You might have heard the term “restraining order”. A restraining order can be obtained from the Court to keep someone away, such as an abusive dating partner when one is trying to get out of the relationship. Another common name for a restraining order is a Maine protection from abuse order. A Maine protection from abuse order is a civil order which protects against harm by household member or dating partner. It starts as a temporary order pending hearing. After a hearing, the final order may be effective up to two years.
If you have been served with a Temporary protection order, the first thing you need to do follow the restrictions on the order. As a part of the legal process, you will have an opportunity to share your side at a hearing. This is where having the Nielsen Group at your side can be a great help. Protection from Abuse orders can have a significant impact on your ability to see your family and where you live. Violating the order will further extend the impacts and you will be facing criminal charges. Having a cool head here with someone who has walked this road successfully before will help you greatly.
When facing a protection from abuse order, above all, the goal is to avoid any additional charges. The State of Maine, as well as the Maine Governor, is very focused on reducing the cycle of abuse brought by domestic violence. The courts only approve a protection from abuse order when there is suitable evidence to prove the abuse occurred. Under Maine Law, restraining orders also known as protection from abuse orders are taken seriously. It is in your best interest to contact the Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation to advise you on your best legal strategy to removing these orders. I am happy to answer your questions. Once you decide to become my client, I will defend your rights aggressively arguing for a dismissal of the protection from abuse allegation. As we discuss the details of your case at the free consultation, we will draw out our strategy for your defense. Our objective is to preserve your future and how you want it to be.
As your lawyer, we will fight for you using all of our passion, conviction, and influence. Given my decade of experience, this article is to help answer some of your questions about fighting a protection from abuse order and how a criminal defense attorney can help. In this article we will explain:
- A common scenario on how a protection from abuse order is arranged
- What is a Maine Protection from Abuse Order
- What types of protection from Abuse Orders exist and their duration
- The fine line between domestic violence and protection from abuse
- How a protection from abuse attorney can help
- Possible outcomes of a Protection From Abuse Order
- The court process for a Protection From Abuse Order
A common way a Maine Protection From Abuse order is placed
The State of Maine, as well as the Maine Governor, recognizes that domestic abuse is very damaging to those in intimate relationships, as well as any children living in the household. Therefore, the State has an interest in reducing the incidence of domestic abuse in a number of different ways. Let’s explore an example of domestic abuse in the fictional story of Andre and Michelle, a fictional couple.
Andre and Michelle have been dating for only a few months. Nevertheless, Andre recently moved into Michelle’s Biddeford apartment. Michelle became dissatisfied quickly with their arrangement. Since Andre works construction, he does not work much during the winter months. This makes Michelle resentful, as she has had to take on extra hours at the salon in order to make the rent.
On a rare evening when they both had the day off, Andre and Michelle spent the afternoon drinking beer and watching sports on television. Several beers later, the discussion arose who should go out for a “beer run.” Neither of them wanted to venture out onto the cold and snowy sidewalks. A discussion about who should make the beer run quickly became an argument over how Michelle feels that Andre “doesn’t do anything” and how she wishes that he would just get a job that paid all year long.
The argument escalates. Soon the inebriated couple is in each other’s faces. In a fit of anger, Andre throws a fist into Michelle’s left eye. Michelle lands on the couch and screams “Get out!”
Andre leaves the apartment in Biddeford to stay with a friend in South Portland. Andre believes that Michelle will “come to her senses” within a day or two and he will be back home in no time. Instead, Andre meets a York County Deputy Sheriff, who hands him some paperwork including a “Temporary Protection From Abuse Order” demanding that he have no contact with Michelle and a District Court date at Biddeford District Court.
Is this a bit similar to your situation? The Nielsen group has had extensive experience obtaining dismissals for protection from abuse orders in Maine. Please contact us to discuss the specifics of your predicament at our free legal consultation.
What is the Maine Law for Protection from Abuse
- a spouse or an ex-spouse
- a household member – someone who you currently live with or used to live with
- any current or former dating partner or intimate partner
- unpaid care providers of older dependent adults who may or may not be incapacitated.
The legal definition offers a broad definition to abuse as to cover any type of behavior committed by a household member or dating partner against another which is threatening or actually causes injury. Maine law places Protection From Abuse under Domestic Relations, the same section of the law governing married persons and families with children. Under 19-A M.R.S.A. Section 4002, the term “abuse” means any kind of abusive behavior committed by one household member or dating partner against another. The statute specifically reads:
“1. Abuse. “Abuse” means the occurrence of the following acts between family or household members or dating partners or by a family or household member or dating partner upon a minor child of a family or household member or dating partner:
- Attempting to cause or causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact, including sexual assaults under Title 17-A (the Maine Criminal Code)…
- Attempting to place or placing another in fear of bodily injury through any course of conduct, including, but not limited to, threatening, harassing or tormenting behavior.
- Compelling a person by force, threat of force or intimidation to engage in conduct from which the person has a right or privilege to abstain or to abstain from conduct in which the person has a right to engage.
