Operating Under the Influence (OUI)

In Maine, if you are driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more, you are guilty of a criminal offense known as Operating Under the Influence (OUI). Following your arrest, based solely on the police report and blood alcohol content (BAC) test results, the Secretary of State will immediately suspend your license. This suspension takes place prior to any court appearance, so while you're waiting for your day in court, you won't be driving.

The Zero Tolerance Law

If you are under 21 years of age, Maine has a special law for you. If you are found operating, or attempting to operate, a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in your body, you will lose your license for one year. If you refuse a test, you will lose your license for at least 18 months. If you have a passenger under 21 years of age, an additional 180 day suspension will be imposed.

Drivers under 21 with a BAC of .08% or more can be prosecuted for the criminal offense of OUI, but the license suspension must be for one year.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

BAC is a precise way of stating the amount of alcohol in a quantity of blood. BAC can be measured with a breath test or a blood test. If you have a BAC of .08% or more, you can be found guilty by a court on this basis alone, without further evidence.

Implied Consent

It is important for Maine drivers to remember that a driver's license is not a right guaranteed under our Constitution. It is a privilege that is administratively issued and can be withdrawn by the State. Under Implied Consent, you automatically agree to a chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) at any time authorities have probable cause to administer it. If you refuse to take such a test for alcohol or drugs, your driver's license will be immediately suspended. The suspension could be for a period of up to six years. Because it is an administrative suspension, no court action is necessary. In addition, testimony from the arresting officer regarding your driving performance can result in an OUI conviction even without the BAC test!

If you are found guilty of OUI based on the police officer's testimony, your refusal to take a test will be considered as an aggravating factor by the judge and another suspension, as well as mandatory jail time, will be tacked on. So by refusing, you will have a much harsher penalty than if you'd taken the test.

Remember a test can protect you. If you are not legally intoxicated, the test will show it.

Conditional Licenses

Reinstated licenses include the condition of not driving after drinking. After the first conviction, the license is conditional for one year. After any subsequent conviction, it is conditional for ten years.

A conditional license can be suspended for one year, without a preliminary hearing, for operating with any amount of alcohol in the blood. A conditional license can be suspended for a period of two years for any refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test, a penalty which will be added to any suspension previously handed down for an OUI conviction.

Vehicle Seizure or Forfeiture

A person operating under the influence while under suspension for a previous OUI, is subject to vehicle seizure and forfeiture, as well as a fine and jail time.

Other Consequences

There are many other consequences to consider as a result of drinking and driving. Here are just a few:

  • All OUI convictions result in a criminal record, not an asset when applying for a job or college entry.
  • Overall cost associated with an OUI conviction can reach $7000.
  • Drinking and driving takes thousands of innocent lives each year. Could you live with yourself?
  • At present, drunk driving causes more deaths and injuries than any other violent crime: no one, including friends and family, is immune.

Minimum Court Imposed Penalties for OUI

Offense Suspension Jail Time Fine

1st no aggravating factors 90 days 0 $400
1st w/aggravating factors* 90 days 48 hours $400
1st (refusal)** 90 days 96 hours $500
2nd*** 18 months 7 days $600
2nd (refusal) 18 months 12 days $800
3rd 4 years 30 days $1,000
3rd (refusal) 4 years 40 days $1,300
4th or more 6 years 6 months $2,000
4th (refusal) 6 years 6 months & 20 days $2,400

*Aggravating factors include a BAC of .15 percent or more, or traveling 30 m.p.h. or more over the speed limit, or attempting to elude an officer of the law, or having a passenger under 21 years of age. The law requires an additional 275 day suspension be imposed by the court or the Secretary of State if transporting a passenger under 21.

**Refusal to be tested results in a loss of license for at least 275 days which is consecutive to any suspension imposed for an OUI conviction.

***A second conviction within ten years prohibits the offender from obtaining a work-restricted license or from registering a vehicle.

Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes

Every driver involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash, or a crash where a death is likely to occur, must submit to a blood alcohol test. Failure to do so will result in a three year license suspension

If the Secretary of State is satisfied a driver, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, negligently operated a motor vehicle in such a manner as to cause the death of any person, the Secretary shall immediately suspend the operator's license for at least three years. This suspension will be in addition to any suspension imposed for refusal to submit to a chemical test.

Moreover, a conviction for vehicular homicide can result in a prison term of up to 30 years and a permanent loss of your driver's license if alcohol is involved.

Knowing your Limit

Misconceptions about alcohol and how it affects safe driving are widespread. Knowing the truth can mean the difference between life and death. When alcohol enters your system, your ability to control a car, and yourself, immediately starts to deteriorate. Good judgement, concentration and your ability to react quickly all start to disappear with the first drink.

Factors Influencing BAC

Factors which can affect the relationship between alcohol consumed and BAC level include:

  • Weight: A larger person requires more alcohol to reach a particular BAC level than a smaller person.
  • Gender: Women generally reach higher BACs than men of the same weight with the same amount of alcohol.
  • Amount of food in stomach: Food slows the absorption of alcohol into the blood.
  • Time spent drinking: Alcohol is eliminated at the rate of about one drink (1 ounce of alcohol) per hour.
  • Time since last drink: Because time is needed to metabolize a drink, a person's BAC can continue to rise after he or she has stopped drinking

The best advice to follow is that if you drink, plan ahead, and designate a non-drinking driver.