Home Somerset rules Courts, prosecutors and BMV agree to close loopholes in license suspensions

Courts, prosecutors and BMV agree to close loopholes in license suspensions

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State court officials, the secretary of state and prosecutors agreed on Monday to review 10 years of convictions to ensure those guilty of serious driving crimes have their cases forwarded to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for a license suspension, correcting a shortcoming in the state. law.

Going forward, prosecutors and courts have finalized a new process to ensure information about criminal convictions that should trigger a license suspension is reported to the BMV, according to a joint statement from the Secretary of State’s office, of the judiciary and prosecutors.

The process change was prompted by a recent accident in Oxford County involving a Woodstock man who was convicted in 2021 of killing another motorist during a police chase in 2019, but whose license no. was ever properly suspended because the court did not send out a half-page form. that the BMV needed to suspend its license. Police allege he rammed into another vehicle this month, seriously injuring another person.

Prosecutors will likely know in the coming days or weeks if they need to take urgent action regarding convictions that occurred over the past year but were never forwarded to the BMV, said district attorney Maegan Maloney. of Kennebec and Somerset Counties and President of Maine. Association of Prosecutors.

But prosecutors’ review could reveal more, and the total number of cases that will require a second review is in the thousands. Completing the manual audit will likely take months more, encompassing every statewide conviction for manslaughter, aggravated assault, aggravated assault, assault, criminal threats and reckless driving, Maloney said. .

There is still disagreement between the courts and the Secretary of State over whether state law is sufficiently clear as to where the court’s responsibility to transmit information ends and the power of the BMV to suspend a license, Maloney said. But she said state officials don’t want to wait for a legislative fix, which may still be needed later.

“The secretary of state’s office, the judiciary, and the prosecutor’s offices have agreed that we’re not going to wait for legal clarification as to who is responsible for doing what,” Maloney said Monday night. “Instead, we’re just going to fix the problem.”

So far, only four cases have been identified statewide that should have resulted in notification to the BMV. On Monday, the BMV said all of those drivers had previously had their licenses suspended for other violations, and BMV staff were working to track down the documentation needed to process convictions they were previously unaware of.

The hasty corrective action follows the arrest of Ethan Rioux-Poulios, 26, on March 3. Police allege Rioux-Poulios led officers in a chase that resulted in an accident that seriously injured 28-year-old Nicole Kumiega. At the time of the sinking, Rioux-Poulios’ license should have been suspended but had remained active, revealing the systemic failure of the courts and the BMV to properly communicate on the matter.

Going forward, prosecutors will be tasked with providing the court with a new form certifying that a criminal conviction related to a motor vehicle and should result in notification to the BMV. The court will then be responsible for sending this information to the BMV. The process is designed to catch the small number of crimes that are not contained in the driving law section, but directly related to driving committed behind the wheel.

“This is a horrific situation, and our hearts and prayers go out to Ms. Kumiega and her loved ones,” Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill and Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said in a joint statement released to the Portland Press Herald on Monday. evening. “The tragedy exposed a systemic communication problem that we are committed to addressing immediately.”

THE PROBLEM COMES FROM THE STATUTES

The problem stems from how Maine laws are categorized and structured, and how courts have relied on these strict divisions to determine when staff should send conviction information to the BMV.

One section of the law, Title 29-A, pertains exclusively to driving, rules for vehicles and vehicle-related businesses, from traffic violations to laws governing car dealerships. Another section of the law, Title 17-A, defines crimes against persons and property, from misdemeanors such as disorderly conduct to more serious offenses including manslaughter and murder.

For criminal charges defined in Title 29-A, such as driving under the influence or driving without a license, the courts automatically send notices of conviction to the BMV, which then suspends the driver’s license.

But prosecutors routinely charge people with more serious Title 17-A crimes that are directly related to their driving. However, not all of these cases appear at first glance to be driving-related. It depends on how prosecutors choose to prosecute the case and what law they decide to apply to the alleged crime.

For example, after his March 3 arrest, Rioux-Poulios was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, among other charges, alleging that his use of a vehicle caused grievous bodily harm to Kumiega and another person. , Ethan Wyman, 29, who was treated and released from hospital after the crash. But only one of the aggravated assault counts actually mentions Rioux-Poulios’ use of a vehicle.


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