Two lawmakers from central Maine say they will introduce legislation to eliminate a section of state law that allows someone whose license is permanently revoked to reapply for a driver’s license 10 years after release from prison.

Bryan Carrier, who was convicted in a triple fatal crash in 1996, reapplied for a driver’s license. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

The proposal comes after a ruling in Kennebec County Superior Court this month that allows a former Skowhegan man convicted in a drunken driving, triple fatal crash in 1996 to reapply for his license, even though his license had been ordered suspended for life.

The court ruling highlighted an apparent contradiction in state law that allows a license to be revoked “permanently,” yet also outlines an appeals process for getting a license back.

Sen. Scott W. Cyrway, R-District 16, and Rep. Thomas R.W. Longstaff, D-Waterville, both members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said in separate interviews that they want to take out the language that allows a person to petition for license reinstatement.

“This is upsetting to me to think that ‘permanently’ does not mean permanent,” Cyrway said. “I am sorry, but in the dictionary it has a meaning – forever – no change. This may have to be changed to ‘permanent with no chance for appeal.'”

The question being asked for the last 10 years is how Bryan Carrier, 39, of Fairfield, who was ordered by the court to permanently surrender his driver’s license, could be allowed to reapply.

The license ban was intended to be permanent, say family members and friends of the victims. But it wasn’t, and the fallout from the ruling by Superior Court Justice William Stokes was palpable.

E. James Burke, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law, said Stokes was correct under Maine law to allow Carrier to seek license reinstatement despite objections from family and friends of the victims.

“I don’t have any problem with what Stokes did. I think that the statute is not irrational and wrong and internally inconsistent,” Burke said.

Cyrway’s colleague, Longstaff, also said the statute is clear, but he reads it differently: that the permanent revocation of license is imposed.

But two paragraphs down in the law, there is a provision for the person to be able to try to get a license reinstated. If there is another offense after the license is reinstated, then the revocation becomes permanent without possibility of appeal.

Longstaff said the answer to correcting the contradiction would not be to remove the word “permanent” – because it would weaken the law – but rather to remove the entire section for appeal from the law.

“My own feeling is I don’t think that the person’s license ought to be reinstated,” he said. “So rather than remove the word ‘permanently’ when it doesn’t mean ‘permanently,’ what I would say is remove that section of the law; to have an act to remove that provision so there’s no way to get another hearing; to remove the possibility of that option.

“I would work with Scott (Cyrway) to sponsor or co-sponsor a bill to delete that provision from the law. That option of getting it reinstated would be gone. It’s something I could be comfortable sponsoring, that’s for sure.”

Yet the revision to the statute, if it passes, would probably not apply to Carrier. He would only be subject to the provisions in effect at the time of the crime.

Cyrway said he would have to send a title request to the reviser’s office and have language added to the proper section to get the law changed. It would be sent to Legislative Counsel as an emergency request for this upcoming session, he said.

If approved, the revision would have to go to the Senate to get referred to a committee. Once passed, it would go to the Senate for a vote, then to the House and back to the Senate, and then to the governor. If not vetoed, it would become law.

“It is not a simple process, but it is important,” Cyrway said.

WHAT’S PERMANENT?

In the 1996 crash, Carrier drove a pickup truck at high speed through a stop sign on East Ridge Road in Skowhegan and slammed into a van that was heading east on Route 2.

Killed in the fiery crash on Nov. 22 were Arlyce Jewell, 42, and her 10-year-old son, Alex, and Elbert Knowles, who was 15. Also injured was Nicole Johnson, 17, of Skowhegan. Carrier’s blood-alcohol level was 0.11, over the legal limit of 0.08.

He pleaded guilty in 1997 in Somerset County Superior Court to three counts of manslaughter and three counts of aggravated operating under the influence. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with all but two years suspended, six years of probation and 2,000 hours of community service on the manslaughter conviction. On the OUI charge, Carrier was sentenced to two years in prison to run at the same time as the manslaughter sentence and ordered to pay $6,000 in fines.

His driver’s license was ordered to be permanently suspended, per state law that applies to vehicular manslaughter cases in which the driver is intoxicated.

Carrier was released from the Charleston Correctional Facility on March 30, 1999.

He has appealed his lifetime revocation three times, including during an emotionally charged Bureau of Motor Vehicles hearing in September. But each time, his request to reapply for a license has been denied.

He can now try again, according to Stokes, who said that state law does, in fact, permit re-application for re-licensure. The law, passed by the Maine Legislature in 1993, is clear, Burke said.

“People can grow and change and learn from mistakes,” Burke said. “And if that happens, perhaps we should let them now live the life they have earned to live.”

The criteria for reinstatement involves the convicted person’s life since the initial revocation: Has he shown that he has not re-offended? Is he a working member of the community? Has he sufficiently proven that he is deserving of reinstatement?

Stokes said in his May 18 order that if the Legislature intended to limit the number of times someone could petition for reinstatement, it would have done so.

Timothy Feeley, spokesman for Attorney General Janet Mills, said her office will review the decision and consult with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles about future options.

LIVES CHANGED

A total of 115,607 drivers have been convicted of driving drunk only once, according to state records which date to 1980 and include out-of-state drivers who offended in Maine. More than 16,000 drivers have had four or more drunken driving convictions since 1980, and one driver has been convicted of OUI 18 times, an analysis by the Maine Sunday Telegram found.

Maine, like the vast majority of states, does not permanently revoke driver’s licenses except in cases where a fatality is involved and the person was under the influence of intoxicants.

At the September hearing with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Carrier said he was sorry for the accident and members of his family were there for support.

“I am truly sorry for what I’ve done,” Carrier said, adding that he cannot take away the pain the families continue to feel. “I hope that someday you can forgive me.”

Carrier, who still works for the family business, Carrier Chipping, said he is not the same person he was 20 years ago. He said he is married with two children and relies on his mother to take him places and often rides a bicycle to work. He said he has undergone counseling.

But victims’ family members, including Tracey Rotondi of Athens, whose mother and brother were killed that night, said the crash also put a distance between her and her father, Royce Jewell. She said the family was never the same after the accident.

Rotondi said last week that Carrier accepted a lifetime license suspension when he took the deal and he should live with it.

“He did hardly any jail time for the lives he took,” she said. “If he didn’t agree with it at the time, that’s when he should have said something. Not now. To keep putting us through this is awful. He doesn’t care about us or the lives he has changed. I think that when you take a deal, you should have to stick to it no matter what the law says. It was a judge’s order.”

“I guess (the law) should be changed because basically the sentence from the judge meant nothing.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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