People who are interested in drunk driving and Maine's law of operating under the influence (OUI) are often looking for answers, but aren't sure if their questions warrant the attention of a lawyer.
Whether because you want to know more about the law, have been arrested, or know someone who is being charged for OUI, here are the answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about OUI in Portland, Maine.
What is the Most Pressing Concern After Being Arrested for OUI?
The most pressing concern after an OUI arrest is the automatic license suspension. Both the staff at the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) and the prosecutors at the district attorney's office will pursue your case. While the prosecutors' case is more severe – they can pursue fines and even jail time – the BMV's case against your driver's license moves much quicker. Getting ahead of the BMV's case involves filing a letter to stop the automatic license suspension, which you have to do within 10 days of the date your license is slated to go under suspension. If you don't, you'll lose your right to drive before you ever appear in court.
Where Will I Go After Being Arrested in Portland?
Once there, you will be “booked” – police will take down your personal information and some basic details about what happened that led to the arrest. Police will then run a background check, take mug shots and fingerprints, confiscate personal property, and put you in a holding cell until you can post bail.
How Long Will I Be in Custody After an OUI Arrest in Portland?
It depends on the severity of the alleged offense.
When the police run a background check during the booking process, if the background check finds nothing on your criminal record and there were no aggravating factors in your arrest, you will likely only be kept in a holding cell for a few hours or until you “sober up.” You will then likely be released on your personal recognizance – a written promise to show up at future court dates.
However, if there are aggravating factors to your arrest – like a car accident that seriously hurt or killed someone, or your blood alcohol content (BAC) was high – or if you have had a prior OUI conviction, bail will be set and you remain in custody until you can either pay it or you see a judge to get arraigned and have your bail reviewed.
What's the Difference Between OUI, DUI, and DWI?
Different states refer to the offense of drinking and driving in different ways, but it's the same crime. Some states call it:
- Operating under the influence (OUI)
- Operating while intoxicated (OWI)
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
- Driving while ability impaired (DWAI)
Maine uses OUI. So does Massachusetts. New Hampshire, on the other hand, calls it a DWI.
Can a First OUI End With Jail Time?
Yes. While it is possible for there to be a jail sentence for a first OUI offense in Portland, there typically has to be an aggravating factor involved in the case. These can include:
- A BAC of 0.15% or higher
- Excessive speeding of 30 mph or more above the speed limit
- Having an underage passenger in your car at the time of the arrest
- Trying to evade police
- Having a history of drug or alcohol related offenses in your background.
Of course, OUI cases always involve at least a few hours of jail time between the arrest and the release on bail. Additionally, like any criminal charge, OUI charges always carry a risk of jail.
What Should I Do During a Traffic Stop?
Be respectful to the police officer, but know that everything you do or say can be used as evidence against you. Police are not there to help you – they are there to gather evidence for the purpose of prosecuting your case.
When they ask for your license and car registration, give it to them. When they ask other questions, though, you do not have to answer. Remember, the officer is only interested in gathering evidence of a crime. Many of their questions are designed to get you to say something incriminating, or put you at ease or make you flustered so you say something you'll regret. Politely saying, “I don't have to answer that question,” or “I'm sorry, but I know my rights,” will keep that from happening.
Under no circumstances should you give the officer consent to search your car.
Should I Refuse a Breath Test or BAC Test?
Because Maine has an implied consent law that infers your agreement to take a BAC test if requested, there are penalties you can face if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or other BAC test after being pulled over and requested to take one by a police officer. These penalties are automatic, so they trigger immediately and are very difficult to challenge. Knowing the penalties for refusing a breathalyzer before you ever have to decide is crucial for you to make an informed decision based on your circumstances.
Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?
Unlike breathalyzers and BAC tests, field sobriety tests are voluntary in Maine. You can refuse to do one without violating Maine's implied consent law, and you will not be penalized with additional criminal charges.
Refusing one, however, can be surprisingly tricky. Police are excellent at easing OUI suspects into field sobriety tests without them realizing what is going on. As soon as the officer asks you to leave your vehicle, you should be on the alert for a field sobriety test.
How Often Do OUI Cases Go to Trial?
Like many cases in the legal system, a majority of OUI charges are resolved before the trial begins. In the best cases, strong defenses are raised and challenge the evidence against you to such an extent that the prosecutor decides to drop it entirely, sure that they would never get a conviction. In others, there is only tenuous evidence that there was an OUI, but strong evidence that a lesser offense, like reckless driving. These cases frequently end with guilty pleas to a lesser offense.
Every case is different, though. Some of them should be taken to trial. Others lead to guilty pleas that are in your favor. Discussing your options with a lawyer before making a decision is crucial.
How Can I Beat an OUI Accusation?
Obviously, the best legal defense will depend on the circumstances – challenging the results of a field sobriety test will get you nowhere if your case also involves a blood draw that found your BAC was over the legal limit.
A common defense, though, is that police lacked the necessary probable cause to initiate the traffic stop, in the first place. Police can't just pull people to the side of the road because they feel like it – they need a reason. If they didn't have a reason for the traffic stop, all of the evidence they found during that stop can get thrown out.
How Can an OUI Defense Lawyer Help?
An OUI defense lawyer can show that you are innocent or, at the very least, work to mitigate the penalties of a conviction.
Many OUI charges that are filed by Portland prosecutors are tenuous, at best. Some of them involve drivers whose BAC was below the legal limit, and which rely on officer testimony. Others claim that aggravating factors were at play that warrants heightened penalties, even though there is scant evidence to back it up. Challenging these cases can lead to drastically different results.
Even where the prosecutor has a solid case, an OUI defense lawyer can help. Negotiating the terms of the penalties can protect your interests and minimize the costs and inconvenience.
Is It Worth Hiring an OUI Defense Lawyer?
In the end, you are in the best position to determine whether the costs of hiring an OUI defense lawyer are worth it or not, as you are the one with the best idea of your financial means. When making the decision, though, it is important to keep in mind that the costs of an OUI conviction go beyond just the fines, license suspension, and potential jail time. There are also hidden costs of a conviction for OUI, like:
- Potential costs of installing an Ignition Interlock Device
- Costs of getting your driver's license back
- Employment consequences of not having a car
- Employment consequences of having an OUI on your record
- Potential for far more serious repercussions of a future OUI
Not hiring a lawyer can make you vulnerable to the worst penalties that are possible for the charges you are facing. Without a defense lawyer to represent you in and outside of the courtroom, prosecutors are likely to trample your rights on their way to an outcome on their terms.
WTB LAW: Portland's OUI Defense Team
The attorneys of WTB LAW are OUI defense lawyers who serve the accused in Portland, Maine. With their help, you can challenge the evidence against you, raise important legal defenses, and protect your rights and interests. Don't hesitate to reach out to them by calling (207) 571-8146 or by contacting them online if you have been arrested and charged with OUI in Maine, or have any further questions about the OUI process in Portland.