Judicial administrators and leaders of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles scrambled last week to address a systemic failure by the courts to properly track and share information about criminal convictions that should result in license suspensions.

Maine officials are close to announcing a way to fix a gap in state law, but the details were still not finalized last week, said a spokesperson for the secretary of state, whose office oversees the BMV.

The statutory blind spot was revealed in a case in Oxford County on March 4. Police allege a 26-year-old Woodstock man crashed head-on into another vehicle during a police chase, critically injuring a 28-year-old woman. The alleged driver, Ethan Rioux-Poulios, should have lost his license last summer after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing a 70-year-old Norway driver in 2019 in an eerily similar police chase.

But a one-page document, called an abstract of conviction, that would have allowed the BMV to process his suspension was never sent to BMV clerks by court staff despite the BMV’s requests, and top court officials have to date refused to publicly take responsibility or acknowledge there was an error, instead suggesting that it was not their duty to send the paperwork because the conviction was not technically considered a driving offense under state law.

Ethan Rioux-Poulios after his arrest for the Oxford County crash

“Mr. Rioux-Poulios was not convicted of a ‘driving-related’ crime,” wrote Amy Quinlan, the administrator of the state courts, in written responses to questions about why the form to suspend the license was not sent to the BMV. “The conviction was for manslaughter. There is no separate vehicular manslaughter charge in Maine.”

She added later: “The question of responsibility goes beyond the questions you are asking regarding statutory interpretation or requirements. When important information isn’t effectively communicated and people suffer as a result, that’s a problem and one we would love to join our system partners in resolving. It may be that statutory changes are required to be able to identify which offenses would require a report to the Secretary of State.”


On Friday, officials including Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, Quinlan, and Valerie Stanfill, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, came to an agreement on how to correct the problem moving forward.

It’s unclear whether they will take stopgap measures, permanently change their procedures or urge lawmakers to change statutes. Quinlan did not answer an email requesting details of the agreement or pick up a call to her cellphone on Friday after the 3 p.m. meeting, and a spokesperson for Bellows would not discuss specifics.

“We have an agreement with the courts and the DAs that will make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Emily Cook, on behalf of the secretary of state. “We have an agreement in principle to ensure that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles gets the information we need to take action on suspensions in cases that require them.”

The agreement with the courts will encompass convictions not specifically included in the driving statute but connected to use of a vehicle, Cook said.

“We all care deeply to get this right,” she said.

The problem stems from the judicial branch’s interpretation of a state law that requires the court to send conviction information to the BMV for “every conviction or adjudication of a violation relative to motor vehicles or to the operation of a vehicle.”


Quinlan’s interpretation hinges on a narrow definition of what constitutes a violation “relative to motor vehicles or to the operation of a vehicle.”

In Maine law, vehicle-related statutes are grouped together under Title 29-A, and encompass everything from vehicle title guidelines, to rules around car dealerships, vehicle inspections and traffic infractions. Crimes involving people and property are grouped in another section of the law, Title 17-A, spanning everything from disorderly conduct, assault, drug-related infractions, burglary and murder.

Currently, the courts automatically generate an abstract of conviction to send to BMV for any defendant who is guilty of a Title 29-A infraction.

But that process does not capture the cases involving serious crimes defined in Title 17-A that involve the use of a vehicle. For instance, if someone intentionally hits another person with a car, the driver may face a charge of assault, aggravated assault or attempted murder, depending on the circumstances. If convicted, the driver’s case would not necessarily be forwarded to BMV staff. It depends on which charge is brought and how the charge is worded.

In the case of Rioux-Poulios, the paperwork for his 2021 manslaughter guilty plea does not mention his use of a vehicle, and because manslaughter is not a typical “driving-related” crime, a summary was not automatically forwarded along to BMV.

The dynamic suggests that an unknown number of criminal cases involving conduct committed behind the wheel may not have resulted in automatic notification to the BMV, placing a greater burden on BMV staff to hunt down and follow up on cases to request the right paperwork.


Diligent court clerks help catch the cases in between, and the BMV staff do their own legwork to close the loop on missing information once they learn about a case that might have collateral consequences.

But the system is imperfect, and some charges that clearly relate to driving do not, at first glance, mention a vehicle at all.

