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Driving Offenses

Operating Under The Influence

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The following is not legal advice but is for information only. Legal advice is when an attorney applies the law to a person's individual circumstances and advises them on their legal options or potential exposure to legal harm, which a web page clearly does not.

The Operating Under The Influence (OUI) statute in Maine is pretty strict. A person can be found guilty of OUI by simply being ‘under the influence of intoxicants,’ and this is separate from any breath or blood alcohol level found.

 

To be ‘under the influence’ means that a person’s mental or physical faculties are impaired ‘however slightly’ and ‘to any extent.’ In other words, someone can still, in theory at least, be convicted of the offense, even if they are under the legal limit of 0.08 grams in more than 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath. Practically, that is difficult for the state - but still possible. These limits is in place because someone found to have been at or above the limit is presumed to be under the influence of intoxicants (a broad term that does not just mean alcohol but anything that affects an ability to drive). Drug use - legal or illegal - can also be a reason for an OUI charge.

 

‘Operating’ a vehicle is also pretty loosely defined. It can be either actually applying power via the vehicle’s motor to the wheels, or even attempting to do so. Accomplice liability applies to someone who helps a person obviously intoxicated to drive – so a person can be charged with OUI who was not even behind the wheel. This ‘operation’ of a motor vehicle can be on public or private roads (or ways). The term ‘motor vehicle’ is also defined in law and as a self-propelled vehicle not operated exclusively on railroad tracks, but with some exceptions. (mostly, but not always, an ATV is not regarded as a ‘motor vehicle,’ nor is a snowmobile, motorized wheelchair, mobility scooter, and motorized boat (which has a separate OUI offense)).

 

Intent is also not a factor in an OUI charge, which is known as a ‘strict liability’ offense (where a crime is committed simply by the fact that something illegal happened, not whether a person intended it to happen). So, whether a person intended to get in a vehicle while over the legal alcohol limit or otherwise impaired is not legally relevant for what the State has to prove. Therefore, someone whose drinks were spiked can be convicted. Taking prescription medication can also affect a person’s ability to drive and, whether a motorist knew that it would affect them is also not relevant.

The sentence for OUI conviction (which is a Class D crime for a first offense) varies depending on a person’s previous OUI history. For a person having no previous OUI offenses within a 10-year period, there is a mandatory minimum fine of $500, except that if the person failed to submit to a test, a fine of not less than $600, and a court-ordered suspension of a driver's license for a period of 150 days. There is also a mandatory minimum of 48 hours in jail when a person has a 0.15 level of blood / breath, was going more than 30mph over the speed limit , eluding an officer, or was under the age of 21. A person who fails to submit a test upon request by law enforcement faces 96 hours of jail time.

There are many aspects of an OUI allegation that depend on science and scientific principles being correctly applied by the officer or officers involved - from roadside tests to the equipment used to test for an alcohol level. When done correctly, they are reliable. However, it is often the case that steps are missed, equipment is not correctly checked for accuracy, or the basis for the traffic stop was baseless and constitutionally invalid.  It is important to seek legal advice when charged with an OUI as soon as possible.

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