Drunk Driving

Drunk Driving OUII was stopped for drunk driving. The District Attorney didn’t bring any charges against me, but the secretary of state suspended my license anyway!

Can they do that?

Yes they can!

Maine law allows the Secretary of State to suspend your driver’s license for ninety days on a first offense OUI even if you are acquitted of the underlying criminal charge. In fact, you can lose your license administratively even if you are never charged with the criminal offense.

The license suspension is based on the arresting officer’s report, which the officer is supposed to send in to the Secretary of State’s office within a few days after the incident. If the report shows that the officer had probable cause to believe you were operating a motor vehicle and that you were under the influence or had a blood alcohol level of more than .08, then you will lose your license.

You have a right to have a hearing before the State takes your license, but you have to ask for it in writing. When you send in a written request, the State will hold a hearing within a few weeks, and you have to be there when the hearing is scheduled, usually at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles building in Augusta. Even if the officer does not show up to testify, you will lose your license if you are not there in person. If you and the officer are there, you or your attorney will have a chance to ask the officer questions about the evidence.

The issues for the hearing are whether the officer had probable cause to believe you were operating a motor vehicle and that you were under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/or drugs or you had a blood alcohol level of .08 or more.

The standard of proof in a license suspension hearing is only by a preponderance of the evidence, that is, whether it was more likely than not that you were under the influence or had an excessive blood alcohol level. This standard of proof is much lower than the burden of proof in a criminal case when the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of a crime. However, the Secretary of State’s office cannot send you to jail or impose a criminal fine for an OUI violation; they can only take your license and require you to do certain things, like take the DEEP course and obtain insurance, before you get your license back.

If you took a blood alcohol test when you were stopped and the test was .08 or above and you had no prior OUI violations or prior refusals, you will lose your license for ninety days. If you refused to take a blood alcohol test, you will lose your license for 180 days, and if you had a prior OUI or refusal, you will lose you license for eighteen months. If you are under the legal drinking age (twenty-one) and you had any blood alcohol level at all, you can lose your license for a year.

So be careful when you drink and drive. You can lose your license even if you are not guilty of the crime of OUI.

It’s the law!

Mills, Shay, Lexier & Talbot Areas of Practice

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Map Skowhegan OfficePhone: 207.474.3324
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Skowhegan, ME
04976-0009
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