So you've been arrested and charged with Operating Under the Influence. One of the most common questions that I see is "am I looking at jail time?" The answer isn't so simple, although it sort of it is. Operating Under the Influence is a crime in Maine, and pretty much everywhere else. All crimes are theoretically punishable by jail time. In Maine, we divide up crimes into five classes. Each class has its own sentencing range. OUI's typically fall into Class D, which means the sentence can be up to a year in prison and a $2000 fine. Under certain circumstances, OUI's can be felonies but that is much less common and most individuals in those situations are fully aware that jail time is a distinct possibility.
Back to the question at hand. Are you looking at jail? In Maine, a first offense OUI with no aggravating factors typically is going to result in the State requesting a $500 fine and a 150 day loss of license. An important thing to understand is that even in this instance, a Defendant is still "looking at jail," but the State just isn't requesting it. In other situations, such as if the person's bac test is .15 or higher, or they refuse a chemical test, or it's a second offense, the Court is obligated to impose a mandatory sentence IF the person is convicted of that crime. For example, if your test result was a .18, and you plead guilty to that crime as charged, the Judge has to give you at least 48 hours in jail. The interesting thing is that many times you can negotiate with the State for them to offer you a reduced or amended charge. In the above example, if the State removes the language specifying that your test was a .18 and just says that you operated while impaired, the Judge would be free to give you a sentence that does not include jail.
To complicate things a little bit, the prosecutor can ask for sentences higher than the mandatory minimum if she feels it is appropriate. Take for example a first offense OUI with no aggravating factors where the Defendant crashed her vehicle, had alcohol in the car and was difficult with first responders and police. Officially, that case may have no aggravating factors; however, all of the attendant circumstances to the case would make it likely that a prosecutor would be requesting jail time.
The truth is that the answer to most legal questions is not black and white. There are too many variables to consider because the law is rarely simple. If you have case or a question, consider calling a local criminal defense attorney. I'm sure they'd be happy to help.