The case of a Woodstock man whose license was never suspended after he was convicted of manslaughter for a 2019 fatal crash has revealed a systemic flaw in how the Bureau of Motor Vehicles processes some of the most serious cases that involve the loss of life on Maine roadways, the secretary of state said Tuesday.

Ethan Rioux-Poulios, 26, was convicted of manslaughter after a police chase through Oxford County in 2019 that ended when he slammed into the back of a car, killing 70-year-old John Pikiell of Norway. In an eerily similar incident, Rioux-Poulios allegedly fled from police again last week, led them on a chase and crashed head-on into another vehicle, critically injuring a 28-year-old Portland woman. He now faces a half-dozen felony charges.

Ethan Rioux-Poulios

Rioux-Poulios’ license was never suspended as the law intended after his conviction, as BMV staff tried and failed to get the court to send them a half-page form certifying the case’s conclusion, permitting the agency to move forward with the suspension.

“This case identified a systemic problem,” said Emily Cook, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees the BMV. “Going forward we are building a tracking system to ensure leadership (has) visibility on key convictions with (district attorneys) and courts officials, which will facilitate timely and complete coordination. A regular monthly review will also be instituted with the bureau’s deputy secretary to ensure compliance and transparency.”

The bulk of infractions for routine driving-related offenses, sometimes up to 50,000 such cases annually, are processed smoothly by a staff of about 15 BMV employees using an automated system that connects to the computer system of the violations bureau, the agency in charge of processing traffic tickets. But when a driver in Maine is convicted of a serious crime such as manslaughter as a result of a fatal car crash, the conviction does not automatically result in the notification required to take steps against the driver’s license.

The error apparently stems from how Maine classifies crimes involving vehicles, which are in a different section of the law from the crimes against people. Because automatic notification is only made for offenses in the driving section, it means other – often more serious – crimes related to vehicles, such as manslaughter charges resulting from a car crash, are not included in the automatic notification process.


In the past, to close the gap, BMV staff have have had to track down the paperwork required from the court – a half-page form called an abstract of conviction – by calling the court clerk’s office on the public hotline and waiting to speak to a person, or by asking prosecutors to lobby the clerk’s office to send the information along, the secretary of state’s office said.

“Our staff reach out to the courts and DAs to try to get what we need to take the next steps, and unfortunately that hasn’t always been as successful as it should be,” Cook wrote.

Amy Quinlan, the state court administrator, did not respond to multiple requests for clarification about where the court’s responsibilities to pass along critical conviction information start and stop in cases that involve motor vehicles but are not classified as motor vehicle crimes under the law. But in a brief statement, Quinlan implied that the judiciary had no responsibility in Rioux-Poulios’ case to pass along critical information.

“He was not convicted of any offense under (the state’s driving statutes) or any violation legally related to motor vehicles or to the operation of a vehicle,” Quinlan wrote in response to questions. “As such, suspension would not have been an authorized sentence to impose by the court under (the manslaughter statute). Therefore, there was no court-ordered suspension. Nor would the court routinely send an abstract for such (non-driving-related) convictions to the secretary of state’s office.”


Secretary of State Shenna Bellows disagrees with Quinlan’s interpretation of the law.


“I read it and my head exploded,” Bellows said after being provided Quinlan’s statement in a phone interview Tuesday night.

“We are deeply concerned that the court is saying it’s not its responsibility (to transmit information to the BMV), and that would explain why our staff has not been receiving return phone calls or the follow-up from the courts to get the information we’re required to have in order to effectuate the suspension. It is astonishing to me that the judiciary is instructing us to disregard the law.”

After learning Monday of the problem in Rioux-Poulios’ case, BMV staff conferred with court officials and began the process to suspend Rioux-Poulios’ license, which will go into effect 10 days after the state sends him a written notification.

BMV managers also began combing through back cases to find other suspensions that may have slipped through the cracks, and have identified four convictions unrelated to driving statutes that should have triggered a suspension but were never completely processed because of missing paperwork from the courts.

The identities of the drivers whose licenses were not properly suspended were not released because of privacy laws. But the Secretary of State’s Office said the four incidents include three adults and one juvenile, for convictions that occurred in 2020, 2021 and 2022. One of the cases, from Oxford County, was previously unknown to the agency.

In that case, BMV had no previous notification of the conviction at all, and only heard about it when staff called the Oxford clerk’s office to inquire about Rioux-Poulios’ case, Cook said.


After Rioux-Poulios pleaded guilty to the 2019 manslaughter charge, he was sentenced to serve two years of a seven-year sentence, and was released about a month later, in August 2021, for time served.


Whether a license suspension would have stopped him from driving is unknowable. But Norway Police Chief Robert Federico said that in his experience, it likely wouldn’t have mattered.

“I wished I could say his suspension would have made a difference, but unfortunately scofflaws don’t care,” Federico wrote in an email response to questions about Rioux-Poulios’ case.

Although police familiarize themselves with photos of drivers in the area who are under suspension, Federico said suspended drivers often continue to get behind the wheel until they face the prospect of jail time, which occurs only after they are convicted three times and declared habitual offenders, which elevates the penalties.

The dynamic of reduced penalties has been amplified during the pandemic, when jails, pressed with COVID-19 cases, have refused to take prisoners for misdemeanor crimes.


“The best we can do is summons the offender and send them on their way,” Federico wrote. “It is very frustrating for police because most people think it’s our fault the offender is not in jail  They don’t understand the police NEVER let offenders out of jail. That’s up to the prosecutor or judge.”


In the case of Rioux-Poulios, his record of driving infractions began even before he earned his learner’s permit, his driving record shows.

In December 2015, Rioux-Poulios was cited for going 78 mph in a 55 mph zone and for driving without a license. Two months later, in February 2016, he was granted a permit – but it was suspended about a month later for the earlier citations and it was not restored until September 2017.

Before the first suspension was lifted, Rioux-Poulios was cited for speeding again, in April 2017, and the suspension was extended about a month until October 2017, when his privilege to drive was restored.

More speeding tickets followed in 2018, in March for driving 74 mph in a 50 mph zone and in April for traveling 90 mph in a 65 mph zone.


Rioux-Poulios spent most of 2019, 2020 and 2021 in jail, and when he was released, he kept his license because of the bureaucratic error.

Last Friday, police allege that he was behind the wheel of his father’s silver F-150 pickup truck and led officers on a chase, injuring two people and wrecking a second vehicle before he was arrested.

One of those injured, Nicole Kumiega, remains in critical condition at Maine Medical Center.

Rioux-Poulios made his first court appearance Monday and faces six felony charges. He was ordered held on $75,000 cash bail, and also faces a probation violation for allegedly breaking the terms of his release.

Assistant District Attorney Patricia Mador asked for no bail pending a hearing on the probation violations still in place from his manslaughter conviction, which Rioux-Pulios denied.

“This defendant’s conduct was egregious,” Mador said. “He placed many, many individuals – in addition to the parties that were actually injured – in serious risk of injury. And it is eerily similar to the factual predicate of the manslaughter conviction for which he is currently on probation.”

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