AUGUSTA — A judge acquitted a 21-year-old city man of a charge of operating under the influence in a one-day jury trial Thursday at the Capital Judicial Center.

After Jose J. Tapia-Smith was cleared of the drunken driving charge, he then pleaded guilty to a charge of operating beyond license restriction and was fined $500. The offense was dated April 8, 2015, in Augusta.

“The goal was to avoid the conviction on the OUI charge and take responsibility for the second count,” said Tapia-Smith’s attorney, Darrick Banda.

The charge of operating under the influence never reached the jury, and the second count was being tried by the judge alone.

The prosecutor was Assistant District Attorney Tyler LeClair.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said in an emailed response to an inquiry that judges are “offering different interpretations of the OUI statute that makes it difficult to determine what evidence will be required to get a (blood-alcohol content) test result admitted.

“For some judges only the officer who administered the test is necessary. For other judges, an expert witness, plus the site coordinator, plus the person who poured the liquid into the machine are needed,” she wrote. “This is causing a great additional expense to law enforcement. Once a test result is not admitted it is very difficult to proceed.”

Maloney said the Legislature should re-examine the OUI statute to clarify the requirements.


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