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The State of Maine takes drunk driving and drugged driving (OUI) very seriously. Based on statistical and anecdotal evidence, there are many reasons to believe that driving under the influence of either alcohol or intoxicating drugs is extremely dangerous.
In point of fact, OUI related fatalities are among the most common causes of death, in both the State of Maine and elsewhere throughout the nation.
The dangers presented by OUI are quite obvious if we simply consider the effects of alcohol and other intoxicating substances: decreased visual acuity, decreased manual dexterity, auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, loss of consciousness, and so forth. There is simply no way that someone driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs isn’t creating tremendous risks for himself or herself and for other people nearby. Because of the dangers involved, the penalties for OUI can be quite severe.
As we will see, the effects of underage OUI are profound: not only does Maine have a “zero tolerance” policy for underage motorists, there are also heavy penalties. In this post, we will discuss non-underage OUI – both alcohol OUI and drugged driving OUI – and then move to underage OUI so that we can see the exact effects of being an underage driver.
If you’ve been accused of underage OUI, or standard non-underage OUI, you know that this isn’t a charge to take lightly. In this situation, it is imperative that you obtain expert assistance immediately in order to avoid penalties whenever possible.
Currently, non-underage OUI occurs whenever a driver operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content level (“BAC”) of 0.08% or greater. Every driver’s level of tolerance is different, however, and so there is no way to determine how much alcohol consumption will lead to this BAC level. Ordinarily, common experience holds that this level of 0.08% is reached after 3 to 4 cans of a traditional alcoholic beverage, such as beer; but again, BAC cannot usually be precisely predicted just based on consumption.
The severity of a non-underage OUI can be exacerbated by certain factors. For example, under current Maine law, if a drunk driver carries minor passengers at the time of the offense, this will be considered a more serious violation; likewise, if someone is injured as a result of the drunk driving, or if the driver refuses to comply with a BAC test, then this will also be considered an upgraded or more serious infraction. As we will discuss below, the penalties for OUI can be harsh, and they extend beyond simple jail time and fines. Drivers will receive an automatic license suspension, even for a first offense, and they may also be ordered to attend alcohol or drug treatment counseling in certain cases.
Drugged driving refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating drug, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or any other controlled substance. Operating a motor vehicle while under the effects of any controlled substance is extremely dangerous. Consider the effects of marijuana, for instance: though different strains may cause somewhat different effects, this drug is known to cause slowed thinking, delayed reaction time, paranoia, and even mild hallucinations in some cases. Clearly, we can see the immediate danger presented by this drug when it comes to operating a motor vehicle. A motorist will be guilty of drugged driving OUI whenever that person operates a motor vehicle “under the effects” of an illicit drug; however, unlike alcohol, there is no metric or benchmark used to determine whether someone is operating a vehicle with an “acceptable” level of intoxicating drugs. In other words, there is equivalent of a BAC measurement for marijuana, for example, and so the law is arguably less precise in this area. At this time, if someone operates a vehicle with any level of intoxication this may be considered drugged driving OUI.
Another important point worth mentioning here is that, technically, a motorist can be charged with drugged driving even without using an illicit drug. If, for instance, a motorist uses medications which are known to impair driving, this can lead to a charge of OUI even though the medications may have been prescription.
In Maine, “underage OUI” refers to motorists under the age of 21 (in the case of impaired driving due to alcohol). Currently, Maine has a “zero tolerance” policy for underage drunk driving, which means that a minor who has any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her system will be guilty of underage OUI. There is no minimum BAC level, as there is with overage drivers. Furthermore, in addition to having a lower threshold, underage OUI is also punished more severely, as we will discuss in more detail below.
We should point out that, other than the possibility of a misdemeanor criminal charge, underage drivers will not ordinarily face harsher consequences when they exceed the 0.08% BAC level which applies to overage drivers. In other words, the zero tolerance policy is meant to impose the same harsh consequences on all underage offenders; an underage offender won’t face more severe consequences depending on their precise BAC level. Of course, underage offenders can still do things to exacerbate their situation, but BAC level isn’t relevant in this respect (aside from prosecution for a misdemeanor).
