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Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Maine OUI DUI Defense

Everyone knows that operating under the influence (OUI) in Maine covers alcohol. Fewer people are aware that it covers drugs, too.

OUIs involving drugs are investigated differently than most drunk driving cases and are more likely to lead to other criminal charges, as well.

The OUI defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group help people defend against both drunk driving and drugged driving accusations.

Driving under the influence of drugs in Maine

Maine’s statute that prohibits OUI is 29-A Maine Statute § 2411. This law makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

However, it also outlaws drugged driving by making it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while “under the influence of intoxicants.”

Those “intoxicants” can include:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Over the counter drugs

The phrase “under the influence of intoxicants” is what makes a drugged driving case in Maine so tricky: Unlike drunk driving, where there is a BAC limit that police can turn to as evidence of guilt, drugged driving relies heavily – almost exclusively, in fact – on the perception of the arresting officer.

With no objective baseline to use, this can spell trouble for anyone suspected of being under the influence of drugs while behind the wheel. Police have learned the catchphrases to use to make it sound like someone is under the influence of a vague and undetermined drug.

When questioned about why the decided a driver was “under the influence of intoxicants” and made an arrest even though the driver passed the breathalyzer, police often testify that the driver:

  • Had bloodshot eyes
  • Seemed nervous
  • Acted strangely
  • Was twitching or seemed excited
  • Was lethargic
  • Smelled like marijuana.

When this testimony is the centerpiece of an OUI case, it can be difficult to win because juries think that they can trust the officer rather than a criminal defendant.

Penalties for Drug-Based OUIs in Maine

The penalties for a conviction for a drug-based OUI are the same as for an alcohol-based OUI. In Maine, those penalties depend the most on if you have been convicted for OUI in the past 10 years, and if you have been convicted for more than one OUI in that time span:

Crime Class Minimum Jail Sentence Minimum Fine Minimum License Suspension
First OUI Offense Class D misdemeanor No minimum $500 150 days
Second OUI Offense Class D misdemeanor 7 days $700 3 years
Third OUI Offense Class C felony 30 days $1,100 6 years

These penalties, however, can be increased if there were any aggravating factors involved in your case or during your arrest. Aggravating factors in drugged driving cases can include:

  • You were alleged to be under the influence of drugs and caused a fatal crash, which is vehicular manslaughter.
  • The OUI arrest came after a car accident, especially if the crash hurt someone.
  • You had a passenger under the car under the age of 21, making it a case of child endangerment.
  • You tried to elude police.
  • You were going 30 miles per hour over the posted limit, which is criminal speeding.
  • You refused to take a breathalyzer or other BAC test, violating Maine’s implied consent law.

Drugged Driving can lead to drug charges in Maine

An often overlooked aspect of OUI charges involving drugs is the likelihood that the traffic stop finds evidence of an additional drug crime.

When police initiate traffic stops, it is often for a minor traffic offense like not signaling before turning or for having a taillight out.

The goal of initiating the stop, though, is to interact with the driver and see if they appear impaired – especially weekend nights when people tend to drink.

During this interaction, police scan the insides of the vehicle to see if they can find evidence of a crime – any crime – that they can use to make an arrest.

Even if the police do not find anything inside the car at this stage, if they decide that you appear to be under the influence of drugs, they will make an arrest and bring you into the police station.

Your car will likely get towed and impounded, where police then conduct a thorough search of the vehicle in order to “inventory” it.

Police say that vehicles are inventoried to keep people from claiming that the police stole something, but inventorying a car has the convenient side effect of giving police the excuse to turn it inside out looking for evidence.

If there are drugs in the vehicle, you could face some serious drug charges, including drug possession or drug trafficking.

Defenses Against a Drugged Driving Charge

Because OUI cases involving drugs are so different from ones only involving alcohol, the best defense strategies are often different, as well.

The defense strategy that becomes more important in drug OUI cases is challenging the arresting officer’s testimony. The prosecutor’s case often relies heavily on what the arresting officer saw in their limited interaction with you during the traffic stop.

This is where the officer had to develop the idea that you were probably under the influence of drugs. Showing that there was no way the cop could have reasonably come to this conclusion can be an effective defense strategy in drugged driving cases.

If you are being charged with drugged driving and the police found evidence of other, unrelated, drug crimes during their search of your vehicle, challenging the validity of the traffic stop can be the best option.

Police need to have a reasonable suspicion that you were driving in violation of some motor vehicle code or that you were driving impaired in order to initiate the traffic stop.

If they do not have it, the stop violates your constitutional rights and any evidence the stop uncovers will be thrown out by the judge.

Contact a Drugged Driving Lawyer Today

The OUI defense lawyers at The Maine Criminal Defense Group in Portland work diligently to represent those who have been accused of OUI in all of its forms in Maine, including drugged driving.

These allegations are severe and can lead to jail time and a long license suspension. They can also spawn other criminal allegations that can exacerbate the penalties of a conviction.

Call The Maine Criminal Defense Group for the defense you need against these tricky charges at (207) 571-8146 or contact us online.

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