Domestic Violence Stalking charges may come up in situation where a relationship has ended but one party still desires to keep in contact. With these allegations, one party’s perception of a clearly drawn line of what is acceptable contact and what is not acceptable contact are at issue. Domestic Violence stalking allegations come with serious repercussions. The first conviction of Domestic Violence Stalking is a class D misdemeanor crime. The maximum penalties are a fine of no more than $2000 and up to one (1) year incarcerated. The State of Maine has a very stern perspective when it comes to Domestic Violence. The prosecution will need to prove based upon the evidence that domestic violence stalking occurred.
If you are charged with domestic violence stalking you need a law firm committed to domestic violence defense. As an experienced Maine DV defense attorney, I have successfully handled many Domestic Violence cases throughout Maine. Our aggressive advocacy is a key component of your legal defense strategy.
At the free consultation, we will go over the specifics of your case. It is your chance to talk and our opportunity to listen. If you choose my firm to represent you, we are going to draw a line in the sand. On our side of the line is your future how you envision it to be. On the other side of the line is the Portland District Attorney, with their charges, penalties and potential jail time. Also the repercussions a conviction will have on your marriage, where you live, and your ability to get a job, or keep your existing profession.
As your lawyer, we will do everything in our power to stop them from crossing that line. We will fight for you using all of our passion, conviction, and influence.
If you are charged with Domestic Violence Stalking in Maine, here are some things you need to know including how you can help your defense.
- How can you be arrested for Domestic Violence Stalking?
- What are the Maine laws for Domestic Violence Stalking?
- What are the penalties for a Domestic Violence Stalking?
- How can a Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Help?
- What are the common outcomes to a Domestic Violence Stalking charge?
- What is the Maine court process for Domestic Violence Reckless Conduct?
A common scenario on how an arrest for Domestic Violence stalking occurs.
Stalking is a serious matter. We will go over a a fictional example of domestic violence stalking between former dating partners, Jake and Jill. Even though these characters are fictional, the sober impact of domestic violence stalking criminal charges is very real.
During their brief relationship, Jake never “raised a hand” towards Jill, but she found him increasingly demanding to know where she was at every minute of every day, and getting mad at her if she deviated just a little from when she said she would be somewhere. Jill found this behavior to be overly possessive. If he could not “trust” her enough to leave his sight during the day, then in her eyes it was not a two-way relationship. Even though Jake resisted ending the relationship, Jill cut him off abruptly.
Jake is very concerned about Jill even after the relationship ended. Jill works long hard hours at a Biddeford retail store in a work environment that is not the best. In Jakes opinion, Jill needs someone to look out for her as she is too independent. Worried about Jill, Jake leaves her a couple of voicemails and text messages for her. As time goes on the voicemails begin to take a tone more severe than before. After a month or two, Jake also starts to confirm that Jill makes it home safe at night, since he is worried about her.
Several months later, Jill is noticing Jake’s car parked nearby wherever she goes, and she has been receiving dozens of voice mail messages on her phone from Jake’s number that warn her to “watch her back.” As a result, Jill changes her work schedule at the retail store where she works, the route she takes to work each day, and her cell phone number. Still, she notices Jake’s car parked nearby. Now Jill is frightened and feels that Jake is stalking her. What more she is beginning to believe that he might escalate his behavior to trying to hurt her physically. Jill calls the police and makes a detailed witness statement. Soon thereafter, Jake is charged with domestic violence stalking.
What is the Maine Law for Domestic Violence Stalking?
In my experience defending domestic violence cases in Maine, Domestic Violence Stalking as a charge is less common than Domestic Violence Assault, Domestic Violence Criminal Threatening, and Domestic Violence Terrorizing, but it is nevertheless a serious charge.
In Maine, Stalking (17-A M.R.S.A. Sec. 210-A (1)) is defined as:
“A person is guilty of stalking if:
- The actor intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at or concerning a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to:
- To suffer serious inconvenience or emotional distress;
- To fear bodily injury or to fear bodily injury to a close relation;
- To fear death or to fear the death of a close relation;
- To fear damage or destruction to or tampering with property; or
- To fear injury or death of an animal owned by or in the possession and control of that specific person.”
When the defined “stalker” and “stalked” are “household members” according to Maine Statute (17-A M.R.S.A. Sec 210-C), such as Jill and Jake being former dating partners, then Jake’s actions are domestic violence stalking. The terms “intentionally or knowingly” mean that the Statute considers Jake’s state of mind when contemplating the charge. In other words, did Jake intend to stalk Jill?
What are the penalties for Domestic Violence Stalking in Maine?
A first offense domestic violence stalking charge is considered a Class D misdemeanor. If convicted of a Class D misdemeanor, the maximum penalties include up to $2,000.00 in fines and up to 364 days jail time.
However, if the offense is a second offense domestic violence-related charge, then domestic violence stalking can be a Class C felony. The maximum penalties for a Class C felony conviction include the maximum penalties of up to $5,000.00 in fines and up to five (5) years jail time.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Facing a domestic violence charge in Maine, Jake should not try to take care of it himself at Court. The District Attorney takes all domestic violence cases seriously, and if you are not represented by an Attorney, District Attorneys in Maine will just expect you to plead guilty to the DV charge. If you go it alone against the State at Court, you will lose. In contrast, a domestic violence criminal defense lawyer knows how to approach your case at court, as well as possess the expertise to fight for the best possible outcome.
