If the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) sent you a notice that you are now deemed a Maine Habitual Offender, what does that mean? What happens if you continue to drive anyway? This article will help you answer these questions.
Becoming a Maine Habitual Offender
Under state law, a person becomes a Maine Habitual Offender after:
- being convicted of three or more separate motor vehicle-related crimes within the past five years; or
- being convicted of 10 or more separate traffic violations within the past five years.
Motor vehicle-related crimes include convictions for Driving to Endanger and Operating Under the Influence (OUI). Traffic violations would include moving violations, like speeding and running a red light. Once you get convicted of either three of these motor-vehicle related crimes or 10 traffic violations within 5 years, the BMV will immediately revoke your license.
What if I continue to drive as a Maine Habitual Offender?
After having been properly informed of your license revocation, continuing to drive as a Maine Habitual Offender is a crime. It is a “strict liability” crime, which means the State can find you criminally liable without having to prove any criminal mental state. For example, if you mistakenly thought you were legal to drive and didn’t know you were a Maine Habitual Offender, you can still be convicted for driving while revoked as a habitual offender. The law doesn’t care whether you actually knew of not. This is like with OUI, where you are guilty for drunk driving regardless of whether you knew you were drunk or not.
Driving while revoked as a Maine Habitual Offender also carries mandatory minimum sentences. “Mandatory minimum” means that a judge cannot stay your sentence. You will not receive probation, community service, or a lesser sentence. Upon conviction, you must serve time and pay the fines as prescribed by law. The severity of the sentence depends on whether you were convicted for driving while revoked before, as well as your criminal history.
There are four different mandatory minimum sentences. They range from being convicted of a Class D crime to a Class C crime. The severity of sentence increases depending on the number and type of convictions on your record. The minimum sentences are the following:
- The most lenient penalty is a Class D crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A person receives this sentence if they additionally have not been convicted of driving while revoked in the past 10 years, and not received an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) conviction within the past 10 years.
- The next step up is a Class C crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A person receives this sentence if they additionally have one other conviction for driving while revoked, or obtained one OUI conviction within the past 10 years.
- The next step up is also a Class C crime with a mandatory minimum sentence of nine months plus one day in jail, and a $1,000 fine. A person receives this sentence when that person additionally has two convictions for driving while revoked or two OUI convictions within the past 10 years.
- The harshest penalty is a Class C crime where the mandatory minimum sentence is two years in jail and a $1,000 fine. A person receives this sentence if they additionally have three or more convictions of driving while revoked, or had three or more OUI convictions within the past 10 years.
Isn’t there an exception? What about work-restricted licenses?
A work-restricted license allows you to drive for work-related reasons. You may drive from your residence to work and back, or drive within the scope of your employment. The soonest you can apply for this license is 18 months from your revocation.
Whether you are eligible for a work-restricted license depends on the reasons for your suspension. For instance, you are ineligible for a work-restricted license if you became a habitual offender because of having accumulated three or more separate motor-vehicle related crimes. The BMV can also revoke your work-restricted license for certain reasons, like if you got convicted for another motor vehicle-related crime.
If you think you may become a Maine Habitual Offender, or are facing criminal charges for driving as a habitual offender, contact us at the Law Office of Richard Berne as soon as possible. We can assist you with exploring your legal options and defenses, and prepare you for court.