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Maine has become the latest state to pass a “hands-free driving law” that forbids drivers from holding or even touching a cell phone while behind the wheel. An unfortunate – and entirely foreseeable – repercussion of the law, though, is that police will use it as a pretext for pulling someone over and searching for signs of operating under the influence (OUI).
Maine’s state legislature passed the law banning the use of cellphones in the car back in June. Governor Mills signed it into law on June 29, 2019, and it went into effect on September 19.
The law is far more strict than prior distracted driving laws in the state of Maine and makes Maine the 20th state in the U.S. to ban drivers from using or even interacting with cellphones while on the road.
The law did not just create a new statute in Maine’s traffic code – it actually changed numerous other provisions scattered throughout the code. The most important changes include amendments to:
The law also created 29-A Maine Statute §2121 and repealed §2116.
Altogether, these changes – some of which have not been updated in the official online statutes – forbid drivers from interacting with a mobile device at all while on the road. This includes when they are stopped at a red light or stop sign. The only exception is if the cell phone is “mounted or affixed” to the car and the interaction with the phone is limited to a single point of contact.
Violations are punished with a minimum $50 ticket for a first offense and a minimum $250 ticket for a subsequent offense.
So long as the police think they’re witnessing a traffic violation, they can initiate a traffic stop and pull you over to the side of the road. Once the traffic stop has begun, the cop can interact with you and search for evidence of all sorts of other crimes, from drug possession to OUI.
These are called pretextual stops. Police who don’t have probable cause to pull you over for a serious crime like OUI, but who do have probable cause to pull you over for a minor traffic infraction, will conduct the traffic stop and then use the stop to try finding more evidence of the more severe offense.
Maine’s new hands-free law is absolutely perfect for pretextual stops. If they see you driving and touching your face or even just moving your lips, they can claim they have evidence that the hands-free law is being broken and pull you over.
Pretextual stops are a common source of OUI charges, and avoiding them is becoming harder and harder. The OUI defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group can help you defend against an OUI allegation if you were pulled over anywhere in southern Maine, including Portland, Saco, or Biddeford. Call us at (207) 571-8146 or contact us online.
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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