Within Maine, almost all accused of a crime have the right to bail. Studies have shown if you can bail yourself out, you improve your ability to resolve your case with a favorable outcome. Unfortunately having the right to bail does not equate to every accused being released on bail before trial.
Let’s take some time to review the details of Bail in Maine. Particularly focusing upon what you need to know to exercise your right to bail, and how not to violate Bail in Maine.
- What is Bail in Maine?
- Why is Bail in Maine important?
- What are the Terms for Bail in Maine?
- How is Bail set in Maine?
- What happens if I cannot make bail in Maine?
- What are the differences between Post-Conviction and Pre-Conviction Bail in Maine?
- Can I get my bail refunded to me?
- How can I reduce my Bail conditions?
- What are the conditions which violate my bail?
- How can a Maine Criminal Defense attorney help?
What is Bail in Maine?
In our legal system, if someone is accused of a crime, they are innocent until proven guilty. However, they are in the precarious situation of being suspected of wrong-doing. If you have been arrested and charged with committing a crime, it is possible for the State to hold you in jail while the charges are pending. Since a trial can often be a long way off, even in a “speedy” criminal proceeding, it is in the your best interest to get “out on bail” as soon as possible. The Maine bail code is located at Title 15, Chapter 105-A.
Bail in Maine is used to describe the set of conditions which you agree to follow in order to remain free pending trial. If you are out on bail before trial, this is known as “pre-conviction bail.” If you are on bail while awaiting a prison sentence after being convicted or a waiting sentence, that is known as “post-conviction bail.”
Why is Bail in Maine Important?
Bail in Maine is important because it can help you in the ultimate outcome of your criminal case at Court.
Being released on bail in Maine, will provide you with opportunities not available while incarcerated and awaiting trial.
- You are able to have private access to your attorney at his office – Jails can lack in privacy. The interview stalls are setup up side by side. Several other attorneys may be meeting with their clients at the same time. Needless to say jailhouse conference rooms are an awkward setting to review audio or video evidence. Additionally you will be able to have a private appointment or phone call with your attorney when you are released on bail in Maine.
- You prove to the state you can follow conditions – The state carefully examines what you do with your time when you are on bail. How well did you follow the conditions? Did you take the opportunity to improve yourself? Did you end up violating your bail conditions?
- You will be able to help your attorney in trial preparation – You will be able to help your lawyer find witnesses, revisit the crime scene with your lawyer, or review your financial information, emails, texts or other records which you can share to help your defense strategy.
- You can have the opportunity to start a new path in life – While on bail you can take advantage of rehabilitation, drug treatment, counseling programs. Perhaps even gaining steady employment or enrolling in a few college courses building a new life for yourself showing how you are a contributing member of society.
In summary being out on bail in Maine not only allows you the ability to have greater contact with your criminal defense attorney, being free from jail provides the opportunity to show the State that you can abide by conditions. Following conditions helps show the State that you would be successful in a diversionary outcome, such as a deferred disposition agreement. In other words, it is what you do with your freedom that the State will notice. If you take the opportunity while out on bail to improve yourself, such as by maintaining employment, landing a job, going back to school, getting substance abuse or other treatment, this would reflect well on you at court.
At the same time, bail is not intended to be easy. There are common aspects of bail that everyone on bail must navigate through, including:
- Dealing closely with authority figures
- Following directions set by others
- Handling being supervised or infringements on freedom, such as random searches or drug testing
- Personal behavior modification, such as abstaining from alcohol or drugs
- Giving up (temporarily) personal property in the form of firearms, including all hunting firearms
For those on bail who are unaccustomed to dealing with these things, adhering to bail might feel like a chore. But, your criminal defense attorney will be able to assist you through any difficult points and offer advice how to approach your bail obligations.
Overall, if you perform “well” while out on bail, then this will help your criminal defense attorney get a better outcome. On the other hand, if you violate your bail conditions, then this can hurt you at Court and make your criminal defense attorney’s job more difficult.
Some States allow for a person’s bail to be bonded. If your bail has been bonded, it means that another individual has taken responsibility to assure that you appear at Court and adhere to your bail conditions. In these States, the Courts allow an individual known as a bail bondsman (think “Dog the Bounty Hunter”) to take on this role. Since Maine does not have this process, bail cannot be “bonded” in Maine.
Maine Bail Terms
When criminal defense attorneys in Maine talk about bail, it encompasses several things, including:
Cash bail– the amount of money set by the Bail Commissioner or the Court that you must pay before being released from the jail.
Making bail– when you pay your cash component of your bail, allowing your release from jail.
