Thursday, December 12, 2013
BY DAVID HENCH
"I think Maine is still pretty tough," Boulus said.
Like most states, Maine does not have a provision in law to revoke a repeat offender's license for life.
New York state approved regulations last year that would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to revoke permanently a license for a motorist who has five DUIs, or driving under the influence convictions, in their lifetime, or three DUIs and a serious traffic offense within the last 25 years, but it appears to be the only state with a permanent revocation provision.
Florida had a similar law that was changed in 2010 to allow drivers with revoked licenses to reapply for a new license after 10 years.
"I'm in favor of lifetime revocation because we can predict that these people are a time bomb waiting to go off," Diamond said.
Maine also lags other states for reviewing repeat offenders' driving records. While a five- or 10-year review period for repeat offenses is the norm, there has been a trend in states toward a longer review period and, in some cases, a review of a repeat offender's entire record before allowing him to drive again. Massachusetts, for instance, recently adopted a lifetime review.
"I think we're going to become a lifetime state; that's certainly the trend," Boulus said.
MADD supports that push, Harris said. "But we see a lot of pushback from states on that," he said.
Scott Gardner, a defense attorney in Biddeford who specializes in drunken-driving cases, said a lifetime review is unfair. He cited as an example someone who receives a first conviction as a college student and another 15 years later. That second offense would mean a license suspension of three years.
Gardner said the bigger difference lies not between the first and second offense but between the second and third.
"By the time you get to three, that person is a serious public safety risk," he said. "But for a second offender, the risk is not always the same."
Gardner said Maine's judicial system gives judges plenty of discretion in levying penalties for second-time offenders.
Richard L. Hartley, past president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said stripping someone of his license forever is not the solution.
"Certainly there are situations, as a result of people getting killed on Maine's roads, we would say, 'I wish that person's license would have been taken so this didn't happen," he said. But that doesn't take into consideration the broader implications for others if the penalty for second or even first offenses is too severe.
"I can point to many of my clients who have made mistakes in the past and have been punished for those mistakes and who are now living productive lives they wouldn't be able to live if they didn't have a driver's license," Hartley said.
"We live in a rural state where driver's licenses are incredibly important to people working and supporting a family and living a productive life," he said. "If a suspension is reasonable and there's a light at the end of the tunnel, we would hope that person would work to get past it and be productive. If there is no light at the end of the tunnel, that person can be despairing and drive (without a valid license) and have new criminal charges."
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