That was the case in an Oxford County courtroom on Monday, when Rioux-Poulios appeared before a judge on new charges from the March 4 chase and crash in Paris.

Two of the six felony counts he faces are for aggravated assault, stemming from the serious injuries suffered by the two people traveling in the car that he allegedly crashed into head-on.

One of the charges alleges that Rioux-Poulios used a dangerous weapon, a vehicle, to seriously injure Ethan Wyman, 29, a passenger in the struck vehicle who was treated and released from the hospital shortly after the wreck. The other aggravated assault count alleges Rioux-Poulios injured Nicole Kumiega, 28, creating a “substantial risk of death or extended convalescence,” but the charging language related to that grave injury does not mention that  a vehicle was involved.

Kumiega has been in critical condition at Maine Medical Center since the crash, and suffered dramatically more serious injuries than Wyman.


If Rioux-Poulios in the future were to plead guilty to the count regarding Wyman, the BMV mostly likely would receive a notification from the court because the charging language mentioned a motor vehicle.

But if he were to plead guilty to the charge involving Kumiega, and if his case had escaped public attention, there is a chance that the BMV would not learn about the case and suspend his license because the charge levied by the assistant district attorney does not mention a “vehicle.”

To address the root of the problem, some aspects of law that direct how the BMV and the courts swap information may have to be rewritten, said Ben Tucker, a former Director of Legal Affairs for the BMV who is now in private practice. Currently there is no explicit, affirmative duty for the courts to transmit information to the BMV except in cases that the courts have deemed to be “driving-related” – and, as illustrated by Rioux-Poulios’ case, that has in the past excluded many other serious crimes such as manslaughter.

He said it may make sense for lawmakers to clarify who exactly is responsible for transmitting information to the BMV, and make explicit that crimes not listed under the vehicle statutes but involving the operation of a vehicle can trigger license-related consequences.

The courts are not the only conduit of information into the BMV.

State law requires the state police, who manage the statewide crash reporting system, to report all crashes to the agency. While a crash might not necessarily trigger a suspension or license action immediately, it puts BMV on notice and is included in a driver’s license history.


Tucker said there are other quirks in state statute that appear to lack an explicit instruction for a state official to tell the BMV that something serious has occurred involving a licensed driver.

One example is when a driver hits and kills a pedestrian, Tucker said. In some instances, police will investigate and discover that the driver was not criminally at fault and was not breaking any traffic laws at the time but simply negligent in the operation of a vehicle, a civil infraction. A district attorney may even evaluate the case and decline to prosecute it.

Under state law, if the BMV finds out about the death, it can take action against the driver. But it’s not explicit who has a duty to notify the bureau.

In practice, Tucker said, district attorneys are vigilant about sending the required paperwork to the BMV to ensure that a suspension occurs.

That’s what happened in the the case of Rioux-Poulios’ 2021 conviction. The district attorney sent attested copies of the manslaughter conviction to the BMV, which led the BMV to ask the courts to send as confirmation the one-page abstract of conviction, but that form never arrived. So no license suspension was processed.

Sometimes information comes to BMV in other ways, like when clerks learn about a crash from a news story and ask police for information, starting a process that could result in suspension.


Some of the notification problems may be solved when both the courts and the BMV upgrade their aging computer record systems. The courts are already rolling out an electronic filing system, and BMV staff are in the early stages of planning an upgrade to their license record system, which is about 17 years old.

The abstract of conviction, the one-page confirmation to the BMV of a conviction, will then be able to be sent electronically, dispensing with envelopes and stamps to deliver critical pieces of information.

“The new Maine eFile system will be integrated with the BMV, which will dramatically improve the exchange of information between the organizations instead of relying on paper processes,” said Quinlan. “That wouldn’t necessarily resolve the issue presented by this case, however, given the nature of the conviction.”

Better technology  may also help the state more easily track and red-flag cases in which convictions fall outside of the “driving-related” statutes, even if the underlying misconduct centers on use of a vehicle.

Because of this lack of good data and a paper-based system, an audit of past cases is not possible, the secretary of state said last week.

Still, since Monday, BMV staff have identified four cases since 2020 that involved convictions for crimes not strictly classified as driving offenses that should have resulted in a loss of license. BMV staff have now initiated suspension proceedings in all of them.

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