Bail Conditions– certain requirements that are attached to your bail and are required to be met in order to remain free. Common bail conditions include:
- No contact with the alleged victim
- No use or possession of alcohol or drugs
- No use or possession of dangerous weapons, including all firearms
- Drive only when properly licensed
- Report regularly to police department
- Being subject to random searches and seizures to assure your compliance with bail conditions
- Required Maine Pretrial Services Contract
Bail Hearing– Upon the Defendant’s request for a bail review or modification of existing bail, a hearing would be set by the Court. After the Court hears arguments, the Judge or Justice determines whether or not the bail-related requests are granted. Or, the State’s attorney and the criminal defense lawyer can come to an agreement about bail, which would then be signed off on by the Judge.
How is Bail set?
Here is a scenario of how bail in Maine is set in a criminal case. If the police have probable cause that you committed a crime, you would be arrested and brought to the county jail to be processed. At the jail, bail can be set by the Bail Commissioner, who is an officer of the court. However, the Bail Commissioner cannot set bail in all cases. If the Bail Commissioner cannot set bail, then the Court will be responsible for setting bail.
If the Court is responsible for setting your bail, you would wait in jail until an initial appearance in front of a Judge. This is usually with in 48 hours, notwithstanding weekends or holidays. At the initial appearance, the State’s attorney can argue for a certain bail to be set, and you or your Criminal Defense Attorney can argue for more lenient bail. Sometimes, the attorneys can come to an agreement on what the bail should be set at. Or, the Judge or Justice will make the final determination about set bail. When setting bail in Maine, a number of things are considered, according to 15 M.R.S.A. §1026 (4), including:
- The nature and circumstances of the crime charged
- The nature of the evidence against the defendant
- The defendant’s past criminal history and personal characteristics, including but not limited to:
- The defendant’s character and physical and mental condition
- The defendant’s family ties in the State of Maine
- The defendant’s employment history in the State of Maine
- The defendant’s financial situation
- The defendant’s record of attending or failing to appear at court dates
- Whether the defendant has a history of violating conditions of release
- Whether the defendant is on probation or not
What happens if I cannot make my bail in Maine?
One common bail arrangement is cash bail or participation in a diversion program, such as Maine Pretrial Services. If after meeting with a Maine Pretrial Services representative, what happens if they refuse to extend you a contract, and your cash bail component is too high? In this case, your criminal defense attorney could file a bail modification request asking for the Court to allow your release on different bail terms.
Is Post-Conviction Bail Different from Pre-Conviction Bail?
Pre-conviction bail and post-conviction bail look the same, but they take place at different stages of the case. Usually, post-conviction bail is granted when a convicted person is awaiting sentence or has been granted a stay (postponement) of the start date of a jail sentence. In this case, the person’s bail would continue before reporting to the jail. In some cases, post conviction bail can be granted pending an appeal.
Can I get my bail refunded to me?
Usually, the Court holds the bail until the case is closed. It is possible to get your bail money back if it was your money submitted in your own name. If someone else paid your bail on your behalf, then you cannot recover that money. However the person who paid your bail would be able to recover it for themselves.
It is important to note that if you violate your bail by committing new criminal conduct, and the State successfully terminates your bail, then you would forfeit your ability to recover your bail money.
Changing Bail Conditions
While bail conditions are intended to assure the defendant’s presence at court and the community’s safety, bail requirements are not intended to hinder a person’s daily life or deprive a person of their livelihood. Here are some examples of situations in which the bail requirements needed to be changed:
- No possession of alcohol condition when the person is a bar tender, winemaker, or brewer by trade.
- No contact condition with the other party when both parties are required to provide child care for mutual children.
- Required daily reporting condition to the police department when the person has moved to a different town a distance away, making daily reporting highly inconvenient and time-consuming.
- Requirement of an evening curfew when the person is engaged in shift work, sometimes working the night shift.
Unfortunately, bail conditions are not changed automatically. Bail in Maine can be changed only through an official court order upon motion by you or your criminal defense attorney. Otherwise, not adhering to your bail conditions would result in a bail violation.
Bail Reduction Request and Hearing
Getting your bail reduced begins with a motion to Modify or a De Novo Review. Modifying your bail starts with you or your criminal defense attorney filing a Motion to the Court requesting a change of the problematic bail condition. Usually, the State’s attorney will object to any changes to your existing bail. After the Motion is filed, a Hearing will be set to determine whether your bail should be changed. The attorneys argue to the Judge at the Hearing, and the Judge will make the final determination whether or not your bail is modified. Or, the attorneys can agree to modify the person’s bail, which is then signed off on by the Judge.
