When it comes to driving under the influence, there are many charges and consequences to be aware of.
You may have heard of DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charges, but what about OUI or OWI?
In some states, driving while impacted by drugs or alcohol carries an OUI charge, meaning Operating Under the Influence. Similarly, OWI stands for Operating While Intoxicated.
Maine is one of the states that penalizes impaired driving as an OUI offense.
If you’re slapped with one, you’re likely concerned about its impact on your future, as well as your driving record. You may also be wondering if it’s a felony charge.
Today, we’re diving into the specifics surrounding an OUI charge in Maine, and what you can expect as you navigate the days ahead.
Ready to learn more? Let’s go!
What Qualifies as an OUI Offense in Maine?
One of the first tests a police officer will perform when pulling you over for suspected OUI offense is a breathalyzer.
If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher, the officer could convict you of OUI.
In court, the prosecutor must prove that you were operating (or trying to operate) a moving vehicle and under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication.
While some states have DUI or DWI laws that penalize differently based on the intoxicant in your bloodstream, Maine isn’t one of them. If you’re under the influence of any intoxicant that alters your ability, it’s an OUI charge.
This means that you’ll face the same outcome if you’re drunk, high, or even taking too high a dosage of your own doctor-prescribed medicine, so think twice before getting behind the wheel.
Understanding the specifics of the law can help guide you.
What Tests Will You Perform?
As mentioned above, an officer will more than likely issue you a breathalyzer test once you’re pulled over.
If the officer on duty suspects that your impairment links to drug or medication abuse rather than strictly alcohol, he or she could also require you to perform a blood or urine test.
The state operates under an Implied Consent Law, which gives officers the right to administer any of these tests when he or she has cause to suspect that you are an impaired driver.
Under the law, you’re required to take a blood test if the officer believes that you:
- Caused seriously bodily injury or death as a result of driving under the influence
- Are under the influence of drugs
If you refuse to take any test, your license could be immediately revoked or suspended for a period of up to six years. This revocation could occur even before your first court date.
In addition, the officer’s witness of your behavior could be enough for a court conviction, even without a test confirming your intoxication. You could also face extended jail time for not cooperating, as well as a longer license suspension.
When Is It a Felony?
Before we delve into this next part, let’s review how Maine classifies charges. The state relies on a “Class” system to rank offenses by severity. Classes D and E are the least severe and as such, they usually carry the lowest penalties.
On the other hand, Classes C, B, and A are the most serious. A crime becomes a felony as it reaches Class C status.
OUI Felonies in Maine: Repeat Offenses
The first time you’re charged with an OUI offense, it’s considered a Class D Misdemeanor. You’ll pay a $500 fine and the state will revoke your license for 150 days.
The second time it occurs, it’s still classified as a Class D Misdemeanor. This time, you’ll have to pay $700 in fines and spend seven days in jail.
The real kicker after Offense #2? You won’t get your license back for three years.
The third time you’re convicted is when an OUI offense becomes a Class C felony. The minimum penalties you’ll incur are a $1,100 fine, along with spending 30 days in jail. You’ll also be without a license for seven years this time.
In Maine, the “lookback” time period is 10 years. This means that any OUI charge incurred over the course of a decade counts toward your first, second, or third offense.
If you’re operating a vehicle under the influence and cause a crash that kills another person or persons, the crime is automatically considered a felony in Maine.
Manslaughter is a Class A felony, meaning that it is the highest rank of crime in the state — and one of the most consequential.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your crash, you could face up to 30 years in jail and pay out $25,000 in fines.
The Impact of a Felony Charge
In addition to the money, time, and driving authority you’ll lose after a felony conviction, you could also do major damage to your reputation and professional future.
You’re required to disclose your conviction on any future job applications, where it could make a tremendous impact in your hiring potential.
You could also lose Welfare benefits, your right to buy and use firearms, and more.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you’re convicted of an OUI offense, you’re not alone. An attorney can help you understand your rights, process any required paperwork, and represent you in court.
Understanding your next steps is critical as you begin to process the charge and plan for your future.
When you need legal representation, it’s best to hire an attorney who understands your state-specific laws and regulations, so there’s no guesswork involved. These teams are also critical in helping you understand the local court system, as they’re familiar with cases just like yours.
Need Legal Help After Your OUI Charge? Start Here!
The time period right after an OUI offense is a complicated one. On one hand, you’re shaken up and scared. At the same time, you’re concerned about your future and your legal standing.
That’s where I come in.
As a licensed attorney in the state of Maine, I’m well-versed in OUI law and can help you maneuver these critical next steps with confidence.
To get in touch, feel free to call, fax, or email my office today. Let’s tackle this together.