Maine is about to get tougher on drunk drivers, specifically repeat offenders.
At the end of this week, the law dealing with repeat OUI offenders will no longer be as forgiving. Under current state law, penalties for operating under the influence get stiffer with each conviction, meaning more jail time, higher fines and longer license suspensions. But after a person goes 10 years without an OUI conviction, that slate was wiped clean.
“That old one doesn’t count. Because it’s outside the magic 10 year window which was decided years ago,” said Pittston Democrat Tim Marks.
Marks is a retired Maine State Trooper and sponsored the new law about take effect. His bill, which became law a few months ago, wipes out that 10 year look-back period for felony OUI convictions. Beginning August 1, anyone convicted of a felony OUI would be subject to a lifetime look-back period, meaning no matter how much time passes between convictions, that person would still be a repeat offender.
“We drew the line at felony OUI, which is somebody who has been drunk driving and been involved in a serious personal injury accident or killed somebody while drunk driving. Or if you have three OUIs in that 10 year period, you’re considered a felony OUI.”
Marks says next session he plans to submit legislation that deals with the practice of prosecutors pleading down OUIs to a lesser driving to endanger charge.
“There are thousands and thousands of these cases every year that nobody ever knows. It’s kind of hidden that a driving to endanger is really an OUI. I don’t think it’s right.”