Articles Posted in DUI

police-sirens-300x201By: Webb Law Intern Ronahn Clarke

OUI roadblocks are checkpoints where police officers stop every vehicle—or a certain number of vehicles at random—to search for intoxicated drivers. They appear more frequently around holidays.

 
Are OUI Roadblocks Constitutional?

https-www-webblawmaine-com-wp-content-uploads-20-300x133-1In Maine, many think that if your breathalyzer test comes back under .08, then you have passed the test and are free to go. This is not usually the case. This is because the law in Maine states that at the time of operation, a person had a breath or blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more or, were under the influence of intoxicants.

Impaired to the Slightest Degree

To be under the influence in Maine is to have your mental or physical faculties impaired however slightly or to any extent by intoxicants. This means that if you blow a .07 and the officer thinks that you are impaired slightly, you can be charged with an OUI. Not having the .08 breath test to fall back on makes the case much harder to prove for the State, but they can still use the officer’s observations to try to prove that you were impaired while operating. If you were to do poorly on your roadside tests, the officer may use that as evidence of impairment. This becomes a problem if your balance was effected by something other than intoxicants such as an injury or even the weather.  Even if the case is much more challenging to prove for the State, charges for OUI with tests under .08 are not uncommon.

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Do Police Have to Read You Your Rights?

Police have an obligation to read you your Miranda warnings before conducting a custodial interrogation. An interrogation means that the questions are designed to elicit an incriminating response. Meaning, routine questions such as what your name is, your address, and your date of birth are not considered to be interrogative. However, arrests can occur without a reading of Miranda as long as no incriminating questions are being asked of you. But, if police choose to interrogate you at any time after arresting you, your rights must be read to you before any questioning occurs.

In addition to being interrogated, you also must be in police custody in order for the Miranda laws to apply. Custody means that your freedom of action must be deprived in some way. Maine courts have traditionally held that an interrogation is custodial if a reasonable person in your shoes would have felt that he or she was not at liberty to end the interrogation and leave. Being in custody may mean that you are in handcuffs, in a police cruiser, at the police station, or other similar scenarios where you are not free to leave at your own will. But ultimately, there are many factors that are considered by courts in determining whether you were truly in police custody, which is why consulting with an attorney can be important.

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After getting an OUI/DUI in Maine, there is often lots of questions that may come into your mind.  Most of them have answers that can be found.  One that is much harder to track down is the costs and fees that come from an OUI in Maine.

Court Costs

A first offense OUI is a Class D crime, which has a maximum jail sentence of 364 days, and a maximum fine of $2,000.  The mandatory minimum penalties are a fine of $500, plus court fees. Court costs often change due to added surcharges which are 20% or more of the actual fine amount, therefore the $500 fine really ends up being closer to $650. If you refused to submit to a test, you will then face a mandatory minimum fine of $600 plus the 20% or more  surcharge so the fine would be around $785.

dui_seminar-300x225When will I get the report?

Many people put in requests for their police reports and expect them within a few days of their arrest. Even though they are YOUR reports, it is unrealistic for the officer and the PD to get them out to you that quickly. You will most likely not get any reports until your first court date when you have your arraignment. Unfortunately, this is often several weeks and sometimes up to two months after your arrest.

How should I read the report?

IMG_1832x-286x300By: Attorney Vincent S. LoConte

What is the question?

Often in a traffic stop when an officer suspects impairment, they will ask the question “on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being sober and 10 being pass out drunk, how would you rate yourself”. Seems like a straight forward question, but is it really fair, and is there a right and wrong answer?

blood-test-warrantsLast month I spoke in Freeport at a seminar for lawyers on the topic of defending OUI cases in Maine. Part of the lecture I gave concerned a 2013 United States Supreme Court case called Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552. McNeely is a Fourth Amendment search warrant case dealing with nonconsensual blood testing in drunk-driving cases.

Tyler McNeely was stopped by a state trooper for speeding and crossing the centerline. After performing poorly on the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, he declined a portable breath test and was arrested for OUI. At the station, he refused to take a breath test and was subsequently transported to the hospital for a blood draw. He did not consent to have his blood drawn, nor did the officer attempt to secure a search warrant. Nevertheless, his blood was subsequently drawn, which alleged a high blood alcohol content.

I will save you the procedural history, but it’s safe to say that on appeal, the Missouri state prosecutors went for a broad, sweeping rule of law that would allow police officers to draw blood under any circumstance, without a warrant or without the consent of the person arrested. They refused to try finding a middle ground; they wanted it all their way.

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The Supreme Court recently decided a case Missouri v. McNeely, 567 U.S. ____ (2012) holding that police officers cannot normally conduct blood-alcohol tests without a warrant. After being stopped by a police officer for speeding and crossing the centerline the officer noticed several signs that McNeely was intoxicated, including McNeely’s bloodshot eyes, his slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol on his breath.

McNeely admitted to the officer that he had consumed “a couple of beers” at a bar, and he appeared unsteady on his feet when he exited the truck. The officer conducted field sobriety tests on McNeely who performed poorly on the tests and declined to use a portable breath-test device to measure his blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

The officer then placed him under arrest and transported McNeely to a nearby hospital for blood testing. Upon arrival at the hospital, the officer asked McNeely whether he would consent to a blood test. Reading from a standard implied consent form, the officer explained to McNeely that under state law refusal to submit voluntarily to the test would lead to the immediate revocation of his driver’s license for one year and could be used against him in a future prosecution.

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The author of one of the greatest home runs in baseball history, thirty-seven years ago Sunday, was arrested for DUI/OUI/DWI on Monday, October 24th. Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, a god to Red Sox fans like me after his homerun in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, was arrested in New Lenox, Illinois, refused to take a breath test and had an open bottle of vodka in the truck which was located in a cornfield.

If you are sitting in your vehicle in the middle of a cornfield and are charged with DWI/OUI/DUI here in Maine, you need to consult with a lawyer to help defend your case. How will the DAs Office prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt? Operation of a motor vehicle is an element of the crime that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Was there actual operation? Did the driver admit to operation? In Maine, operation requires a person to either have power or attempt to put power to the wheels. 29-A M.R.S. § 2401(6); State v. Sullivan 146 ME 381 (1951). Is the vehicle in park, or was it in gear with the driver’s foot on the brake?

How will the government overcome the subsequent drinking issue? If there is an open bottle of liquor in the vehicle with the driver, how will they prove that any alcohol onboard the driver wasn’t consumed post-accident? Do they even know how long the driver was sitting in the cornfield?

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Since July of 2004, more than 75,000 ignition interlock devices have been installed in vehicles. These were installed as a result of the Transportation Restoration Act, passed in 1998. Under Maine statute 29-A §2508 a person convicted of a second or subsequent OUI offense may petition for early license reinstatement if they agree to install an approved ignition interlock device in their vehicle and have satisfied all other conditions for license reinstatement as required by the Secretary of State.

An ignition interlock is a sophisticated system that tests for alcohol on a driver’s breathe. It is a device that requires a driver to blow into a small handheld alcohol sensor unit that is attached to a vehicle’s dashboard. In Maine the car cannot be started if a BAC of .025% or higher is detected. The system not only requires a test to start the engine, but also requires a test every few minutes while driving. Termed the “rolling or running retest,” it prevents a friend from starting the car and then allowing an impaired driver from taking over the wheel. It also prevents the operator from drinking while driving.

Ignition interlock devices can be a valued asset for OUI offenders trying to get their lives back on track. With an ignition interlock device installed, OUI offenders can maintain employment, attend school and take care of family obligations.

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