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Manslaughter criminal charges in Maine

Maine Manslaughter Defense LawyersA manslaughter charge is one of the most serious criminal charges that you can face in the state of Maine. Belonging to the highest class of felony crimes, a conviction for manslaughter can results in substantial time behind bars, and a hefty fine. The seriousness of a charge for manslaughter makes having a good criminal defense attorney on your side an absolute necessity.

What is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter, like murder, involves killing someone. However, it is not murder, because there are factors surrounding the death that make it a slightly less serious offense. These are often called “mitigating factors,” and are the difference between murder and manslaughter.

One of the differences between a charge for murder and one for manslaughter is the state of mind of the person behind the killing. A murder requires that the person intentionally, or knowingly, causes the death. If the death is only caused recklessly or is caused by criminal negligence, then it’s manslaughter, instead.

Recklessness is someone’s state of mind when they actively, or consciously, disregard the risk that their conduct will lead to a certain result. Someone with a reckless state of mind isn’t necessarily intending to hurt someone else but is ignoring the fact that what they’re doing most certainly could.

Criminal negligence, on the other hand, is failing to be aware of a risk that your conduct will produce a specific result. An example of criminal negligence would be spinning donuts in a snowy parking lot. Even though most of the lot is empty, you’re risking losing control of your car and damaging other cars, or someone else’s property. Not being aware of this risk is criminal negligence.

A murder charge can also turn into one for manslaughter if there is a mitigating factor involved. The mitigating factor is that the death was caused intentionally or knowingly, like a murder, but also came about as a result of extreme anger or fear, and that this anger or fear was the result of an adequate provocation.

In order for this mitigating factor to work, though, it’s important that the provocation that leads to the extreme anger or fear has to be substantial. It cannot be induced, or brought about, by the person who ends up doing the killing. It also has to reasonably lead to a strong feeling of fear or anger – someone with a short temper won’t be able to benefit from this mitigating factor more than someone who is often calm and complacent.

Penalties for Manslaughter in Maine

Manslaughter is a Class A felony in Maine. Crimes of this type come with a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

However, in Maine, crimes committed with a dangerous weapon are treated as one crime class worse than it would be if no weapon were used. However, because Class A felonies are already the most serious class of crime in the state, the use of a dangerous weapon during manslaughter will be taken into consideration when the judge determines the sentence, if you get convicted.

If convicted for manslaughter, in addition to the standard criminal sanctions that you could face, such as jail time and fines, there are also what are known as “collateral consequences.” These are obstacles that you could face as a result of having a serious felony on your criminal background. Collateral consequences come in a variety of shapes, but most often crop up when you’re trying to find work. One collateral consequence of having a felony-level conviction in your past is that you have to disclose your criminal history on a job application. This often makes it more difficult to get a job, and sometimes makes you ineligible for certain kinds of employment.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Decades behind bars, thousands in fines, and even more collateral consequences once released from prison are all daunting prospects. But they only need to be dealt with if you get convicted for a manslaughter charge. The best way to prevent being convicted is to fight against the charges to the best of your ability. Hiring a defense attorney is the best way to do this.

Manslaughter charges are criminal charges. They need to be proven by the prosecutor beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal defense attorneys like William T. Bly are professionals at raising reasonable doubts.

Charges for manslaughter provide lots of room for a criminal defense attorney to work. After learning all of the details of the case, defense attorneys formulate a strategy to attack the weakest points in the prosecution’s case and defend against its strongest arguments. Depending on the facts of your case, the best strategy might be, for example, to argue actual innocence, and claim that you did not actually commit the crime. Another strategy might be that you did commit the crime, but it was justified because of self-defense. Inside each strategy will be smaller moves, like excluding evidence, or finding character witnesses.

Attorney William T. Bly is a professional criminal defense attorney. With years of experience defending those charged with crimes in Maine, he has developed a knack at determining exactly what the best strategy is for each and every one of them. Knowing that no case is ever the same, attorney William T. Bly creates a unique defense strategy for every one of his clients, based on the facts on hand. His experience defending against criminal charges in Maine has also made him familiar with how the region’s prosecutors handle their cases, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. All of this information is used to better defend you against a criminal charge for manslaughter.

The penalties are real, but they need to convict you, first. With William T. Bly on your side, you’ll have one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the area standing between you and decades behind bars.

Manslaughter in Maine frequently asked questions

Out of all of the criminal cases involving an allegation of operating under the influence (OUI)in the Portland area, those that stem from fatal car accidents are the most severe. Rather than being charged with a standard OUI, the criminal charge becomes one for manslaughter.

