12/15/2016 by ATR Law
Early Action To Project Your Rights
OUI Alcohol/Drugs Defense Win
Chris Leddy recently won a motor vehicle hearing for a client charged with an ‘OUI Alcohol/ Drugs.’ The client avoided having an OUI offense on their record, a significant victory. These hearings are not often won by the defense, and many drivers do not even challenge the motor vehicle suspension. Chris routinely asks for a hearing for every one of his OUI clients to preserve the opportunity to challenge the State. Early action is vital to protecting your rights. The following analysis shows why contacting Chris early on can make all the difference in keeping your license.
The typical notice sent to a driver charged with an ‘OUI Alcohol/ Drugs’ looks like this:
The issues at the hearing are whether, by a preponderance of the evidence:
1. There was probable cause to believe that you were operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a specific category of drug, a combination of specific categories of drugs or a combination of alcohol and one or more specific categories of drugs;
2. You operated a motor vehicle with a confirmed positive blood or urine test for a drug or its metabolite; and
3. You operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of the confirmed drug.
As you can see from the notice, the State is using a "shotgun" approach to the proof required to suspend someone charged this way. They only have to show a category of drug, a combination of categories, or a combination of alcohol and categories of a drug. The reports will contain terminology like: CNS depressants, opiates, amphetamines, and carboxy-THC. Most likely these will be discovered by testing a sample of your urine. The trouble is, urinalysis only tells you that the body has processed that substance or something like it, it says NOTHING about when or how much it processed. The State does not have to prove with great specificity what it is you ingested or what is working to impair you, in fact it can simply prove a "category" of drug was in your system at some point. Not exactly sharpshooting here, but they don’t have to be precise to take away your license!
Any or all of these grounds can be proven by a PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE. That is far lower than the standard of proof in a criminal case: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. While the standard of proof is far lower, the consequences to you as a driver are the same, you cannot legally drive. How many people can afford not to drive?
The State always has to show that a driver is "under the influence" of a category of drug, alcohol, or a combination of both to suspend you. The fact is, only alcohol has proven levels of impairment that correlate to tests that they can readily provide as proof. The legal limit is .08 BAC in Maine, and most people will exhibit some form of impairment at that level. Some BAC results are so high that challenging impairment is not a good idea, but you need to be represented by someone who understands the process, the mechanisms, and the pitfalls. Part of the reason we were successful with the client in this example was that Chris was more familiar with the testing guidelines than both of the officers who investigated our client. These opportunities may not occur often, but you need counsel who can exploit the weaknesses in the proof when possible.
With the new marijuana laws coming into effect, it will be more and more important to make the State prove impairment by reliable and objective means. Urinalysis, mentioned above, can only reveal metabolites of substances. The simple fact that someone tests positive for the metabolite of a specific drug category has absolutely NO correlation to impairment. A metabolite is what’s left after your body processes a substance and those metabolites can linger for days or weeks, long after the drug had any effect on you, and even further from when it may have impaired you. An experienced attorney can expose weaknesses in the collection and analysis of evidence from the police officer. Please call Chris at 207-767-4824 or contact us through our secure portal to discuss your case and learn more about the importance of obtaining legal counsel early on.