Is it possible to plead an OUI down to a lesser charge in Maine? The short answer is yes. Whether it is likely in a given case depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Factors Affecting Ability to Plead Down an OUI Charge
There are a number of factors that prosecutors look to when deciding whether to consider pleading-down an OUI charge, such as:
- Do you have a criminal background or any driving offenses on your driving record?
- Were you cooperative with the police during the investigation?
- Did you refuse to take a breath or blood test at the request of a law enforcement officer?
- How strong is the State’s case? Are there problems with the traffic stop, the arrest, the evidence of impairment, or the test?
- Will an OUI conviction result in some extraordinary hardship beyond the fact of the license suspension itself, such as the loss of a professional or occupational license?
Some prosecutors and prosecutorial districts view OUI cases more harshly than others. For example, some are willing to offer a driving to endanger charge on a first offense OUI, so long as there are no aggravating circumstances. Others will only reduce a charge if defense counsel can identify a substantial problem with the State’s case. For this reason, it is important to hire an attorney as early as possible to identify potential weaknesses to bring to the State’s attention.
Common Options for Plea Bargaining in OUI Cases
The most common offense for an OUI to be reduced to is driving to endanger. A person is guilty of driving to endanger if the person, with criminal negligence, “operates a motor vehicle in any place in a manner that endangers the property of another or a person, including the operator or passenger in the motor vehicle being driven.” 29-A M.R.S. § 2413.
The mandatory minimum penalty for driving to endanger is a $575 fine and a 30 day loss of license – far less than the 150-day loss of license mandated for a first offense OUI conviction. The catch, however, is that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will usually administratively suspend your license before you get to Court. It is therefore important to hire an attorney right away to challenge the administrative suspension. Otherwise, the biggest pro for a driving to endanger charge will generally be avoiding having an OUI on your record.
If the State alleged an aggravating factor against you, such as a test above .15 or refusal to submit to a breath or blood test, it is also possible that the prosecutor will agree to strike the aggravating factor. In a hypothetical case of a driver who is arrested for OUI and blows a .15 or above, the mandatory minimum penalty for OUI will include a 48-hour jail sentence on account of the high test. The prosecutor may agree, however, to strike the high test from the complaint, which will eliminate the mandatory minimum jail sentence. The same can occur when the State alleges refusal to submit to a chemical test, which will normally require a 96-hour jail sentence.
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This article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult legal counsel to assess the legal issues specific to your case. The attorneys at Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion regularly defend clients charged with operating under the influence throughout Southern Maine, including York, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk, Arundel, Biddeford, Saco, Sanford, Scarborough, South Portland, Springvale, Portland, and all other communities in York and Cumberland counties. If you or a loved one has been arrested for OUI, please contact us at (207) 985-1815 to schedule an evaluation of your case.