State law governs Domestic Violence in Maine with severe penalties. This post provides a review of Domestic Violence in Maine and what the State needs to prove. We also review how Domestic Violence in Maine can be different from other charges.
Domestic Violence Defined
Domestic Violence Assault in Maine is a serious matter. If any of the following crimes are committed against a dating partner or other family or household member, including any children, that crime is charged as Domestic Violence in Maine:
- Domestic Violence Assault
- Domestic Violence Terrorizing
- Domestic Violence Criminal Threatening
- Domestic Violence Stalking
- Domestic Violence Reckless Conduct
Usually, a domestic violence crime is charged as a misdemeanor. However, for multiple Domestic Violence (DV) charges committed by the same person, the crime can be charged as a felony.
The determining factor in whether the crime is a domestic violence crime is the relationship between the victim and the accused. In Maine, a broad range of domestic relationships are considered as “family or household members.” It is not limited to relations by blood or marriage. Some “household” members include:
- current or former spouses
- current or former dating partners
- co-habitating adults
- biological parents of the same child
- “casually” dating sexual partners
Since Maine Domestic Violence crimes focus on the words or actions of the accused and the relationship with the victim, both men and women can be accused of committing Domestic Violence. Because Maine law enforcement and District Attorneys take the crime of Domestic Violence very seriously, it is best to hire an Maine DV Defense attorney as soon as possible so that your attorney can maximize what he can do to defend against the charges.
Arrest for Domestic Violence
In a Domestic Violence arrest, the first thing is the police receive a call to respond to a domestic situation. They might have been called by someone involved in the domestic dispute, or they might have been called by a concerned neighbor who overheard an argument that got out of hand. In a domestic dispute, often I see arguments that can escalate beyond what either party intended. However, after the police arrive, the matter is out of their hands.
In a typical domestic violence call, usually two officers respond, and each officer will speak to one of the parties to find out what happened. If the parties have any physical marks on them, such as bruises or scrapes, these will be noted. In addition, the police might look around the house for possible physical evidence of an argument, such as any broken or damaged items in the home or items that are out of place due to a confrontation.
Certain domestic violence crimes do not require the presence of obvious physical injuries in order for domestic violence to have taken place. For example:
- Assault- In Domestic Violence Assault charges, the “assault” is any offensive contact, regardless if it leaves a physical sign. Pushing, shoving, or grabbing an arm might not necessarily leave a mark. It does not mean that an assault did not take place.
- Criminal Threatening- In Domestic Violence Criminal Threatening charges, the defendant does not have to touch the victim. The charge only requires that the defendant put the other person in imminent fear for their physical safety.
- Stalking- In Domestic Violence Stalking charges, again the defendant does not need to touch the victim. However, the defendant’s actions of stalking have put the victim in fear of his or her personal safety or the safety of his or her property.
If the police have grounds for probable cause that one of the parties has committed a domestic violence crime, then that person would be arrested, processed, and taken into custody.
Bail and Mandatory Conditions for Domestic Violence in Maine
If you are charged with Domestic Violence in Maine, you are taken to the county jail and bail is set. If you cannot afford bail, then you would wait in jail a few days until Arraignment, where bail can also be discussed and possibly modified. Most accused of domestic violence are able to make bail. Upon release from custody, Maine has a number of domestic violence-specific mandatory bail conditions, including:
- No Contact with the alleged victim
- No use or possession of Alcohol or Illegal Drugs
- No possession of dangerous weapons, including all firearms
- Being subject to random searches and seizures of your person, home, and vehicle to assure that you are following your bail conditions
Some of these bail conditions have collateral consequences that affect the person accused. For example:
- If you were living with the victim at home, then the No Contact bail condition would forbid you from going home, even after you had been released from jail.
- The condition “no use or possession” of alcohol is interpreted broadly, even if the alcohol in your home technically “belongs” to another person.
- If you enjoy outdoor sports that involve firearms, such as hunting or skeet shooting, the “no possession of dangerous weapons” condition forbids you from having any firearms for any reason. If you previously had firearms, then you would have a trusted friend or neighbor hold them for you until the legal matter is resolved.
Bail conditions remain in effect until the criminal case has been resolved, including if it is dismissed or if the defendant is found guilty.
If during a random search by law enforcement you are found to be in violation of any of your bail conditions, you could face additional new criminal charges for violating your conditions of release, which can compound your legal problems.
Soon after the person has been arrested for domestic violence, that person has an opportunity to answer to the charge at court. You will be formally Arraigned in front of a Judge, who will read the details of the charge to you. And then you answer to the charge in the form of Not Guilty.
It is essential that the person facing domestic violence charges to enter a Not Guilty plea. To plead any other way would have the effect of a conviction, and the penalties for domestic violence are significant and long-lasting.
If the accused cannot afford to pay bail, or if there are objectionable bail conditions, then the issue of bail can be addressed at Arraignment also.
Discovery and Private Investigators
After you are arraigned, either you or your attorney would receive a copy of the discovery materials (police reports, etc.) from the District Attorney’s Office. In a Domestic Violence case, finding out exactly what happened in a “he said, she said” situation can be a challenge, and it is important to the Maine DV defense attorney to build an effective defense. Some of the factors defense counsel would be looking for in the discovery include:
- Any inconsistent statements made by the victim
- Any factual inconsistencies included in the police report
- Any facts that were left out of the police report
In a Domestic Violence case, if the police reports appear unclear or incomplete, it might be worth your while to consider retaining a Private Investigator as an expert witness to again talk to any witnesses, including the victim, to see if their testimony has changed since the last time police came by. The cost of a private investigator would be separate from and in addition to your lawyer’s retainer.
The next significant court date in a domestic violence case is a dispositional hearing, called a Dispositional Conference or Docket Call in Maine. Here, the Maine DV Defense Attorneys have the opportunity to meet to discuss a potential resolution to the case without going to a trial. If the State’s case is weak in any way, Maine DV Defense Attorney will emphasize the State’s weaknesses. However, keep in mind that the State takes domestic violence in Maine, charges very seriously, and so an aggressive defense advocate is a must-have in a domestic violence case.
In several instances, the domestic violence charges might be reduced in the form of a plea deal or set aside pending the defendant’s good behavior over time. If after reviewing any negotiated offers the Defendant does not wish to accept the deal offered, then the case would proceed to Jury Selection and a Trial.
In a domestic violence case, a trial is a very public proceeding, and many defendants choose to not go this far. If the defendant does choose to go to trial on a domestic violence charge, this choice should be supported by Defense Counsel and the facts and private investigation reports should favor the defendant.
Often, one question facing a defendant for a domestic violence trial is whether to choose a jury trial or a trial in front of a Judge. For a jury, domestic violence can carry significant stigma, and so it might be difficult for some to separate their personal and emotional biases from the case that is in front of them. For a Judge, the question is determined by the letter of the law. Either way, the outcome of the trial is the defendant is found guilty or not guilty by the fact finder. When you have a strong legal advocate, you have a better chance of resolving the charges before ever reaching a trial.
If you would like to learn more about domestic violence in Maine, please check out:
- How an attorney can help fight Domestic Violence Assault charges in Maine.
- Facing DV Criminal Threatening Charges? Here is a good overview.
- Do I have to be married to be accused of domestic violence in Maine?
- Can a simple push be considered Domestic Violence Assault?
- What if my spouse wants to drop the domestic violence charges?
- Is there a way to remove a No Contact Order (NCO) from my bail conditions in Maine?