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Many drivers in Maine who receive a traffic ticket for speeding or another infraction simply pay it without thinking twice.
That can be a mistake. Not only does it mean that you admit guilt to a traffic offense but it could lead to the loss of your driver’s license or worse.
It helps to know more about your options if you are accused of speeding or another traffic violation in Maine…
A traffic violation in Maine is not usually a criminal offense though some serious violations like criminal speeding can result in criminal charges (see below).
In any case, you do not simply need to accept the accusation.
If you receive a ticket for speeding or another infraction, you will need to “answer” it within 20 days. To do this, you fill out the back of the ticket and send it back to the address detailed.
When filling out the ticket, you can either plead guilty by answering the ticket as “admitted” (and pay the fine) or as “contested”. If you do the latter, the state will need to prove your violation in court.
While many drivers do not consider contesting their tickets, there are often legitimate defenses and a traffic ticket lawyer can often successfully fight the accusation. Besides, many tickets are issued wrongfully in Maine every week.
If you contest your traffic ticket, a date for a hearing will be set in a district court by the Maine Violations Bureau.
On the date of the hearing, the police officer who wrote the ticket will need to testify about the violation and attempt to prove that you are more likely guilty than not of the violation. No prosecutor will be present—only the police officer.
If you hire a traffic ticket attorney, he or she can represent you and a judge will decide whether or not you committed the violation.
If a traffic ticket attorney represents you, no personal appearance in court is necessary. Your attorney can “answer” the ticket for you and start collecting evidence about the police officer’s training, the calibration, maintenance and certification of equipment, and so on. He or she can also attend the hearing on your behalf.
Traffic ticket lawyers are accustomed to fighting tickets based on a lack of evidence, a lack of due process by police officers, witness testimony, technical errors, and other defenses.
Besides this, a local lawyer who represents many drivers will get to know the key personnel in the local court system. These relationships can often lead to negotiations and beneficial outcomes for defendants.
Because in most cases, no prosecutor attends such hearings (the police officer acts as the “prosecutor”), having someone on your side who knows the Maine traffic laws inside out can be of great benefit. A police officer has no legal training and can easily make mistakes in court, weakening the case against you.
Because of Maine’s demerit point system, you may receive points on your license if you accept the infraction or contest it and are found guilty by a judge.
Maine’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles will add two, four or six demerit points against your license for various traffic infractions. If you accumulate 12 points in 12 months, you will automatically be subject to a 15-day suspension of your license.
A suspension can be made indefinite in the following circumstances:
An administrative license suspension can be imposed for any driver who commits a new offense while under suspension or who has been suspended for violations three times in the past three years.
Licenses are normally suspended rather than revoked for demerit point accumulations.
However, Maine does have “habitual offender laws”, whereby driving privileges can be revoked for three years if a driver is convicted of three major motor vehicle offenses within five years, such as OUI or criminal speeding.
You can also have your license revoked for three years if you have accumulated 10 or more convictions or adjudications for “moving violations arising out of separate acts” committed within the previous five years.
So, contesting a traffic violation may be the best option if you drive frequently, rely on your car, and have already been the subject of several tickets in recent years.
Some actions on the road can lead to more than tickets and demerit points. You can face criminal charges for extreme violations of the traffic laws, such as criminal speeding.
Criminal speeding is driving 30 miles per hour or more over the speed limit and it is taken very seriously in Maine. In fact, it can lead to large fines, a mandatory license suspension and likely jail time—not to mention a criminal record that can have a longer-term negative impact on your life.
For this reason, it is important not to simply accept a charge of criminal speeding without speaking to a qualified lawyer.
With a traffic ticket, you face a police officer in court, but a charge of criminal speeding will lead to prosecution for a Class E misdemeanor crime by the State of Maine.
The prosecution will need to prove the following:
You can be found guilty of criminal speeding, whether or not you intended to break the law.
The maximum sentence for a Class E misdemeanor in Maine is a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. While it may sound harsh, jail time is likely in cases where a driver is accused of driving 100 miles per hour or more.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can often prevent jail time but other possible consequences of a conviction include:
Besides these penalties, if you have committed other serious offenses within the previous three years, you can face a three-year license revocation under the habitual offender’s law in Maine.
The state must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Two valid defenses that may be used in criminal speeding cases are that the vehicle’s speed was inaccurately measured and the driver was not informed of the applicable speed limit.
An experienced criminal speeding lawyer may be able to argue that the speed-measuring radar gun or other electronic measuring device was not calibrated correctly or that the police officer was not adequately trained in the use of the equipment. If successful, the evidence may be inadmissible and the case will fall apart.
If the driver was not notified of the speed limit due to the absence of speed limit signs, this may also be a valid defense. Road signage must comply with federal regulations in Maine and this is not always the case on rural roads. An experienced and informed traffic lawyer will check this. Sometimes, it presents a valid defense that can save you from a criminal conviction on your record.
Other valid defenses are based on police actions before, during, or after the arrest and charge for criminal speeding.
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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