There are several key stages to an OUI case as it moves through the criminal justice system. The following is a description of those stages and the time periods in which each will occur.
1. ARRESTED AND BAILED FOR OUI - A law enforcement officer made the decision that he or she had probable cause to arrest you for the crime of Operating Under the Influence. You were then brought to a police station or county jail and from there you were bailed. You may have paid a cash bail (plus the Bail Commissioner's $60.00 fee), or a personal recognizance or unsecured cash bond was set. You may also have “special conditions” on your bail. A typical condition would be “no possession or use of alcohol”. This condition applies until the case is completed which could be months. Also, check the green bail bond sheet for the “search” condition. Normally, this condition will require that an Officer have “articulable suspicion” of a bail violation before you are subject to search, but “random” searches are also frequently set as part of the special bail conditions. At the time of your release, you were informed of your arraignment date in District Court on the OUI charge. This date will either be on your summons (OUI Ticket), or on the bail sheet (green form). If you submitted to a breath test, you will also have a printout of the test result called the “Intoxilyzer Report”. This document contains much of the necessary information to get your defense started so hold onto it. I will want to take a look at all documentation you receive for the cops and the jail.
2. RECEIVE NOTICE OF SUSPENSION IN THE MAIL - There are two parts to an OUI case. One is the criminal prosecution which begins in the District Court on your arraignment date. The other is an administrative action by the Secretary of State to suspend your Maine license, or operating privileges in Maine if you are from out-of-state. These are two separate processes and one does not affect the other. The Secretary of State case begins when you receive a Notice of Suspension in the mail. This notice will inform you that your right to operate a motor vehicle in Maine will be suspended on a certain date for a specified period of time. You will receive this notice approximately four weeks after your arrest. The notice will be sent to the last known address in the Secretary of State's files. Hence, if your present address is different than the address on your license, you may not receive the Notice of Suspension. This could lead to you unknowingly operating after suspension. The notice will explain that you have the right to request a hearing on the administrative suspension. It is very important that a hearing is requested. I will take care of this hearing request. You simply need to call my office and a hearing request will be emailed to the Hearings Section of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
STAY OF SUSPENSION - When I request a hearing on the BMV suspension, the suspension will be “stayed” or delayed until after the BMV hearing. This means that you will not go under suspension on the date noted on the Notice of Suspension. The stay applies to cases where there is a chemical test given. (Intoxilyzer, blood draw, or urine sample) HOWEVER, if the suspension is for “refusing to submit to a chemical test”, then there is no stay pending the hearing and you will go under suspension on the date shown on the Notice of Suspension.
REQUEST FOR BMV HEARING - The request for hearing will not only stay or delay the suspension (in cases where there is a chemical test), but it will also generate the release of the Officer's report of your case. This is usually the first opportunity learn about the Officer's version of the events that make up the State's case against you. We will also receive “discovery” from the DA's office following your arraignment which will include videos and witness statements if any, but it is through BMV that will get our first look at the crux of the State's case.
3. ARRAIGNMENT ON OUI CHARGE - The arraignment is the Court date you received when you were bailed following your arrest. The arraignment is usually four to six weeks after your arrest. This means that you will probably get your Notice of Suspension from the Secretary of State before your arraignment. I will submit my entry of appearance and a "not guilty" plea on your behalf prior to the arraignment date. You do not need to go to the arraignment if I am your lawyer. If you have not retained a lawyer, then you must appear in person at your arraignment and plead "not guilty".
4. HEARING ON BMV SUSPENSION - A hearing will be scheduled about 4 weeks after the Request for Hearing is emailed to BMV Hearings Section. The hearing is a “mini-trial” that is held at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Office closest to the town where you were arrested. During COVID however, the BMV hearings have been held remotely with the participants appearing via ZOOM or TEAMS. This may become the norm rather than the exception even after the crisis has abated. You are not required to appear at the BMV hearing, but if your testimony will be helpful on a contested issue, then you will be there with me. We will have conferred in detail about our strategy prior to the BMV hearing. This means that you have about 8 weeks following your arrest before you may be going under BMV suspension for OUI. This period is shorter in “refusal” cases because there is no “stay” placed on the suspension prior to the Hearing. The BMV hearings are conducted by a Hearing Examiner who is an employee of the Secretary of State's office. There are no Assistant District Attorneys or Judges present. The Hearing Examiner conducts the hearing, questions the witnesses, and makes the final ruling on the suspension. He or she will decide if the suspension is “rescinded” (we win), or “upheld” (we lose).
5. DISPOSITIONAL CONFERENCE IN THE UNIFIED CRIMINAL COURT - The next court date after your arraignment is the Dispositional Conference or “dispo”. The Dispo date is scheduled about 60 days after your arraignment. This is a court appearance designed to get the Defense Lawyers and Assistant District Attorneys together to discuss possible plea agreements in specific cases. There are no witnesses present and no hearings are held. This is a “talk day”. If the lawyers cannot come to an agreement, then they meet with a Judge “in chambers” to allow the Court to offer guidance which may assist in bringing about a resolution to the case by agreement. This is normally a court appearance that you would have to attend. However, during COVID the conferences have been held via ZOOM between the Judge, ADA and Defense Counsel without the clients present. Prior to the Dispositional Conference, we will have met and discussed our goals in the case in terms of a possible plea bargain. Before the court date, I will have communicated in-detail our position to the Assistant District Attorney assigned to you case. When we appear for our Dispo day, we will be well prepared to negotiate the best possible outcome. If we cannot come to an agreement with the State, then the matter is placed on a “Trial List”. Normally, this means that your case will be scheduled for Jury Selection within the next 6 to 8 weeks.
6. TRIAL MANAGEMENT OR DOCKET CALL- In a number of courts in Maine, a court appearance is set prior to the day for jury selection. Trial Management (also known as Docket Call) is set several days before jury selection. On this court date, the Defendants and their lawyers appear before the Judge to determine which cases will be scheduled for jury selection that month and which cases may be “back-ups” or even “bumped” to the next month. This court appearance is also another opportunity to negotiate a plea agreement with the State.
7. JURY SELECTION IN AN OUI CASE - Selection of the Jurors in your case will be scheduled on the same day as a number of other criminal matters. It has now been at least 6 months since you were arrested. Most likely longer due to court scheduling issues and possible continuances. The “Jury Pool” will be sitting in the courtroom and will respond to questions that I submit to the Judge to ask the Jurors. This process is called Voir Dire. The purpose of Voir Dire is to identify individual Jurors who may have difficulty being impartial fact finders in your case. During the selection process we will confer in the courtroom about which jurors to “strike” and which should remain in the pool for selection. At the end of the selection process there will be 12 jurors and 1 or 2 alternates seated. Their verdict must be unanimous. If they cannot all agree on a verdict (Guilty or Not Guilty) then a mistrial is declared. This is not common, but it does happen. Fortunately for my clients, “Not Guilty” is what I most often hear from the Foreperson of the Jury.
8. OUI JURY TRIAL - The Jury Trial is the “crown jewel” of the criminal justice system. The trial “batting order” is discussed between the lawyers and the Judge prior to jury selection. A trial can start the day of jury selection, but normally the trials are scheduled during a 2 or 3-week period following jury selection. An OUI trial can be as short as ½ day in a single Officer “refusal” case, to many days in a case involving serious injury or death in which expert witnesses are called by both sides. I understand that being in the courtroom during trial is extremely stressful for you, but I guarantee that you will be well prepared for what you will be confronted with in the trial.