Sentence

First Offense

Minimum of $500

150 days

No mandatory minimum

Second Offense

Minimum of $700

3 years

Minimum of 7 days

Third Offense

Minimum of $1,100

6 years

Minimum of 30 days

Fourth or Subsequent Offense

Minimum of $2,100

8 years

Minimum of 6 months

These are just the baseline penalties, though. Any of the following aggravating factors can enhance the penalties in your OUI marijuana case:

  • Refusing to submit to a breath or blood test for your BAC;
  • Evading a police officer or refusing to pull over for a traffic stop;
  • A car accident resulting in serious bodily injury or death;
  • Driving more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit; or
  • Being arrested with a passenger in the car who was under 21 years old.

The Collateral Consequences of a Marijuana OUI

In addition to the fines, jail time, and license suspension that you can face with a conviction for marijuana OUI in Maine, there are also a host of hidden consequences of having a criminal background. These are called collateral consequences because they fall outside the realm of the penalties that the state issues.

The collateral consequences of an OUI involving marijuana become far more severe if the OUI offense was a felony. Felonies trigger far more collateral consequences than misdemeanors do. Thankfully, most OUIs – those that do not involve aggravating factors or are committed by people with relatively clean criminal backgrounds – are not felonies.

However, the collateral consequences of a marijuana OUI can be especially severe for some people based on their line of work. Professional drivers who are convicted for OUI are likely to lose their job or at a minimum suffer adverse employment action like a probationary period. Because they involve drugs, marijuana OUIs can also lead to serious repercussions for people leading careers in, for example, law enforcement or education.

Defending Against a Marijuana OUI Allegation in Maine

Defending against any allegation of OUI in Maine is essential – the costs of a conviction are steep and the inconvenience of a license suspension can strain all aspects of your life. Defending against a charge of OUI involving marijuana, though, is even more important because law enforcement often struggles to put together persuasive evidence of drugged driving. Raising effective legal defenses that create reasonable doubts about the prosecutor's case or exclude what little they have against you.

Challenging the Legality of the Traffic Stop

The vast majority of the evidence against you in a marijuana OUI case will have been uncovered during the traffic stop. However, police cannot just pull people over for no reason – they need to have probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed. If you can show that they had no probable cause for the traffic stop, you can get the evidence discovered at the stop excluded from trial, potentially dooming the prosecutor's case.

Challenging the Officer's Testimony

Without a reliable way to detect the amount of THC in a driver's system to determine if they are “under the influence” of marijuana, most of the evidence against allegedly drugged drivers comes in the form of the arresting police officer, saying they were drugged. Even if the officer did pass the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, the statements that they provide are weak, at best.

Challenging Positive Blood or Urine Tests

In many cases of marijuana OUI, prosecutors present blood, urine, or even hair samples that were tested and came back positive for THC. The problem with these samples is that THC stays in your blood, urine, or hair for far longer than it affects your ability to drive. For example, it can take up to a month for THC to completely leave a driver's urine. Until then, urine tests will come back “positive” for THC. Prosecutors often try to spin this is a sign that a driver was under the influence of marijuana at the time of their arrest, even though the allegedly impairing effects of THC will have been gone for weeks.

Marijuana OUI Defense Lawyers at WTB Law Serve Maine

The OUI defense lawyers at WTB Law represent people in Maine who have been pulled over and arrested for both drunk and drugged driving, including those who have been accused of driving while impaired by marijuana. OUI marijuana cases are winnable, and raising defenses to an allegation of driving while high on marijuana can prevent a criminal charge from turning into a costly criminal conviction.

If you have been pulled over, arrested, and charged with a marijuana OUI, you need legal help to make sure you invoke your rights and present the defenses that are most likely to succeed in your given case. The criminal defense lawyers at WTB Law can help. Contact them online or call their law office at (207) 571-8146.

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What distinguishes our Firm from the numerous law firms throughout the state is that we genuinely care about the well-being of our clients. The staff and attorneys of WTB LAW ensure that every client receives hands-on and personalized attention throughout the life of their case.

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