If you've been keeping up to date with this blog, you're learning a lot about the penalties that you could face if you drink and get behind the wheel. You've seen that first and second convictions for operating under the influence (OUI) are Class D misdemeanors, but that the third and fourth offenses are Class C felonies. You've read that you can face jail time for your first OUI conviction if you were arrested with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above 0.15%, if you were driving at least 30mph over the speed limit, or if you tried to elude a police officer. You've even delved into the complexities of having to face two different kinds of charges – administrative and criminal – and what each type of charge could do.
These penalties, however, can become dramatically worse if the OUI arrest was a result of a car accident in which there was a fatality.
In an attempt to prevent any fatalities on the road resulting from drunk driving, Maine requires that all drivers involved in a fatal crash, or a crash where there might be a fatality, submit to a blood alcohol test. Refusing this test results in an automatic three year license suspension. If it is later determined that a driver who refused testing was driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, that driver will face an additional three year suspension, on top of the one for refusing the test.
In addition to this license suspension, drivers who were found to be operating their car under the influence at the time of a fatal crash will likely be charged with vehicular manslaughter – the crime of causing a death through recklessness, or criminal negligence. In this case, the criminal negligence is the driver's willfully taking the road, knowing that they were putting the public at risk and that they could potentially harm another person.
Vehicular manslaughter can be either a Class A or B felony – the two most severe classes of crime in the state of Maine. If convicted of a Class B vehicular manslaughter charge, you will face up to 10 years in jail, and a $20,000 fine. A Class A conviction comes with up to 30 years in jail, and as much as $50,000 in fines. After release from jail, the three year license suspension will kick in. All of this pales in comparison, of course, to the suffering of others in the accident.
Vehicular manslaughter charges are some of the most serious that you can face as a result of a bad decision to drive while intoxicated. When faced with up to 30 years behind bars, you need an experienced attorney on your side. William T. Bly has years of experience defending drivers against all kinds of OUI charges in Maine. Call his law office at (207) 571-8146.