Similarly, underage drugged driving in Maine simply refers to the phenomenon of any underage driver operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamine, to name a few. As with underage OUI for alcohol, drugged driving offenses can likewise be worsened whenever the offender refuses to submit to a chemical test. In the case of drugged driving, the chemical test typically takes the form of a urine analysis. If the underage offender refuses to comply, then there will be an additional increase to the suspension.
The penalties and possible consequences of non-underage OUI in Maine depend on various factors, including the number of prior offenses, the exact nature of the instant offense, and so forth. For a first offense, the standard penalties are as follows: automatic suspension of 150 days, up to $2,000 in fines, and up to 1 year in jail. This is assuming that no exacerbating circumstances exist. For a second offense, the corresponding figures are 3 years license suspension, up to $2,000 in fines, and up to 1 year in jail. Finally, for a third offense, the penalties are 6 years of license suspension, up to $5,000 in fines and up to 5 years in prison as this would constitute a class “C” felony. In addition, there are automatic administrative suspensions that the Maine BMV will impose, which for a first offense includes a 1 year loss of license for operating a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in the driver’s bloodstream.
Certain things are known to worsen an offense and bring about harsher punishments. For instance, if the offender is carrying a minor passenger, or the BAC level exceeds 0.15%, or if the driver refuses a breath test, or if the OUI causes any injuries or fatalities, then the offense is no longer considered a “standard” or base offense, and therefore will carry harsher consequences.
For non-underage drugged driving OUI in Maine, the penalties and consequences also depend on the specifics of the case. What’s more, as with non-underage drunk driving, there is a range of possible penalties for each offense. So, for instance, for a first drugged driving offense, there is a minimum (or automatic) punishment of 150 days license suspension and a $500 fine, $2,000 in fines, 364 days in jail, and completion of Maine’s Driver Education Evaluation Program. For second offenses, the corresponding punishments are as follows: minimum 3 years suspended license, $700 in fines, and 7 days in jail; a 1 year probation term wouldn’t be unusual as well as up to $2,000 in fines, a maximum of 364 days in jail, and completion of Maine’s Driver Education Evaluation Program.
For third offenses, the minimums are 6 years suspended license, $1,100 in fines, and 30 days in jail; the maximums are $5,000 in fines, 5 years in prison, and enrollment in a drug treatment program. For all subsequent offenses (i.e. fourth, fifth, etc.), the punishments are as follows: minimum 8 years suspension, $2,100 in fines, and 6 months in jail, while the maximums are $5,000 in fines, 5 years in prison and enrollment in a drug treatment program.
The penalties for underage OUI here in the State of Maine are as follows: for a first offense, the offender will face a minimum 1-year license suspension, and an additional 180 days if there is an underage passenger in the car at the time of the offense. If the driver refuses to comply with a breath test (or other BAC measurement), this will add another 6 months to the license suspension. If the offender has a BAC of 0.08% or greater, meaning he or she is “legally drunk,” this will enhance the punishment. An underage driver who is legally drunk will face a misdemeanor criminal charge in addition to the consequences referenced above.
Importantly, when an underage driver commits OUI, this offense will not be automatically expunged once the offender reaches adulthood. The offense will remain on the offender’s record, which can cause problems when it comes to college admittance, job placement, and other areas.
For subsequent violations, the underage offender will face a minimum 2 year license suspension. As with first offenses, offenders will see an increase of 6 months to this suspension term whenever they have an underage passenger at the time of the violation.
For underage drivers, the penalties for drugged driving (under the influence of marijuana, cocaine, or any other intoxicant) mirror those for overage drivers, but there will be an additional license suspension. Even for first offenders, there will be a penalty of an additional 180 days to the license suspension. If an underage passenger is in the car at the time of the underage drugged driving, there will be a further increase of 275 days to the license suspension. Also, as mentioned, offenders who don’t submit to a chemical analysis will see an increase to their license suspension; this refusal can also be relevant when a judge determines sentencing.
As mentioned, being charged with either non-underage or underage OUI, whether for drunk driving or drugged driving, is not a matter to approach lightly. If you’ve been charged with this type of offense, you need to take this issue very seriously, as we see that the punishments can be life-altering.
If you want to learn more about these offenses and their corresponding penalties, or if you need professional assistance, get in touch with the Maine Criminal Defense Group today by calling 207-571-8146.
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