Just after midnight last November 21, police officer Andrew Feeney, a sergeant in the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department, pulled over a driver that he thought was driving erratically on Wilder Road, in Naples, Maine. According to Feeney, the driver had crossed the center line several times, and had left one of his blinkers on. Officer Feeney gave the driver a sobriety test, which the driver failed, and then gave the driver a breathalyzer, to test his blood alcohol content (BAC). The results came back over the legal limit, which in Maine is .08%. Officer Feeney arrested the driver, who cooperated throughout the stop, and was the only person in the car, for operating under the influence (OUI).
The driver was Michael Madden, the police chief of Paris Police Department, Maine. He was brought to the Bridgton Police Department, where he was released on bail.
Things took an interesting turn when officer Feeney failed to immediately file the required paperwork of the OUI arrest with the Secretary of State's Office. As a result of this mistake, Mr. Madden's license was not suspended by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) when it should have been. However, once the paperwork was filed, on February 18, nearly three months after the traffic stop and arrest, the BMV issued the 150-day suspension notice for Mr. Madden's license - the standard suspension for a first OUI offense. This administrative suspension, scheduled to go into effect on March 23, was immediately appealed by Madden and his attorney, who requested an administrative hearing to challenge the traffic stop and try to keep Mr. Madden's driving privileges until the criminal proceedings of the OUI charge. The request for an administrative hearing stayed the license suspension until the hearing could take place.
There are only two issues that can be contested at the administrative suspension hearing include whether or not there was probable cause to believe the driver was operating under the influence for the purposes of arrest and whether it is more likely than not that the driver was over the legal limit a the time of driving. Typically, the breath test is admitted as prima facie evidence of the driver's breath alcohol level in order to support the 2nd prong of the hearing.
During the time between the request for the administrative hearing, and the hearing itself, Mr. Madden remained on active duty as police chief of Paris, Maine. The Town Manager, Amy Bernard, stated that Madden's primary role on the police force is administrative, and that he is only in the field if he's called to provide backup. However, she also admitted that having a driver's license was a job requirement for the chief of police.
Mr. Madden's administrative hearing happened in Portland on April 6. During the hearing, Madden's attorney argued that the delay between the arrest and the license suspension - a result of officer Feeney's failure to timely submit paperwork regarding the arrest - was so great that the suspension would not be effective, anymore. The hearings officer, however, didn't buy the argument, and ordered Madden's license to be suspended for the standard 150 days, starting April 8.
On April 7, a day before his license was scheduled to be suspended, Chief Madden plead guilty to the OUI charge, and issued a public apology, stating that his conduct was "unprofessional," and "atrocious." The terms of his guilty plea included a $500 fine and a five-month suspension of his driver's license. For the first month, he would not be allowed to drive, at all. For the remaining time, he will have to use an Ignition Interlock device to prove that he isn't driving drunk or before he can turn the car on. He will have to pay to have the Ignition Interlock Device installed in his car.
Mr. Madden's experience with an OUI charge, outside of the delay in filing the paperwork with the Secretary of State and the delay in the BMV's suspension notice, is a good example of how a BMV OUI administrative hearing might progress. Importantly, because he found an attorney, Madden was able to put of a solid defense against the OUI charges, challenging the two issues for contest at the administrative hearing. While many of the details of the arrest are not publicly available, clearly Mr. Madden discussed his options with his attorney, and found it favorable to plead guilty to the charge, rather than take the risk and go to trial to try to acquit himself.
These are the decisions that a lawyer, especially one well-versed in OUI law, can help you make. Making good decisions in the face of an OUI charge can drastically improve your well-being, and protect your interests both in the short-term, and in the long run. Call attorney William T. Bly, at (207) 571-8146.