What are the penalties for drunk driving in Maine?

In Maine, drunk driving is called “operating under the influence,” or “OUI.” A person commits OUI if the person operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants, or while having a blood-alcohol level of .08 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath. The Maine Supreme Court has stated that “under the influence of intoxicants” means that the driver’s “mental or physical faculties were impaired however slightly, or to any extent, by alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants[.]” State v. Soucy, 2012 ME 16, ¶ 11, 36 A.3d 910, 912.

An OUI charge will trigger two proceedings: (1) A criminal prosecution before the Court, and (2) an administrative license suspension proceeding before the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Criminal Prosecution before the Court

The potential penalties, if you are found guilty in Court of OUI, will depend on your driving record and the circumstances of your case. As a formal criminal proceeding, you have an absolute right to be considered innocent until proven guilty by the State beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to a speedy and public trial by the court or by a jury, the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against you, the right to present witnesses on your own behalf, the right testify on your own behalf, and the right to remain silent.

If you are found guilty of OUI, the potential penalties are as follows:

First Offense

A first offense OUI is a Class D crime, subject to a maximum jail sentence of 364 days in jail, and a maximum fine of $2,000. The mandatory minimum penalties are as follows:

  • A mandatory minimum fine of $500, and a 150 day loss of license.
  • If you had a test of .15 or above, were exceeding the speed limit by 30 miles per hour or more, eluded or attempted to elude a police officer, or operated with a passenger under 21 years of age, a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 48 hours in jail.
  • If you refused to submit to a chemical test, a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 96 hours and a mandatory minimum fine of $600.

In Maine, an OUI charge is considered a “first offense” where you have had no prior OUI convictions or suspensions for failure to submit to a test within the past 10 years.

Second Offense

A second offense OUI is a Class D crime, subject to a maximum jail sentence of 364 days in jail, and a maximum fine of $2,000. The mandatory minimum penalties are as follows:

  • A mandatory minimum jail sentence of seven days, a mandatory minimum fine of $700, and a three year loss of license and loss of right to register a motor vehicle.
  • If you refused to submit to a chemical test, the mandatory minimum jail sentence increases to twelve days, and the mandatory minimum fine increases to $900.

Third Offense

A third offense OUI is a Class C crime, subject to a maximum jail sentence of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The mandatory minimum penalties are as follows:

  • A mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days, a mandatory minimum fine of $1,100, and a six year loss of license and loss of right to register a motor vehicle.
  • If you failed to submit to a chemical test, the mandatory minimum jail sentence increases to 40 days, and the mandatory minimum fine increases to $1,400.

Fourth and Subsequent Offenses

A fourth or subsequent OUI offense OUI is a Class C crime, subject to a maximum jail sentence of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.The mandatory minimum penalties are as follows:

  • A mandatory minimum jail sentence of 6 months, a mandatory minimum fine of $2,100, and an eight year loss of license and loss of right to register a motor vehicle.
  • If you failed to submit to a chemical test, the mandatory minimum jail sentence increases to six months and twenty days, and the mandatory minimum fine increases to $2,500.

Other Aggravating Factors

In addition to the above, other factors can affect the sentencing classification and minimum penalties for an OUI charge, such as:

  • If you had a passenger under age 21, the Court must impose an additional 275-day suspension.
  • If the State alleges that you caused serious bodily injury to another person, the OUI charge can be charged as a Class C crime and subject to:
    • A maximum jail sentence of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
    • A minimum jail sentence of six months, a fine of $2,100, and a six year loss of license.
  • If the State alleges that you caused the death of another person or that you have a prior felony OUI conviction, the OUI charge can be charged as a Class B crime and subject to:
    • A maximum jail sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000
    • A minimum jail sentence of 6 months, a fine of $2,100, and a ten year loss of license.

Administrative License Suspension Hearing before the Maine BMV

The potential penalties at the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles will depend on your driving record and the circumstances of your case. Unlike a court proceeding, there is no right to a jury trial, the case will be decided by an administrative hearing officer, and the State needs to only prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence. “Preponderance of the evidence” is best described as more likely than not. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles will usually suspend your license before you go to Court, and you must file a petition with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles contesting the suspension.

The two most common types of administrative license suspensions associated with an OUI arrest are for Excessive Alcohol Level and Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test.

For suspensions based upon Excessive Alcohol Level, the State must show there was probable cause to believe you were operating under the influence, and that you operated a motor vehicle while having a BAC of .08 or above. If the State meets this burden, your license will be suspended as follows:

  • 150 days for a first offense.
  • Three years for a second offense.
  • Six years for a third offense.
  • Eight years for a fourth or subsequent offense.

A suspension for excessive alcohol level will run concurrently with an OUI suspension imposed by the Court for the same offense. A request for a hearing on suspension for excessive alcohol level will place a stay on the suspension until the date of the hearing.

For suspensions based upon a Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test, the State must prove (1) that there was probable cause to believe you operated a motor vehicle under the influence; (2) that you were warned that a refusal or failure to submit will result in a suspension of your license for up to six years, be admissible at a trial for operating under the influence, and be considered an aggravating factor at sentencing if convicted at trial, and subject you to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration; and (3) that you, in fact, refused or failed to submit to a chemical test.

If you are found to have refused a chemical test, the license suspension will be as follows:

  • 275 days for a first refusal.
  • 18 months for a second refusal.
  • Four years for a third refusal.
  • Six years for a fourth refusal.

Unlike a suspension for excessive alcohol level, a suspension for a refusal will run consecutively to an OUI suspension imposed by the Court. A request for a hearing on a suspension for refusal to submit to a chemical test will not place a stay on the suspension.

Given the complexity of OUI charges, it is not possible to address all of the many factors that can affect your case in a single article. If you have been arrested or charged with OUI, you should contact an attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible.

Tyler J. Smith

Tyler J. Smith
Associate

A native of York County, Tyler Smith joined Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion in 2012. Tyler’s practice is devoted to assisting clients in criminal defense and OUI cases, employment disputes, civil litigation, family law, and appellate advocacy. Tyler has obtained favorable results for clients in negotiations, in the courtroom, before administrative agencies, and on appeal.… Read more »