Not every bail modification request is granted. If the Judge denies the bail modification, then your bail conditions would stay the same.
Violating Bail Conditions
If you do not modify your bail conditions, and you are caught violating your bail conditions, you will be charged with a bail violation otherwise known as Violating Conditions of Release (VCOR). As a criminal defense attorney, I see bail violation cases regularly. Some of the most common violations I tend to see are:
- Alcohol Violations– Since alcohol is legal, and not everyone living in a household is on bail, this can pose a challenge for the person who must adhere to this bail requirement. The bail condition of “no use or possession of alcohol” is interpreted broadly by the State. This means that if any alcohol is found in a person’s home or car, the person on bail is deemed to be “in possession” of the alcohol. It does not matter if the alcohol technically “belongs” to another person in the household who is not on bail. The State will find a bail violation.
- Illegal Drug Violations– The condition of “no use or possession of illegal drugs” can be very difficult for a person who is already struggling from a drug addiction. Often, a person who is suffering from substance abuse issues cannot stop “cold turkey” simply because they have a bail condition. Therefore, these people often end up with a bail violation. In these cases, a more structured environment, such as Drug Court, might be more appropriate for these individuals to break a substance abuse habit.
- Violations of No Contact Conditions– In domestic violence cases, the defendant may attempt to contact the victim in violation of bail. Or, the victim might attempt to contact the defendant, and the defendant violates bail by responding to the victim’s text, voice mail, e-mail, or social media invitation. If the parties involved have a relationship, it can be difficult to maintain a No Contact condition. If the parties are attempting to contact one another due to problems stemming from the defendant’s absence, such as trouble finding child care, then this bail condition should be modified rather than risk a bail violation.
New Criminal Charges for Violating Bail
Violating bail can result in the person being arrested and charged with new criminal conduct, separate from and in addition to the original criminal charge the bail was from. Depending on the severity of the underlying criminal charge, Violating Condition of Release 15 M.R.S.A. §1092 can be a misdemeanor or a felony crime. If the underlying criminal charge is a felony, then violating your felony bail in Maine would be considered a Class C felony crime. If the underlying criminal charge is a misdemeanor, then violating your misdemeanor bail is considered a Class E crime.
The maximum penalties for a Class E misdemeanor can include up to $1,000.00 in fines and up to six (6) months jail. In contrast, the maximum penalties for a Class C felony can include up to $5,000.00 in fines and up to five (5) years jail. The jail time for the bail violation could run at the same time as the person’s existing sentence (concurrently), or it could run consecutively (one after another), resulting in a longer jail sentence.
Bail Termination Proceedings
If you violate your bail conditions, the State will also move to terminate your bail in favor of you going to jail pending trial. The State’s attorney would file a motion with the Court outlining the basis for terminating your bail, which would include any of the ways in which you violated your bail.
After being filed, the Court will set a Hearing date to determine whether your bail should continue or whether your bail would be terminated. Both attorneys would argue to the Judge, and the Judge would make the final determination whether or not bail would be terminated. If the person’s bail is terminated, that person would spend the remainder of the time in jail while awaiting trial.
How a criminal defense attorney can help
Because your freedom is at stake in a bail violation case, it is necessary that an experienced criminal defense lawyer represent you and fight for your rights. Here are some questions to think about when looking to hire an attorney for your bail-related case.
Does the criminal defense attorney understand the legal status of a person on bail in Maine? When you are on bail in Maine with a condition allowing random searches and seizures of your person, home, or car, the standard for what type of search violates your constitutional rights is different. The criminal defense attorney should understand this and know how to approach this case at Court accordingly.
Does the criminal defense attorney know what is at stake in your bail violation and fight it aggressively? In a bail violation, the State is looking to terminate your bail so that you go to jail. Your freedom is essential, and you cannot afford to lose it. Your criminal defense attorney should look to fight the case aggressively by taking on both the Violating Condition of Release case and the bail termination case at the same time, with the goal of preserving your bail in Maine.
Does the Criminal Defense Attorney have a track record of success in getting bail in Maine modified for the client? Prior success in obtaining favorable bail modifications is a good sign that the criminal defense attorney is experienced and knows how to address the issue of changing bail in Maine at Court.
If you or someone you know is facing a criminal charge involving Bail in Maine, needs to modify their bail conditions, or is facing a criminal charge for Violating Condition of release or other bail violation, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Nielsen will answer your questions and put your mind at ease as we begin to determine your defense strategy.
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