In Maine, drunk driving is called operating under the influence, or OUI for short. An OUI conviction can result in jail time, fines, and a license suspension. Your license will likely be suspended by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles before you even go to court. If you are arrested for OUI, there are five steps you can take early to help maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.
- Contact a Qualified OUI Attorney
The first thing you should do after your arrest is contact an OUI attorney and schedule an appointment. Although many attorneys and law firms handle criminal defense, OUI cases involve laws, rules, evidentiary issues, and administrative considerations that are unique to the area of OUI defense. It is important that you hire an attorney who understands OUI law.
Confidential communications with an attorney are generally protected by the attorney-client privilege. In contrast, statements you make to others can be used against you. The State can subpoena witnesses to testify at trial, even if those witnesses are friends or family members who do not wish to testify. For this reason, it is important that you not discuss the circumstances of your arrest with anyone else, without your attorney’s knowledge.
- Preserve Evidence
Evidence that your OUI lawyer might be able to use to defend your case might be lost if you do not act quickly. You should preserve any receipts, text messages, chat logs, or other documents showing what happened the night before. If your case involves a collision, you should photograph your vehicle and save all receipts for repairs. These documents will help your attorney document your evening when recreating the events and developing a defense.
- Write a Timeline
It is important to provide your attorney with an accurate picture of what happened for the entire day of your arrest. This will allow your attorney to begin developing a defense strategy based on the facts of your case. Because memories fade with time, you should write a timeline of your entire day while it is still fresh in your mind. Your timeline should be as detailed as possible and include everything you can remember from the time you first woke up on the day you were arrested. Facts that initially seem unimportant or irrelevant can oftentimes play an important role in the case.
At a minimum, you should make sure to write down the following:
- If you consumed alcohol, what you drank, when you drank, where the drinking took place, and how much you consumed.
- A list of all people with whom you interacted, as your attorney may want to interview potential witnesses.
- When, where, and why you were pulled over.
- Did you admit to drinking, and if so, what did you say?
- Whether you performed any field sobriety tests, what they were, and how were the instructions given to you?
- Whether the officer asked you any questions concerning your medical history or ability to perform the field sobriety tests? If so, what did the officer ask?
- Whether you were experiencing any medical conditions or illness that evening (for instance, gastric reflux, a cold, joint issues, etc.)?
- Were there any circumstances that may have affected your ability to perform the tests, such as non-level ground, flashing lights, or distractions from headlights from oncoming vehicles?
- Everything you can remember about the testing sequence if you submitted to a breath or blood test.
It is critical that you do not show your timeline to anyone but your lawyer. If your timeline is intended for your lawyer’s eyes only and treated confidentially, the timeline will be protected by the attorney-client privilege. If you show your timeline to a third party, such as a friend or family member, the attorney-client privilege will no longer apply to the timeline and it can be used against you by the prosecutor.
- Comply with All Bail Conditions
If you were arrested for OUI, you are likely on bail. You will have signed and been provided with a bail bond. In almost every OUI case, the bail bond includes a condition that you not use or possess alcohol or illegal drugs, and that you submit to random searches and tests for drugs and alcohol. There may be other conditions which will be stated on the bail bond.
It is important to understand that violation of a condition of bail is a Class E crime in and of itself. Even what seems to be a minor violation may be treated very harshly by a judge or prosecutor. You should not possess or consume alcohol if you are prohibited from doing so. This includes having alcohol in your home, even if it belongs to a spouse or roommate.
It is possible to ask the Court to amend your bail conditions. A common scenario is where a person is required to handle alcohol as part of his or her employment (for instance, where the person is a server at a restaurant). Judges are reluctant to outright strike the no-alcohol condition, even for first offenders, but in some cases, they may be persuaded to lessen the restriction to allow for alcohol possession under certain circumstances.
- Register for the DEEP Program
If your license is suspended for OUI, you will be required to participate in the Maine Driver Education and Evaluation Program for OUI Offenders – DEEP before your license can be reinstated. For adults, the DEEP program begins with a 20-hour risk reduction program held over the course of a weekend. After the program, you may be referred to a counselor to complete an evaluation, and substance abuse counseling if deemed necessary.
Completing DEEP as soon as possible is a priority. Programs will fill quickly. If your license is suspended, your eligibility for early reinstatement through the ignition interlock program requires that you have completed DEEP. As such, you should not wait until you receive notice of a license suspension, and should instead register for DEEP as soon as possible.
The attorneys at Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion have decades of experience in criminal law, including OUI defense. We handle OUI cases in all Maine courts, including those located in Biddeford, Portland, Springvale and Sanford, and York.