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the law of OUI manslaughter in Maine.

What is manslaughter?

Manslaughter is a type of homicide. Homicide is the unlawful killing of another human being. Those that are done intentionally are murders. Those that are done unintentionally are manslaughters.

The law in Maine considers fatal car accidents that were caused by an inebriated driver to be manslaughters: Getting behind the wheel of a car while impaired, in the eyes of the law, amounts to at least the level of criminal negligence or recklessness that is necessary to support a manslaughter charge.

How do the police investigate OUI manslaughter charges in Maine?

After every fatal crash, and even most crashes that lead to a serious injury, police will test everyone involved for their blood alcohol content (BAC) via a blood test. Even where there is no probable cause to believe you operated a motor vehicle under the influence, the police are likely to bring you to a hospital for a blood test. This is standard protocol in an accident involving death or serious bodily injury.

Additionally, police often conduct field sobriety tests on people who do not have any detectable alcohol on their breath.

What would happen if I refused a BAC test after an accident in Maine?

Refusing a validly requested BAC test – including a breathalyzer or a blood test – is a violation of Maine’s implied consent law. Not only would this result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license; it would also be used against you by prosecutors if you are accused of OUI manslaughter.

Furthermore, refusing a BAC test after a fatal car accident will just lead the police to request a warrant. In these situations, warrants can be obtained easily and within a few hours, allowing police to get a blood draw over your objections. However, during that time, your BAC may have dropped to an undetectable level so refusing a blood test in a manslaughter case is a double-edged sword.

What are the penalties for an OUI Manslaughter charge or conviction in Maine?

The penalties for a conviction of OUI manslaughter are far higher than for a regular OUI. At a minimum, the fine is $2,100 and the license suspension is for 10 years, even if you have never had an OUI before. At most, the fines can be as high as $50,000, and there can be up to 30 years of jail time on the table for an OUI manslaughter conviction.

What if another driver caused the accident?

If the other driver caused the fatal accident, but you are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, proving that the other driver was at fault becomes both incredibly important and also very difficult.

In the eyes of the law, having a BAC at or over the legal limit is a strong sign that you were at fault for the crash. Overcoming that presumption is not easy. Additionally, it is not enough to show that your inebriation did not cause the crash – you have to show that your driving was not the cause of the accident.

Are there opportunities to plead guilty to a lesser charge for manslaughter in Maine?

Rarely. Prosecutors in Maine are pressured to look tough on people who have been charged with OUI in all of its forms. When an OUI charge involves a fatal accident, that pressure is even higher. District attorneys want to look tough on drunk driving, and allowing the prosecutors in their offices to offer plea deals would undermine that goal.

What is the defense for an OUI Manslaughter charge in Maine?

Yes. Depending on your situation and the circumstances of the crash, there is often at least one way to challenge the case against you.

One of the most common defenses is that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident. BAC tests like breathalyzers and even blood tests can be inaccurate and can return a false positive if they are not calibrated correctly. When a BAC was not conducted and the prosecutor’s case relies on field sobriety tests, this defense gets even stronger because field sobriety tests are notoriously unscientific.

Even in cases where there is strong evidence that you were under the influence of something, you can still raise strong defenses by showing that you were not at fault for the crash. This often involves highlighting specific aspects of the accident and challenging whatever indication there is that you were at fault, including the police report if necessary.

Why Should I hire a lawyer to defend an OUI manslaughter charge?

Because OUI manslaughter cases can be won. The pressure that prosecutors feel to convict people on OUI manslaughter charges and refuse to offer a plea deal is the same pressure that can lead them to overcharge situations where the facts simply aren’t there. Hiring a lawyer to keep them in line by challenging the evidence they present can successfully defend you against a serious criminal allegation.

Additionally, OUI manslaughter convictions are incredibly costly. They can strip you or your right to drive for an entire decade and can come with extensive jail sentences. Not having a lawyer to defend you and represent your rights and interests in court – even in cases that seem cut and dried – can mean the prosecutor gets to dictate exactly what happens to you. Their job is to get the most severe penalties possible. Hiring a lawyer can prevent them from getting what they want.

Contact a Maine manslaughter and OUI defense lawyer today

The OUI-defense lawyers at MCD Group strive to represent people who have been accused of OUI manslaughter in the Portland area, including in Biddeford and Saco, as well. If you have been arrested after a fatal car accident and accused of driving while drunk or drugged, you need legal help. Schedule a consultation with our OUI-defense lawyers at MCD Group by contacting them online for the legal representation you need to fight these allegations.

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