In Maine a “Protective Order” is a civil Order from the Court issued after a Protection From Abuse (PFA) or Protection from Harassment (PFH) Hearing or after a Consent Agreement is signed by a Judge. It is called a “Protective Order” because it is supposed to protect the person who filed the civil protection request from further domestic abuse or harassment. Like any Court Order, protective orders are enforceable. The charge, Violation of a protective order comes with serious consequences.
When the defendant from a Protection From Abuse or Protection From Harassment Order breaks the terms of the Protective Order, the State of Maine considers this the crime, violation of a protective order. If the Protective Order was a result of a PFA complaining of domestic abuse against a spouse, dating partner, or household member, the State of Maine also considers this action to be a domestic violence-related crime. In other words, even though a Protective Order may have come out of a civil issue, the consequences for failing to comply with the civil Court Order are criminal in nature. Often, this will come as a very unpleasant surprise to someone facing such a charge. And like any crime, a conviction is a permanent part of your criminal record, which is open for public view in a background check. Needless to say, this type of crime on your record has the potential to cause a lot of problems for you, both in the short term as well as the long term.
If you or someone you know is facing a domestic violence related crime, such as Violation of a Protective Order, I encourage you to Contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. We are happy for the opportunity to meet with you answering your questions and beginning to develop a legal strategy to help put your mind at ease.
If you are charged with violation of a protective order, hear are some things you need to know including how to help your defense:
- How can a charge of Violation of a Protective Order arise?
- What is the Maine law for Violation of a Protective Order?
- How can a criminal defense attorney help?
- What are the possible outcomes for a Violation of Protective Order allegation?
- What is the Maine court procedure for a Violation of a Protective Order charge?
If there were any questions that we do not answer on your violating a protective order allegation in this article, please feel free to contact us.
How can a charge of Violation of a Protective Order come about?
In my article about Protection From Abuse cases, I described the unfortunate story of the fictional couple Michelle and Andre from Biddeford, Maine. After Andre hit Michelle, Michelle filed a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Complaint against Andre.
Andre and Michelle’s PFA Hearing was resolved by a Consent Agreement. Andre had hired a defense lawyer, who advised him to enter into the Consent Agreement rather than risk a finding of abuse at an open hearing. In the Consent Agreement, Andre agreed to not have any contact with Michelle for the next two (2) years. The Judge signed onto the Consent Agreement, making their agreement an official Court Order.
Six (6) months into the Consent Agreement, Andre was having a hard time with the separation. It was late one night and Andre had been drinking heavily. Andre was flipping through old photos on his phone from when they were together. In the moment, he just wanted to tell her he was sorry so that they could get back together again. With his thinking impaired by alcohol, Andre goes on Facebook and sends several messages to Michelle directly, begging her to take him back. The next day, Andre discovered a Biddeford Police Officer at his door with a criminal Summons for Violatiion of a Protective Order.
Andre was in a state of shock. He exclaimed that he had never even talked with Michelle, because she never responded to his Facebook messages. The officer just told him to appear at court on the date on the Summons. Andre bowed his head into his hands, thinking “here we go again.”
Maine Law: Violation of Protective Order
The Maine Laws for Violation of Protective Order is statute,17-A M.R.S.A. § 506-B. Violation of Protective Order encompasses both orders from Protection from Abuse cases as well as Protection from Harassment cases. In Protection from Harassment cases, the issue is harassment and not domestic abuse. If the Protective Order was issued in a Protection from Harassment case, then a Violation of the Protective Order is considered a Class D misdemeanor.
In the event that the Protective Order is from a Protection From Abuse (PFA) case, the following applies:
- If the Protective Order was between family or household members, then a violation is considered a Class D misdemeanor.
- If the Protective Order from a PFA case is violated “through conduct that is reckless and that creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to the Plaintiff named in the Protective Order or who assaults the Plaintiff named in the Protective Order commits a Class C crime.”
If convicted of a Class D misdemeanor crime, the maximum penalties can include up to $2,000.00 in fines and up to 364 days jail time. If convicted of a Class C felony, then the maximum penalties increase to up to $5,000.00 in fines and up to five (5) years jail time. A felony conviction would mean becoming designated as a felon.
In addition, if you are charged with violating a protective order from a PFA case, this can also be considered a domestic-violence related crime. This could result in being charged more severely in the event of facing any future criminal charges for domestic violence.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer can Help
This is the second time for Andre having to go to court because of something that Michelle reported. Talking over this new situation with his defense lawyer, Andre learns that this type of charge is no laughing matter. Because of the potential of this being considered a domestic-violence related crime, Andre could be on his way to a felony if he gets convicted of this charge and then Michelle makes criminal allegations against him at a later date. Andre needs to fight this at court now to help him later. And he should not dare to handle this on his own, because the District Attorney will not take him seriously unless he has a criminal defense lawyer in his corner.
Some of the things that Andre’s lawyer can do for him include:
- Examine whether the police performed a proper investigation. Did the police check Michelle’s Facebook account to locate Andre’s messages? Did the police investigation respect Andre’s constitutional rights?
- Challenge the State’s evidence. Are all the facts cited by the State correct? Did Andre actually send those messages to Michelle? Did he actually attempt to have contact with her in violation of the protective order?
