Stiffer penalties for multiple OUI offenses sought in Maine

| Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A leading Maine state lawmaker is working on a bill that would get tougher with repeat drunken drivers in the state.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, chairman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, wants to crackdown on people behind the wheel who are operating under the influence.

Diamond is no stranger to efforts to allow stricter penalties for bad drivers. He was a sponsor of "Tina's Law," which was signed into law this year to bolster penalties against motorists who continue to driver after losing their driving privileges.

His newest effort is expected to call for increased prison sentences for a sixth drunken driving offense to 10 years. A lifetime driver's license suspension would be attached.

The new bill follows on the heels of the conviction earlier this month of a Winslow, ME, man for his 12th drunken driving conviction, The Associated Press reported. The maximum sentence available was five years.

In addition to boosting the maximum penalty, the bill is expected to include a provision for a $3,000 fine and a minimum jail term of one year.

Tina's Law focuses on drivers with the worst motor vehicle records who continue to get behind the wheel. The bill is named for Tina Turcotte of Scarborough, ME. The 40-year-old was killed on July 29, 2005, in a wreck involving trucker Scott Hewitt.

Hewitt has 63 driving convictions and 23 license suspensions in Maine and other states, The AP reported. He also was involved in a 1994 fatality.

Hewitt's Maine license and registration were both under suspension at the time of the wreck, and there were outstanding warrants for his arrest, the newspaper reported.

The new law, which took effect in September, targets people with five or more major motor vehicle convictions in five years.

It allows sentences of up to five years in prison and $5,000 fines for causing accidents that seriously injures other people. For fatality wrecks, drivers can face up to 10 years in prison and as much as $20,000 in fines.

The OUI bill is expected to come up for consideration after the first of the year.

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