The laws could be getting stricter for repeat OUI (Operating Under the Influence) offenders. Drunk driving convictions could soon be staying on people’s record a lot longer.
It’s what’s known as the “look-back period”. That is the amount of time an OUI conviction stays on a person’s record allowing prosecutors to charge them with repeat offenses for drunk driving.
Currently the look-back period in Maine is ten years. Former state trooper and current Maine State Representative Tim Marks, a Pittston Democrat, submitted a proposal to raise that to 15 years. A second OUI offense means more jail time and longer license suspensions.
“The driver who has been convicted of a second offense has demonstrated pattern of unsafe driving. For this reason I do not believe we should be washing out, or all sins forgiven after ten years,” Marks said.
Lawmakers made some changes to the OUI laws last session. Those changes include increasing the license suspension for first-time offenders from 90 to 150 days. First offenders can also get a work-only license after 100 days by agreeing to install an ignition interlock system that only allows the vehicle to start if the driver is sober. To qualify, the person must complete an alcohol program and pay a reinstatement fee.
Knox County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau told lawmakers there’s a need to handle OUI convictions differently than other crimes.
“It’s a crime that’s committed I think by a lot of ordinary people. It’s when it’s committed more than once, we don’t think it’s by ordinary people. We think it’s by people with a significant issue with drinking and driving and following the law,” Rushlau said.
Rushlau told lawmakers he supports dealing with the worst of the worst OUI offenders more harshly, but he cautions this bill may paint with too broad a brush. He offered his opinion as to how the law should be written to only target dangerous habitual offenders.
“If you’ve ever been convicted of a felony level OUI, meaning one offense that caused serious bodily injury or on offense that caused death or you’ve been convicted of a third offense OUI, then every OUI after that should be a felony for the rest of your life,” Rushlau suggested.
The proposal faces more discussion and could be amended before it’s put to a vote in the coming weeks.