Archives July 2024

Attorney Mikayla Martin Awarded by Super Lawyers


Kennebunk, Maine – The Maine Criminal Defense Group is proud to announce that attorney Mikayla Martin, has been honored with the Rising Star award by Super Lawyers. This highly regarded recognition is a testament to attorney Martin’s dedication, skill, and commitment to excellence in the field of law.

The Rising Star award is presented by Super Lawyers, a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process, involving independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations, recognizes outstanding lawyers who are 40 years of age or younger, or who have ten or fewer years of experience in the legal profession. No more than 5% of practicing attorneys in a state can be added to the registry each year.

In order to achieve this distinction, attorney Martin has demonstrated exceptional legal expertise and a strong commitment to achieving the very best outcomes for her clients. The award reflects her hard work, dedication, and the high regard in which she is held by her peers in the legal community. Attorney Martin has been an associate attorney with The Maine Criminal Defense Group since 2021.

“We are incredibly proud of Mikayla for receiving the Rising Star award,” said managing attorney and owner of The Maine Criminal Defense Group, William T. Bly, “This recognition is a reflection of her talent, dedication, and the outstanding work she engages in on behalf of our clients. Attorney Martin is an incredibly dedicated attorney who represents the future of our firm and the legal profession.”

To reach the Maine Criminal Defense Group, email [email protected].

Call 207-571-8146 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled criminal defense attorneys today.





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Open Container Laws & Penalties in Maine


While you should be aware of the strict OUI laws in Maine, it’s also important to know about other ways you can face a traffic infraction if alcohol is involved. If you have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, you can still face a traffic infraction even if your driving is not impaired by alcohol or drugs. This also applies even if a passenger is drinking alcohol or just possesses the open container.

The open container laws in Maine, §2112-A, prohibit both drivers and passengers from consuming alcohol in motor vehicles and that the drivers will be held responsible if an open container of alcohol is found by law enforcement during a stop.

There are some exceptions to the rule, but drivers and passengers should be aware of the laws so that they don’t create inadvertent legal problems when out on a drive and end up facing a potentially sizable fine.

Open container law in Maine

Maine’s open container law states the following:

“The operator of a vehicle on a public way is in violation of this section [of the statute] if the operator or a passenger in the passenger area of the vehicle:  

  1. Consumes alcohol; or  
  2. Possesses an open alcoholic beverage container.”

What types of alcoholic beverages does the law refer to?

The open container law covers “spirituous, vinous, fermented” or other alcoholic beverages intended for “human consumption” and that contain more than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume.

What is considered an “open container” in Maine?

An open alcoholic beverage container typically refers to any open can or bottle that contains any amount of alcohol above the 0.5 percent threshold. It also covers any other receptacles that are:

  • Open, or
  • Have a broken seal, or
  • Have had the contents partially removed

Does the open container law apply to all parts of a vehicle?

The open container laws in Maine apply only to the “passenger areas”. This refers to the area that is designed for the driver and passengers to sit while the motor vehicle is in operation.

The law does not apply to the trunk or cargo area of a vehicle. However, it should be noted that the glove compartment is considered part of the passenger area as it is readily accessible to both passengers and the driver when they are seated in the vehicle.

Accordingly, if an open container is found in one of these passenger areas, the driver is likely to face penalties.

Does the open container law apply to all roadways in Maine?

The open container laws, like other drunk driving laws in Maine, apply to all public roads or “public ways” in the state. That is, any way that is owned and maintained by the state, county or city that is open for the general public to use, including a right-of-way.

Are there exceptions to the open container law in Maine?

The above-stated laws cover the majority of situations where an open container is found in a vehicle in Maine, supplementing the already harsh drunk-driving laws.

However, even if an open container is found in your vehicle, you might not be liable for the penalties if any of the following applies:

  • The open container of alcohol is found in the trunk: you can lawfully possess an open alcoholic beverage container in the trunk or (if no trunk) behind the last upright seat or in an area not usually occupied by the driver or passengers.
  • Passengers have paid a fee for the driving service: in most vehicles designed to transport passengers for a fee (except taxicabs), passengers can lawfully consume alcohol.
  • The passengers are in their living quarters: if the vehicle is a motor home, trailer, semitrailer, or truck camper, passengers can legally consume alcohol and possess an open container in the living quarters without breaking any laws.
  • The vehicle is a licensed catering vehicle at a catering event: a driver or a driver’s employee can lawfully transport open containers of alcohol to and from catering events if the driver has a valid catering license.

What are the penalties for an open container in Maine?

The good news if you are charged under Maine’s open container law is that you won’t face a criminal charge, jail time or license suspension as you would in some states.