In order for the State to prove a charge of domestic violence stalking against Jake, they must be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that they must prove that Jake’s actions meet all of the elements of the crime. This means that:
- The State must prove that Jake had the requisite “state of mind” to have committed the crime. e. The feelings that Jill had were caused intentionally by Jake.
– Jill’s reactions fit into the statutory language.
The Statues involved in a domestic violence stalking case involve some very specific language with very “legalese” definitions, including:
- “Serious Inconvenience.” This occurs when a person significantly modifies their actions or routines in an attempt to avoid the actor or because of the actor’s course of conduct. According to Statute, “serious inconvenience” includes, but is not limited to, changing a phone number, changing an electronic mail address, moving from an established residence, changing daily routines to and from work, changing employment or work schedule or losing time from work or a job.
- “Emotional Distress.” Legally, “emotional distress” means mental or emotional suffering of the person being stalked as evidenced by anxiety, fear, torment, or apprehension that may or may not result in a physical manifestation of emotional distress or a mental health diagnosis.
It is the role of the criminal defense lawyer to reveal “reasonable doubt” whether the State’s evidence is sufficient to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. In this case, given that Jill already has changed her work schedule and travel routes to and from work, as well as changed her cell phone number, it does appear that the State will be able to meet the “serious inconvenience” definition.
Regardless of whether the case “looks good” for the defendant, as a criminal defendant, Jake has a right to a trial in front of a Jury or a Judge, and he has the right to confront his accuser in open court. At a trial, criminal defense counsel will cross-examine the State’s witnesses, including Jill, the State’s star witness. If Jill refuses to testify at Court, then the District Attorney would not be able to present a case to the Jury.
Possible Outcomes of DV Stalking
In my practice, my most frequent advice to clients is to never plead guilty to any criminal charge without understanding and appreciating fully all of the consequences, short-term as well as long-term. While the court-imposed sentence could include jail time and a fine, a domestic violence stalking charge can also carry a good amount of stigma, characterizing the defendant as not only an “abuser” but a “stalker” as well. In many instances, employers might be hesitant at best to keep someone with that type of criminal record on their staff.
In Jake’s case, the following situations could result:
- Favorable Plea Agreement- one resolution to a case is a negotiated plea agreement between the district attorney and criminal defense counsel. What makes for a good plea arrangement depends on the facts of the case and its strengths and weaknesses. It could either be a filing or it could be a guilty plea to a lesser charge, one that would not carry the same stigma as DV stalking.
- Deferred Disposition– a deferred disposition is when the State accepts a guilty plea, and then determines sentencing at a later date. Since a deferred disposition involves a entering guilty plea, you will want to be certain that you are comfortable with and capable of completing any requirements due before sentencing is determined. If you are successful in meeting your deferred disposition requirements, then you would get the benefit of the plea bargain, such as a conviction to a lesser crime, or even a dismissal. In domestic violence cases, the deferred disposition requirements often include participating in a Certified Batterer’s Intervention Program (CBIP) in order to help the offender change their perspective about domestic relationships.
- Trial Verdict– The best way to test the State’s evidence is to take the case all the way to a trial for your day in court. Why not make the State prove its case against you? If the State can’t prove its case, then you are acquitted of the charges. Furthermore, when the District Attorney sees that you are standing up for yourself, you might get finally get a good plea offer if they know that their case is weak. Or, you will reveal the State’s weaknesses at Trial, and perhaps even convince the jury of your innocence.
Court Process for DV Stalking
Here is the court process for a first offense domestic violence stalking charge out of the Unified Criminal Docket in Portland.
Arraignment and Bail
All Domestic Violence cases in Maine carry certain mandatory bail conditions, such as no possession of dangerous weapons, including all firearms. If the defendant wishes to change any of his bail conditions then this issue can be addressed with the Court at the defendant’s Arraignment. At Arraignment, you answer to the charge in the form of Not Guilty. Also at Arraignment, you can expect to receive a copy of the police reports, also known as discovery.
A dispositional hearing is a court date that determines whether your domestic violence case will be going to trial. At the Dispositional Conference, the attorneys meet to negotiate a potential resolution without going to a trial. As the defendant, Jake would be able to accept or reject any offers to resolve the case.
If Jake finds the resolution acceptable, then he would accept the plea offer, and no further court dates would be necessary. But if no resolution reached at the Dispositional Conference was acceptable, then Jake’s case would progress to a pretrial hearing and a trial.
Pretrial Motion Hearing
If the discovery shows that certain evidence could have been obtained in violation of your constitutional rights, then your criminal defense lawyer would file an appropriate pretrial motion, such as Motion to Suppress. The purpose of a Pretrial Motion Hearing is to resolve any issues pertaining to the evidence before heading to trial.
A trial is a person’s very public day in court. In domestic violence cases, many defendants choose to not go this far. If the defendant intends to have a trial, the criminal defense lawyer should support this choice, and the facts of the case should favor the defendant’s version of events.
Often, defendants face the question whether to have a jury trial or a trial in front of a judge. The judge decides cases based on the letter of the law. However, the jury often can see thing from a Defendants point of view and pujt themselves in your shoes and reach “reasonable doubt”.
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.
For More Information on Domestic Violence Stalking
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