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

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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