Instead, you will be deemed to have committed a traffic infraction. This is punishable by a minimum fine of $25 and a maximum fine of $500.

What are the rules and penalties for underage offenders?

In Maine, minors (individuals under the age of 18) are generally not permitted to possess or consume alcohol. They are also not usually permitted to transport liquor in a motor vehicle.

The illegal transportation of liquor by a minor is specifically dealt with in the Maine legislature as follows:

“a minor may not knowingly transport [liquor] or knowingly [allow liquor to be transported] in a motor vehicle under the minor’s control. The following penalties apply to violations of this subsection.

  1. A minor who violates this subsection commits a civil violation for which a fine of not more than $500 may be adjudged.
  2. A minor who violates this subsection after having previously violated this section commits a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $500 must be adjudged, none of which may be suspended.
  3. A minor who violates this subsection after having previously violated this section 2 or more times commits a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $500 must be adjudged, none of which may be suspended.”

There are some exceptions where a minor can lawfully transport liquor in a motor vehicle in Maine:

  • If the act is in the scope of the minor’s employment
  • If the act is at the request of the minor’s parent or guardian, or
  • If the liquor is placed outside of the passenger’s and driver’s area (such as a trunk or locked glove compartment) and the minor doesn’t have actual knowledge of its presence in the vehicle.

If a minor is found with alcohol in the vehicle or is caught consuming alcohol, he/she can only be charged with one offense (illegal possession or illegal transportation), rather than both offenses.

Do the penalties apply to open marijuana containers in Maine?

The Maine legislature also addresses open marijuana containers.

Under this law, the operator of a vehicle on a public way commits a traffic violation if the operator or a passenger in the passenger area of the vehicle consumes marijuana or a marijuana product or possesses an open container.

Again, the operator will not face criminal charges because marijuana is legal in the State of Maine.

In this sense, an open container is a receptacle that contains any amount of marijuana or consumable products made from marijuana and has a broken seal or a receptacle from which the contents have been partially removed.

Similar exceptions exist with the open marijuana container law as with the open container laws for alcohol. An additional exception exists, however, for a passenger who possesses an open container and is a cardholder for medical marijuana.

For experienced legal help with any OUI crime, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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Can I Get an OUI Reduced to a Lesser Charge in Maine?


OUI charges are handled severely in Maine. For many people, a drunk-driving charge is their first time dealing with the criminal justice system and, understandably, they are keen to know the potential consequences of an OUI conviction.

With an otherwise clean criminal record and robust legal representation, you may be able to reduce the consequences for your future and even get the charge reduced to a charge with fewer consequences.

Let’s look at what that could involve.

What is an OUI in Maine?

An OUI is Maine’s term for a DUI or DWI—terms that you probably know from other states. It means “operating under the influence”. This term draws attention to the fact that you don’t actually need to be driving a vehicle (nor drunk or even over the legal limit) to be charged with a drunk-driving offense in Maine.

You can check the Maine OUI statute for details about the law but we’ll look at some key aspects below.

First offense OUIs in Maine

Around 80 percent of OUI arrests are for a first-offense OUI in Maine. This means that the person charged has no prior OUI/DWI/DUIs in any state and no refusal to provide a bodily sample in Maine in the last ten years.

First-offense cases (like second offenses) are handled as misdemeanors but if aggravating factors are present a mandatory minimum jail time may still apply. Such factors include: particularly high blood-alcohol content, a passenger under the age of 21, speeding, or causing an accident.

Assuming no aggravating factors are present, a first-offense OUI carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 150 days of license suspension and a $500 fine. After 30 days of no license, the driver can be reinstated if an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) is fitted to any vehicle that they drive for 120 days.

Jail time is very rare for a first offense OUI in Maine but it should not be discounted— a criminal conviction can show on background checks for life, creating potential long-term implications.

Consequences of an OUI in Maine

The consequences of an OUI become more serious for repeat offenders if they are convicted.

A second OUI within 10 years will mean that driving privileges (via a restricted license) take much longer to be restored, which can severely impact employment. Offenders are also hit with an automatic seven-day jail sentence (twelve days for a refusal), a $700 fine ($900 for refusal), and a three-year suspension of vehicle registration.

A third offense within ten years is treated as a felony, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison (minimum 30 days), a $5,000 fine, and two years of probation.

Other potential long-term effects of a criminal conviction include effects on employment, increased insurance premiums, difficulties traveling abroad (even in Canada), and immigration status issues for non-US citizens.

What factors affect the ability to plead down an OUI in Maine?

A first-time OUI offender is more likely to be successful with obtaining a reduction or “diversion” than a repeat offender. However, plea deals can even be arranged for repeat offenders in some circumstances.

