Drunk Driving Laws in Maine
Being accused of committing an OUI is probably one of the most common ways that ordinary citizens come into contact with the criminal justice system. People from all strata of society are accused on a regular basis of driving under the influence. Whether a person is rich or poor, a habitual offender or a law-abiding citizen, it happens to all sorts of people.
What Exaclty Does it Mean?
Often referred to as DUI or DWI in other States, OUI (operating under the influence) in the State of Maine is defined by the law as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants or with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 200 liters of breath.
Now to most people, those words probably don't mean a whole lot by themselves, so let's break it down a little bit.
Operating & Operation
Operation and operating sound like they should be very straightforward. To be operating a motor vehicle should just mean to be driving, right? While yes if you are driving you are operating, the actual meaning is more specific than that.
First, it is important to note that "Operating" is defined by statute as "operating or attempting to operate a motor vehicle," which is quite possibly the least helpful definition of any term ever used. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has said that for operation to occur "a person must so manipulate the machinery that the power of the motor is applied to the wheels to move the automobile forward or backward." State v. Sullivan, 82 A.2d 629 (1951).
The simplest way that definition can be explained even further is to say, very simply, that the car is being operated if it is in gear. If you are sitting behind the wheel of your car, the keys are in the ignition, and the engine is running but the car is in park, then the machinery of the vehicle isn't applying the power of the motor to the wheels and there is no operation.
Mythbusters: That Magic Number
Most people when you ask them about drunk driving will probably immediately think of that magic number: 0.08. It's the one thing that everybody seems to now about drunk driving laws. It is a common misconception, however, to say that this reading on the breath test is the only way for the State to obtain a conviction.
The first key phrase we should notice in the definition of OUI is "under the influence." The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has said that this phrase means "the person's physical or mental faculties are impaired however slightly or to any extent by the substance or substances that the person consumed." State v. Atkins, 2015 ME 162. That is a pretty strict standard to apply, and the practical effect of that language is that the State does not necessarily need that magic number in order to obtain a conviction for OUI.
Drunk Driving and Drugged Driving
Similar to the magic number myth, many people do not realize that an OUI can be committed without alcohol. In particular, people are often confused to hear that you can commit an OUI with only marijuana in your system. As cited above, the law uses the term "under the influence of intoxicants." In simple terms, intoxicants includes not only alcohol, but also prescription drugs, illegal drugs, and any other substance that can impair the senses once introduced to the body. So yes folks, even though recreational marijuana has been legalized in Maine it is still illegal to operate a motor vehicle enjoying its affects.
Call for Representation
Needless to say, OUI cases are not as simple as most people believe they are. If you have been accused of committing an OUI, you need to hire representation as soon as possible to safeguard your rights.