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Portland OUI

Getting pulled to the side of the road, arrested, and charged with operating under the influence (OUI) in Portland, Maine, is not something anyone wants to go through. For most people, an OUI charge will be the first time they experience the criminal justice system from the defendant's perspective. Unfortunately, the penalties of an OUI conviction can be life-altering – even for those who avoid a jail sentence.

Hiring an OUI-defense lawyer from WTB Law if you have been accused of drunk driving or drugged driving in Portland is a must if you want to protect your future by invoking your rights.

Maine's OUI Law

Maine's drunk driving law is found at Maine Revised Statute 29-A §2411. It prohibits operating a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the legal limit of 0.08% or “while under the influence of intoxicants.”

This double standard is important because it means that you will get arrested for OUI if you have a BAC over 0.08% or if the police officer thinks you are “under the influence” of something even though your BAC is under the legal limit.

Drunk Driving Cases Based on BAC

OUI laws are per se laws in that they can be broken by conduct that does not require a certain state of mind or intentional conduct. Instead, you can break Maine's drunk driving law by simply having blood that is 0.08% or more alcohol. If you are a commercial driver or are under the age of 21, this legal limit can be 0.05% or even zero.

Police in Portland use chemical tests that can measure the alcohol content of your breath, blood, or even your urine to determine your BAC. If any of these shows that your BAC is at or over the legal limit, it can be used as evidence in trial that you were operating under the influence.

Drunk Driving Cases Based on Officer's Judgment of Intoxication

Just because your BAC is below the legal limit, though, does not mean that you cannot be arrested, charged, and convicted for OUI in Portland. Police can still make an OUI arrest if they decide that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In most cases, police make this decision based on how you interact with them during the traffic stop or your performance on field sobriety tests. While field sobriety tests are voluntary in Maine, many people still take them during traffic stops. These people usually think that their sobriety will allow them to pass whatever field sobriety test is thrown at them, and that they'll be allowed to leave once they pass.

Drugged Driving Cases in Portland

Maine's OUI law prohibits driving while “under the influence of intoxicants,” not just alcohol. In theory, anything that impairs someone's ability to operate a vehicle can serve as the basis for an OUI arrest and conviction, including:

  • Illegal drugs, like heroin or cocaine
  • Medical marijuana
  • Prescription medication
  • Over the counter medication, like allergy medication that can cause drowsiness
  • Coffee

Drugged driving cases, however, do not have any equivalent to BAC in drunk driving cases. For example, there is no legal limit for how much THC, the hallucinogenic substance in marijuana, can be in your system for you to be deemed per se under the influence. Instead, drugged driving cases rely on the testimony and judgment of the arresting officer.

Maine's Implied Consent Law

Because so much of Maine's OUI law relies on a drunk driving suspect's BAC, Maine has an implied consent law. The purpose of this law is to prevent people from simply refusing to provide the breath, blood, or urine sample needed to determine their BAC.

This law implies your consent to perform a BAC test by driving on the roads of Maine. If you revoke that consent by refusing to take a chemical BAC test, your driver's license is automatically suspended, following notice from the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Penalties for an OUI Conviction

The three big penalties that come with an OUI conviction are:

  1. Fines
  2. License suspension
  3. Jail time

Prior convictions for OUI – in Maine or elsewhere – are the single greatest factor in the severity of these penalties:

 

Fines

License Suspension

Jail Sentence

First Offense

At least $500

150 days

No mandatory minimum

Second Offense

At least $700

3 years

At least 7 days

Third Offense

At least $1,100

6 years

At least 30 days

Fourth or Subsequent Offense

At least $2,100

8 years

At least 6 months

However, aggravating factors can increase these penalties, including:

  • Having a BAC of 0.15% or above at the time of the arrest;
  • Going over 30 miles per hour over the speed limit;
  • Attempting to evade a police officer to avoid arrest or a traffic stop;
  • Driving with someone under the age of 21 in the car at the time of the arrest;
  • Refusing to submit to a chemical BAC test; and/or
  • Causing an accident that hurt or killed someone else.

Confusingly, the decision to suspend your license is not handled by the same office that will handle the criminal OUI case. Instead, it will be Maine's Bureau of Motor Vehicles that will make the decision about your license suspension. Worse, they use a completely separate process that moves very quickly and is disturbingly informal. Your due process rights are drastically limited in this process, so you have to request a hearing to prevent a summary suspension of your right to drive, and you have to make this request within 10 days of the notice of suspension indicated on the suspension letter you receive from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Collateral Consequences of an OUI Conviction

Fines, jail time, and a license suspension are not the only consequences of an OUI conviction, though. There are also collateral consequences of an OUI, some of which can be quite severe for certain people.

Having a felony OUI on your criminal background – like one involving aggravating factors or a third OUI conviction – can come with severe and easily-overlooked repercussions. People with felonies in their past can see their rights to vote or to own firearms infringed.

An OUI conviction can also wreak havoc on some professionals. Commercial drivers face steeper license suspension and a lower legal limit for BAC but also experience employment problems that others are unlikely to face. A drunk driving conviction for a trucker or taxicab driver can spell doom for their entire career.

Other professionals, like lawyers or doctors, can face repercussions as well. While most of these repercussions are limited to merely reporting the conviction to professional associations or advisory boards, an OUI conviction can put important professional certifications out of reach if that certification requires a clean criminal background.

Defending Against an OUI Charge in Portland

With so much at stake, raising effective legal defenses to an accusation of drunk driving or drugged driving is hugely important. OUI law and its enforcement is rife with holes and weaknesses that present opportunities for a skilled OUI-defense attorney.

No Probable Cause for Traffic Stop

One of the most common defenses to an OUI charge is that the police officer's evidence was gathered during an unlawful traffic stop.

The Fourth Amendment grants you protection from searches or seizures that are “unreasonable.” Police cannot just pull drivers over because they feel like it – they need enough of a reason that it amounts to probable cause. If police initiate a traffic stop without probable cause to believe that the law was being broken, all of the evidence they gather during that stop will be excluded from trial, leaving prosecutors with little to use.

Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests

In drunk or drugged driving cases that rely on the officer's opinion that you were under the influence, rather than on BAC evidence, evidence from field sobriety tests are likely to play an outside role. These tests, though, are woefully unreliable. Challenging them in court can raise enough reasonable doubts that a jury decides to acquit you of the charges.

Inaccurate BAC Tests

Even in cases that rely on BAC evidence that you were over the legal limit and therefore per se under the influence of alcohol, the test results that are being used against you can still be challenged. Breathalyzers and blood testing machines are prone to failure, need to be calibrated, and can be manipulated or improperly administered.

OUI Defense in Portland at WTB Law

The criminal defense and OUI-defense lawyers at WTB Law can help you if you have been pulled over, arrested, and charged with OUI in Portland. These allegations are serious and frightening for people who have never been arrested before and who probably thought they would never be accused of committing a crime. For many of the people charged with OUI, this will be their only time through the criminal justice system.

Our attorneys work diligently to make sure you can live with the results of your case – whether that means fighting for an outright acquittal or pleading to a reduced charge or negotiating for sentencing terms that are more favorable to you. We understand that each case is different and that everyone has their own goals and interests, as well.

Contact us online or call our law office at (207) 571-8146 for help.

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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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