What’s possible is dependent on the facts of the case, as well as the experience of your OUI lawyer.

The main factors affecting whether we can successfully plead down an OUI charge with a prosecutor are as follows:

  • The criminal background of the defendant
  • Whether the defendant has previous driving offenses on their record
  • The level of cooperation with law enforcement during the investigation
  • Whether the defendant refused to take a breath or blood test
  • The strength of the state’s case against the defendant (sometimes, issues with the traffic stop, arrest, evidence, test results, or Constitutional rights weaken the state’s case)
  • Whether an OUI conviction will result in extraordinary hardship beyond the license suspension, such as the loss of employment

Much depends on how the prosecutor in the case views the OUI charges. With more lenient prosecutors, the option of a lesser charge may be available if no aggravating circumstances are present. Other stricter prosecutors may be less amenable to pleading down the charge.

What are the plea-bargaining options in Maine OUI cases?

A first or second OUI offense is a Class D misdemeanor. The purpose of plea bargaining is to reduce the charge to a lesser offense, such as driving to endanger, which is one of the most common plea deals in Maine.

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.”

Driving to endanger is a Class E misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, but jail time is rarely served for a first-time offender. Usually, this offense will result in a fine of below $1,000 and a 30-day loss of license.

On the plus side, this is far less than the 150-day loss of license mandated for a first offense OUI conviction. However, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will usually administratively suspend a license before the defendant gets to Court. Therefore, it is important to waste no time in challenging the administrative suspension through your OUI lawyer.

Sometimes, prosecutors will agree to remove an aggravating factor against a defendant, so that the penalty is more manageable for the offender (and can prevent a mandatory minimum jail sentence).

However, it should be remembered that pleading an OUI charge down is only possible in some circumstances and with some prosecutors. This will also become more likely if the state’s case is particularly weak. That’s why it’s essential to hire a seasoned attorney to identify and highlight weaknesses in the case against you.

For experienced legal help with any OUI charge, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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Firework Laws in Miami: What You Need to Know for the 4th of July


The 4th of July is fast approaching, bringing with it a wave of celebrations. In Miami, people come together to enjoy barbecues, family gatherings, and, of course, fireworks. While fireworks can be thrilling and spectacular, it’s crucial to understand and adhere to local laws to ensure a safe and legal celebration.

Find in this blog everything you need to know about fireworks laws in Miami, and some essential safety tips to keep in mind.

 

Florida’s Firework Laws

In Florida, fireworks are regulated under state law, but there are also specific local regulations that vary by county and municipality. Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

1. Legal vs. Illegal Fireworks:

  • Illegal Fireworks: Fireworks that explode or propel themselves through the air are generally illegal for consumer use. This includes items like firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and mortars.
  • Legal Fireworks: Fireworks like “sparklers” and other novelty items such as fountains, snakes, and glow worms are allowed. These items produce effects without an explosion and are considered safe for consumer use.

2. Holiday Permits:

  • It’s true that there are certain holidays, like July 4th, when Florida makes an exception to the fireworks ban. However, this does not override local ordinances, so it’s important to get the necessary information from the local authorities.

3. Local Ordinances:

  • In Miami-Dade County, there are specific ordinances that may further restrict the use of fireworks. For example, some areas may have designated zones where fireworks are permitted or completely banned due to fire hazards or noise concerns.
  • Always verify with local law enforcement or the Miami-Dade County Fire Department before purchasing or using fireworks.

 

Penalties for Violating Firework Laws

  • Fines: If you commit a crime by using illegal fireworks, fines can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the severity and circumstances of the offense.
  • Criminal Charges: If your offense caused property damage or injury, it’s very likely that you could face misdemeanor or even felony charges. This could lead to criminal records and significant legal consequences.

 

Safety Tips for a Fun and Legal 4th of July

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy a fun, but above all legal 4th of July. There are many ways to achieve this, for example: purchase fireworks only from licensed vendors who comply with state and local laws, It’s very important to use fireworks responsibly; always read the instructions to prevent accidents, try to light fireworks in a spacious area that is free from buildings, trees, vehicles, or flammable substances nearby, maintain a reasonable distance between yourself and the fireworks, and above all, do not leave fireworks within reach of children.

 

We know fireworks are an essential part of July 4th celebrations, but it’s crucial to understand and adhere to the laws and safety guidelines to avoid legal issues and ensure everyone’s safety. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Russell A. Spatz of the Spatz Law Firm, PL, in Miami, Florida, has decades of experience handling serious criminal cases. To meet with lawyer Russell Spatz to discuss your criminal matter, please call the Spatz Law Firm, PL, at 305-442-0200. You may also contact the firm online.



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