A fatal drunk driving incident in Maine is raising some interesting jurisdictional issues because it happened in Acadia National Park.
According to court documents, a 28-year-old man from India caused a fatal car accident over Labor Day Weekend on Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park. Based on skid marks on the road, police say that he was going well over the posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour.
The man told police that he and other people in the car had been out drinking in Bar Harbor before the crash, which happened after 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, August 31.
Three people were killed in the accident, all of them from New York City.
Because the driver is an Indian native, he is facing deportation if he is convicted, in addition to the other typical OUI penalties. He is being held in jail without bail as a result.
The differences in this case are apparent from even the scant details mentioned in news reports – the suspect is being prosecuted by federal prosecutors and his case is being heard in federal court. Usually, because operating under the influence (OUI) is a state crime, it is pursued by state district attorneys and heard in state courts.
The federal involvement here has to do with the fact that the incident happened in a national park. National parks, including Acadia, are technically owned by the federal government, not the state. This means the federal government has jurisdiction over allegedly illegal activity that happens inside the park’s borders, rather than the state government.
Federal criminal laws are limited in scope and can only prohibit conduct using powers explicitly given to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution, like the ability to regulate interstate commerce.
Therefore, there are lots of state laws that do not have a federal counterpart. Drunk driving is one of them – there is no federal OUI law.
This does not mean that you can drink and drive in national parks or on other federal land with impunity, though. In these cases, 18 U.S.C. § 13, also known as the Assimilative Crimes Act, allows federal prosecutors to file state charges against people for conduct that is not outlawed on the federal level.
Those charges are pursued in federal court and are heard by a federal judge, even though they are still considered state offenses.
The OUI-defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group represent clients who have been charged with drunk driving or drugged driving in Portland, Saco, or Biddeford, even if those OUI charges are being pursued in federal court. With their legal representation and guidance, you can raise your rights and protect your interests and your future.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with
one of our team members, who will discuss your case with you and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys
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