Operating after Suspension (OAS) Charges in Maine
The Maine law regarding the crime of operating after suspension or Maine OAS, states that §2412-A: a person commits operating while license suspended or revoked if that person: Operates a motor vehicle on a public way or in a parking area when that person's license has been suspended or revoked.
Maine law truly views driving as a privilege, and there are numerous ways you can have your drivers license suspended. Sadly, in many situations folks are suspended without them even knowing their license was placed under suspension by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles. What’s worse is if you are pulled over while driving with a suspended license, in many cases you will likely be charged a crime—not a traffic infraction, or civil offense, but a criminal offense where your criminal record is at risk. To add insult to injury, even though the court does suspend your license if you are then convicted of the the crime of operating after suspension, the court will notify the secretary of State that you plead guilty and they will suspend your license again, sometimes on top of your already suspended license. So beware: if you plead guilty to Operating after Suspension in criminal court, the secretary of state will suspend your license for another 60 days!
Punishments or penalties for Operating after suspension in Maine:
Operating after suspension is a class E misdemeanor crime in Maine. The maximum penalties for class E misdemeanor crimes include up to 6 months in jail and up to $1000.00 in fines. However there is a mandatory fine for convictions for OAS. A first offense conviction requires a mandatory $250.00 fine, a second offense is $500.00 and a third is $750.00. What can be the worst consequence is the 60 day license suspension that will be imposed by the Secretary of State (BMV) if you plead guilty. Also be aware that if you are convicted of OAS three times, or a combination of OAS and certain other “major motor vehicle violations” (Driving to endanger, criminal speeding, operating without a license) within a 5 year period, you can become classified as Habitual Offender status, and your driver’s license will be revoked for three years.
Punishments for Operating After Suspension for an OUI (operating under the influence) suspension (If suspended for an OUI conviction and caught driving during that license suspension period):
There are significant and severe mandatory minimum penalties that will be imposed if a person is convicted of Operating after Suspension when the license suspension was due to an OUI charge or conviction. The OUI suspension categorization applies to both administrative (Secretary of State or BMV) OUI suspensions, and Criminal Court imposed suspensions for OUI convictions.
Although OAS for an OUI suspension is a class E misdemeanor crime, a first offense conviction will result in a mandatory minimum punishment of seven (7) days in jail, a $600 fine, and a court imposed license suspension of at least one year, but not more than three years that will be consecutive to (on top of, or added to) the original OUI suspension. Mandatory minimum penalties are the least severe penalties allowed to be imposed by court for a conviction or guilty plea.
However, the increased mandatory minimum penalties only apply if the driver is found to be driving during the original OUI suspension imposed by the Secretary of State or the Court. Sometimes cops or prosecutors do not look into the “original suspension period” and a person is charged with OAS for an OUI suspension even though they were driving at a time outside, or beyond the original period of OUI suspension (but had not officially reinstated their license) An experienced defense attorney will identify this mistake and ensure that the following significant mandatory minimum penalties do not apply.
What if you did not know your license was suspended by the state of Maine?
If you were pulled over by Maine law enforcement and they informed you that you were suspended, and this was your first time hearing about it, you are not alone. We hear all the time that driver’s have no clue the BMV suspended their Maine license, and that they had no idea they were driving around for months while unknowingly suspended. The often happens when a suspension notice letter was sent to you by the Maine BMV, but you simply did not get it. Mail gets lost all the time, and because State mail does not get forwarded after a move, or change of address, if you did not update the address on your license quick enough, you won’t get the suspension notice in order to be made aware you are suspended.
There are “notice provisions” in the OAS law that require the person being charged with OAS to have notice that they are suspended, however §2412-A (4) of the Maine criminal code OAS allows that notice of suspension requirement to be met by the Secretary of State’s office sending a suspension letter to the last name and address provided to the Secretary of State’s office. This easy notice requirement ends up resulting in a lot of people being charged with Operating After Suspension when they never actually received notice and have no idea their license is suspended.
Why are driver’s licenses suspended in Maine, and what makes Operating after Suspension a criminal offense?
In Maine your license can be suspended for many reasons, and some suspensions can result in traffic tickets if you are caught driving while suspension. Traffic ticket or civil offense OAS violations include suspensions solely for failure to pay fines, failure to pay reinstatement fee’s, or tendering a dishonored check suspensions. Driving while suspended for those issues do not usually result in criminal court charges. However in most cases if you operate after your license is suspended, and are pulled over, you will be charged with a crime. Some of the ways suspensions turn into criminal charges for operating after suspension include:
Court Imposed suspension: Sometimes the court will suspend your license due to a prior criminal conviction. Common court imposed suspensions come from convictions for operating under the influence, driving to endanger, or illegal transportation of alcohol by a minor.
License suspensions imposed by the Secretary of State: the majority of license suspensions in Maine are imposed by the Secretary of State. These common suspensions include:
Suspensions for criminal convictions for crimes that do not have court imposed suspensions: There are a number of criminal convictions that will trigger an administrative license suspension, including: speeding 30 or more miles per hour over the speed limit (criminal speed), eluding a police officer, failure to stop for officer, operating alone while on a permit, operating without a license, unlawful use of drivers license, and leaving the scene of a bodily injury accident.
Suspension for accumulation of demerit points on your license. A demerit point license accumulation suspension comes about when you get 12 demerit points on your license within one year. Hitting 12 demerit points will result in a license suspension of 15 days. For example if you get two speeding tickets for 15 mph or more over the limit (but under 30 mph) those two tickets will result in a total of 12 demerit points, and your license will be suspended.
Provisional License periods: Another common license suspension applies to provisional licenses issued to Maine drivers when they first get their license. A first time Maine driver that is over the age of 21 will be issued a provisional license for their first one year of driving, and during that year, any moving motor vehicle violation (like speeding) will cause their license to be suspended. A first-time license issued to a person between 18 and 21 years old, or a person under 18 years old, will have a provisional license for the first two years, and any moving violations committed will result in significant license suspensions.
Suspension for not having Liability Motor Vehicle insurance: in Maine license suspensions are imposed for failure to maintain proof of liability insurance. This can happen if a driver is not able to provide proof of insurance to a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop or accident. A civil offense for not having insurance usually lead to the burdensome requirement of an SR 22 insurance certificate being placed on your license.
Accident Prone Driver suspension: another suspension many folks to do not realize exists, is called an accident prone driver suspension, and occurs when a driver is found to have three or more accidents within a three years. A suspension notice will be sent out “out of the blue” when a third accident is reported within three consecutive years.
While this is not a complete list of all causes of license suspensions in Maine, all of the above suspensions can result in you being charged with the crime of operating after suspension if you are alleged to have driven a motor vehicle after the suspension is placed in effect, and notice is sent to your last known address on file with the Maine Secretary of State.
How a Maine Operating after Suspension lawyer can help?
If you are charged with operating after suspension, reach out to an experienced criminal Defense attorney. OAS charges are some of the most common criminal cases in Maine and criminal defense lawyers know what to look for to defend the case and to advise you on how to get your license reinstated and prepare for court. A defense lawyer can not only poke holes in the case against you, they can advise you on what to expect and develop a plan of attack for negotiating the best outcome. Finally, the best thing to do if you are charged with Operating after Suspension in Maine is try to get your license reinstated and active again as soon as possible. Then call the Law Offices of Cameron T. Ellis and schedule a consolation to discuss your case and a strategy to fight.