- Advocate for a favorable outcome at Court. With a criminal defense lawyer, the single greatest asset is the defense lawyer’s access to the District Attorney and ability to present persuasive legal arguments that the District Attorney will listen to, leading to an overall more favorable outcome in the case.
Possible Outcomes for Violation of Protective Order
Here are some of the possible outcomes in a Violating of Protective Order case.
- Dismissal– A dismissal is when the State drops the charge in its entirety. A dismissal is the best possible outcome in a criminal case. On your record a dismissal means that the charge will appear as “dismissed.” Dismissed criminal charges should not have any effect on your life or employment opportunities.
- Filing Agreement– A filing agreement is when the State agrees to set aside, or “file away” the criminal case for a period of time pending the Defendant’s good behavior. A filing agreement is also considered a favorable outcome in a criminal case.
- Deferred Disposition– A deferred disposition is when you enter a guilty plea to a criminal charge with the State, but the State does not act on a sentence right away. Here, sentencing is “deferred” pending the Defendant’s good behavior and meeting a number of conditions set by the State. In a case for Violation Protective Order, the State might want the Defendant to engage in counseling or an ant-batterer’s course, such as a CBIP. If the Defendant successfully meets the required conditions, then they would get the “upside” of the deferred disposition, such as a dismissal at the end or being sentenced to a lesser crime.
A deferred disposition can be a favorable outcome for the Defendant, depending on their motivation and ability to follow specific instructions to the letter. At the beginning of a deferred disposition, the Defendant enters a guilty plea to a crime. This means that the Defendant has the danger of that criminal conviction looming over their head during the entire deferred disposition period. If a defendant is liable to break the deferred disposition agreement, such as if Andre again Violates the Protective Order, this can trigger not only a felony domestic violence related crime, but also a violation of the deferred disposition, which can result in a conviction and sentencing, including the risk of jail time.
Therefore, my advice is always to never plead guilty to a criminal charge unless your plea is being made under the careful and educated advice of a criminal defense lawyer. Otherwise, you might be taking a risk that you will regret later.
Court Procedure for Violation of Protective Order
You might be noticing some changes down at your local courts as of late. This is because all of the criminal courts in Maine are in the process, or scheduled to, adopt the Unified Criminal Docket. In addition to Cumberland County (Portland) and Penobscot County (Bangor), the following additional counties have now adopted the Unified Criminal Docket criminal court procedure: Franklin County (Farmington), Hancock County (Ellsworth), Piscataquis County (Dover-Foxcroft), Sagadahoc County (West Bath), and Somerset County (Skowhegan). The following Maine counties are scheduled to adopt the Unified Criminal Docket during the summer of 2015: York County, Aroostook County, Washington County, Androscoggin County, and Oxford County.
Since Violation of Protective Order is most often a misdemeanor, I will go over the criminal procedure at the Unified Criminal Docket for a Class D misdemeanor charge.
Because he is charged with a misdemeanor, Andre’s first court date is an Arraignment. At Arraignment is where the charges are officially read to him, and he has the opportunity to answer to the charge in the form of Not Guilty. At the Arraignment, Andre and his criminal defense lawyer can attempt to negotiate with the District Attorney to resolve the case. However, the District Attorney is not in any way obligated to resolve the court case then and there at Arraignment. Often, even if the District Attorney does present an offer to resolve the case at Arraignment, the first offer is never the best offer.
The Dispositional Conference is the first official opportunity to resolve the case outside of trial. The defense lawyer and District Attorney meet to negotiate what might be an acceptable resolution to the case. As the Defendant, if Andre feels that he does not like the offer that the District Attorney will agree to, then the case will progress to further court dates.
The generic name of “Motion Hearing” encompasses any pretrial motion that is intended to address any issues of evidence before going to trial. An example of a pretrial motion hearing is a Suppression Hearing, which argues a Motion to Suppress (exclude) any evidence from trial that was obtained in violation of the Defendant’s constitutional rights. If no pretrial motions are filed with the Court, then the Motion Hearing would not be held.
Many Unified Criminal Dockets include an additional court date to attempt to resolve the matter without going to a trial, called a Docket Call. A Docket Call is the final opportunity to resolve a criminal case without going to a trial. The fact that the Unified Criminal Docket includes two (2) separate court dates to reach an agreement to resolve the case indicates that it is the Court’s desire that as many cases as possible are resolved without a costly trial. Nevertheless, it is the Defendant’s ultimate choice whether or not to accept any plea offers, and the Defendant retains the constitutional right to a trial.
At Trial, the District Attorney will use the written police report and witness statements to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Andre Violated the Protective Order with Michelle. Andre’s criminal defense lawyer will have the opportunity to cross-examine any testifying witnesses, including Michelle, and to examine the facebook evidence. If necessary, Ted will use the testimony of an expert witness to examine the breathalyzer evidence. The outcome of a Trial is a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
For More Information on Violating a Protective Order in Maine
If you liked this article on Violating a Protective Order in Maine, you might also find the following articles helpful:
- Maine Law: Protection From Abuse
- Why Should I fight a Maine PFA brought against me?
- Can I get a PFA in Maine on behalf of my child?