The Maine Defender Blog

Maine’s Underage Drinking Laws From Possession to OUI

Maine has strict laws, which are aggressively enforced, regarding underage drinking. I will first discuss laws pertaining to drinking and driving by persons under the age of 21.

As previously discussed at length, Maine has a two-tiered process for adjudicating alcohol-related drinking and driving offenses. In addition to criminal court proceedings, alleged violators must face an administrative license suspension proceeding.

Administrative Penalties

Maine has a “zero tolerance” law for folks under 21. In essence, that means that persons under 21 may not operate or attempt to operate a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system.

Thus, if you are under 21, are stopped while driving and there is any evidence of consumption (odor of alcoholic beverages or admission of consumption, etc.), you will be arrested and asked to submit to a breath test. A positive result will trigger an administrative license suspension proceeding by the Bureau of a Motor Vehicles (BMV).

You will quickly receive a notice of suspension from the BMV purporting to suspend your license for one year (if you completed a breath or other chemical test). An additional six months will be added on if you had a passenger who was also under 21.

NOTE: an experienced OUI defense attorney can tell you how to cut these suspensions in half and obtain work/educational driving privileges. If you refuse to submit to a breath or other chemical test, your license suspension will be for 18 months plus an additional six months if you had a passenger under 21. The foregoing sanctions apply to first offenders. Repeat offenders face increased administrative penalties in the form of longer suspensions. Contact us today for more information about how to reduce your penalties.

You have the right to a hearing to contest the suspension in any case. Your deadline to file a request for a hearing is ten days from the date upon which the BMV mails the notice.

Criminal Court Case

Folks under 21 who are charged with drinking and driving offenses face a number of criminal charges as well as a civil offense. The civil offense is illegal possession of alcohol (possession by consumption). That civil offense carries a fine only as a sanction.

The criminal charges are OUI and Operating Without A License (formerly known as operating beyond a license restriction, namely operating with any amount of alcohol in your system).

The latter offense, a Class E misdemeanor, subjects you to zero to 180 days in jail, zero to $1,000 in fines (plus surcharges) and 30 day to one year license suspension depending on how specific the complaint is regarding the nature of the violation of the license condition.

If your breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) is below 0.08 and there are no significant sings of impairment, Operating Without A License will almost certainly be the only criminal charge that you will face.

However, if you refuse to submit to a chemical test (usually a breath test), or your test result is 0.08 or higher, you will be charged with our and Operating Without A License.

If you are convicted of a first offense OUI, the court will order a 150 day license suspension (the BMV will increase that to one year), up to 364 days in jail and a fine ranging from $500 to $2,000. You will also have to pay a $50 reinstatement fee and complete the TEEN DEEP (Driver Evaluation and Education Program ) program in order to regain your driving privileges.

Civil Violations For Transporting Alcohol

It is against the law in Maine for persons under 21 to transport alcohol in a motor vehicle. There are defenses such as parental or employer permission, but the general rule is that if you are under 21, do not transport alcohol in your vehicle or anyone else’s vehicle.

Illegal Transportation Of Alcohol By A Minor subjects you to a 30 day license suspension on a first offense, 90 days on a second and one year for any subsequent offense plus a fine of $200-$500 on a first offense and $400-$500 for subsequent violations. This is a civil offense, thus there is no risk of jail.

There are a variety of civil laws prohibiting minors from purchasing alcohol, possessing alcohol (including possession by consumption) and using fake or borrowed identification documents.

The Most Serious Charges That Apply To Anyone Regardless Of Age Dealing With Minors And Alcohol

There are far more serious criminal charges that applicable to all persons of any age that apply to anyone who furnishes alcohol to minors or provides a place for minors to consume alcohol. Istress: these laws apply to everyone regardless of age.

Furnishing (giving or selling) alcohol to a minor is a Class D misdemeanor crime. It carries zero to 364 days in jail and up to $2,000 in fines plus surcharges. Furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol is also a Class D crime with the same range of sanctions.

MAJOR WARNING

If you, at any age, furnish alcohol to a minor or provide a place for minors to consume alcohol, you will be prosecuted for a Class C felony, if the consumption of such a minor causes death or serious bodily injury to the minor or any other person. This offense subjects you to up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine plus surcharges and two years of probation plus a lifetime of guilt and heartache.

It is an affirmative defense to allow your own children to consume alcohol, but not for anyone else’s kids. Look, you have no idea what these kids are going to do when they leave your home, if you are foolish enough to provide alcohol to minors or allow them to drink in your home or camp. That is a crime in and of itself and DAs do seek jail sentences.

God forbid that a kid leaves your home, camp, etc. and hurts or kills himself or someone else. While you may think that such an occurrence is out of your control and you are not responsible, you are only half right. The occurrence is out of your control in one context. But, in Maine, you are not only responsible, you are criminally culpable.

Underage drinking is a huge problem in Maine. Teach your children well. Be a role model. Our children are so precious to us all. Protect them. That’s our job as parents, neighbors, aunts, uncles, friends and members of the community at large.

Feel free to call us, email or write for more information about underage drinking.


Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general, not specific, information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author(s) and the reader(s).