A charge and conviction of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) can have significant consequences for anyone who is unfortunate to receive one. Refusing to submit to and comply with a chemical test elevates these consequences even more. The standard way to refuse a chemical test is to just say no when requested by law enforcement, but there are other actions that the Court will recognize as a refusal, even if you say you are willing to take the test. Knowing what constitutes a refusal of a chemical test can mean the difference between freedom and jail.
If you are found to have refused to submit to a chemical test and convicted of OUI, you will face potentially harsher consequences and mandatory minimum sentences. A first offense Operating Under the Influence conviction is a Class D misdemeanor, which means the maximum sentence a court could impose would be three hundred sixty four (364) days in jail, and a two thousand dollar fine. The State Legislature has created a mandatory minimum sentence for a first offense OUI, meaning the court must at least impose this minimum if someone is convicted. The mandatory minimum sentence is a five hundred dollar fine, and a license suspension of one hundred fifty (150) days. If you are found to have refused a chemical test, the maximum sentence stays the same, but the mandatory minimum sentence is elevated to a six hundred dollar fine, and a jail sentence of ninety-six (96) hours. Additionally, the license suspension must run consecutive to any administrative suspension by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. For every additional OUI committed within a ten-year period, the mandatory minimums for both OUI and OUI refusal will increase, and if you are charged with OUI having two previous convictions within ten years, you will face a Class C felony. A class C felony has a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a five thousand dollar fine, and two years of probation. An allegation of refusing a chemical test elevates the seriousness of the OUI in the eyes of the Court and can include significant jail time. This is why it is important to have a criminal defense attorney who will review a case to determine whether a refusal actually took place.
Refusing a chemical test does not require actually saying no to be considered a refusal. The State Legislature elevated mandatory minimum sentences for refusals, compared to standard OUIs, because of the duty to submit to and comply with chemical tests. As part of receiving a license in Maine, or being allowed to drive in Maine, there is an implied consent that you will submit to and comply with a chemical test if a law enforcement officer believes you operated a motor vehicle under the influence. If a law enforcement officer believes you have committed an OUI, the officer will have you complete a breath test to determine your breath alcohol level, unless he or she believes a breath test would be unreasonable. For example, if you had an open wound in your mouth, an officer may consider a breath test unreasonable. If an officer reasonably believes a breath test is unreasonable, you may be subject to a blood test or urine test. The law does not give you permission to request a different test than the one the officer offers. For example, saying you will not do a breath test but will do a blood test when the officer only offers you a breath test will be considered a refusal to submit to or comply with a chemical test, even though you are willing to take a chemical test. Additionally, if the State can show that you were not following the directions of the breath test, either by not providing enough air without a medical condition to explain it or by doing things that delay the results of a breath test, that can be considered a refusal to comply with the breath test. Even though there was an agreement to take the test, failing to comply with the test's requirements may constitute a refusal. Without actually saying no to taking any test, you may still be considered as refusing the test if you do not comply with the laws and rules established for taking a chemical test. Some of these instances of refusal can be close calls between refusing or not. A criminal defense attorney who specializes in OUI defense can analyze the facts and, if necessary, make the argument that there was no refusal, which can save you from the elevated severe consequences of a refusal.
Defending an Operating Under the Influence charge is very complex, and the issues of refusing a test complicate it even more, which is why having a criminal defense attorney who specializes in OUI defense is essential. If you have been charged with Operating Under the Influence or any other crime, contact the attorneys at WTB LAW immediately for a consultation.