- Knowingly restricting substantially the movements of another person without that person’s consent or other lawful authority by:
- Removing that person from that person’s residence, place of business or school;
- Moving that person a substantial distance from the vicinity where that person was found; or
- Confining that person for a substantial period either in the place where the restriction commences or in a place to which that person has been moved;
- Communicating to a person a threat to commit, or to cause to be committed, a crime of violence dangerous to human life against the person to whom the communication is made or another, and the natural probable consequence of the threat, whether or not that consequence in fact occurs, is to place the person to whom the threat is communicated, or the person against whom the threat is made, in reasonable fear that the crime will be committed; or
- Repeatedly and without reasonable cause:
- Following the Plaintiff
- Being at or in the vicinity of the plaintiff’s home, school, business or place of employment.”
As you can see, the term of “abuse” in “Protection from Abuse” is quite broad, and encompasses much more than the criminal domestic violence statute. Because of this, a Protection from Abuse case can become more complicated than the parties may have intended. The Nielsen group is experienced at helping clear up the confusion and getting your life back on track.
Maine Protection from Abuse – types and duration
The two types of protection from abuse orders in Maine are:
- Temporary protection from Abuse order – A temporary protection order is requested and stays in affect until a full order is granted or termination of the temporary order. In order to get the judge to grant a temporary protection of abuse order, the judge will review the allegations in the complaint and determine if a temporary protection from abuse order is necessary. The order takes affect as soon as it is served. Often a defendant first becomes aware of a temporary PFA order when it is served. A temporary restraining order exists for 21 days until the final hearing is held.
- Final Protection from Abuse order – The final protection from abuse order is issued after the final hearing. This hearing is held by the court and listed on your temporary protection from abuse order. At the court hearing both parties have a chance to either come to a consent agreement or to have a full hearing and present evidence. Often with my legal expertise, I work with my client and the other party to have reduced terms established within a consent agreement. Once the protection from abuse order is issued it normally lasts for up to two years. At the end of this time, if the victim still feels at risk of domestic abuse they can file to extend the PFA order.
Maine Protection From Abuse versus Domestic Violence
In the story of Andre and Michelle there seems to be a trend towards Domestic Violence Assault. Domestic Violence Assault comes from the same root cause – Domestic abuse. The common ground is Domestic abuse in both types of cases:
- Protection From Abuse– describes a civil legal process in which Michelle brought a civil case against Andre for domestic abuse. The “protection from abuse” is what Michelle gets with the Temporary Order as well as a final PFA Order. Many refer to a Protection from Abuse Order as a “restraining order.” Andre would not go to jail as a result of the PFA matter.
- Domestic Violence Assault– in contrast, Domestic Violence Assault is a criminal charge. If convicted of domestic violence, Andre could indeed face potential jail time along with hefty fines, mandatory bail conditions, and potentially probation.
If Michelle also makes a police report from that same incident, this could result in BOTH a PFA and a criminal domestic violence case for Andre. And the outcome of a PFA case can affect the outcome of a potential domestic violence assault criminal case against Andre. Therefore, Andre needs a criminal defense lawyer.
How a Defense Lawyer Can Help
There are numerous reasons why an attorney can be very helpful through the PFA process. Because of the Temporary PFA Order, Andre is not permitted to contact Michelle. Not being able to talk to Michelle about what happened made him feel like she was “taking advantage of the system,” and the uncertainty of what she might say at Court worried Andre significantly. In speaking to a defense lawyer, here are just some of the things that Andre discovered about defending himself in a Protection from Abuse (PFA) case.
In addressing domestic from abuse cases, here are some ways a defense attorney can help:
- A defense lawyer can have contact with the Plaintiff on your behalf: A defense lawyer can negotiate with Michelle to try to get a better idea of what her intentions are. Is she intending to get back together with Andre, or is the relationship over? Once the real issues are understood, then this can help the defense lawyer build a better defense for the PFA Hearing or craft a fairer agreement to resolve the PFA case right then and there.
- A defense lawyer can draft the Consent Agreement to Resolve the PFA: A defense lawyer can draft in perfect “legal-ese” an agreement between the parties to resolve the PFA case without having to hold a hearing in front of the Judge. This agreement can be designed to fit everyone’s needs. In this case, Michelle might agree that she does not want direct contact with Andre, but she might be agreeable to having incidental contact with Andre in a public place. If Andre and Michelle had any children, the agreement could also allow limited contact for the purpose of providing child care.
- NOTE: One benefit of a defense lawyer drafting the Consent Agreement is that it can increase the likelihood that the Judge will sign onto the agreement, making it official. The Judge has wide discretion in deciding whether or not to grant agreed-upon Protection from Abuse PFA Consent Agreements.
- A defense lawyer can advocate for you at the PFA Hearing: If the PFA Hearing progresses from negotiation to a formal Hearing with witnesses getting on the stand, a defense lawyer can advocate for you in front of the Judge and cross-examine any witnesses, including the complaining victim.
- A defense lawyer can use the PFA Hearing to prepare for your criminal defense if necessary: If Andre also had a criminal Domestic Violence Assault charge stemming from the same incident, the hearings for each case would be held at different times. Because the PFA Hearing by statute must be held within 21 days of filing with the Court, it is the PFA Hearing that gets held first. A good defense lawyer can make sure that a hearing transcript of the PFA Hearing can be produced to help defend your criminal case. Furthermore, a defense attorney can use the PFA Hearing to assess the potential strengths and weaknesses of the State’s evidence in the Domestic Violence Assault case. Statements from the PFA hearing as well as the PFA Complaint itself can be used in criminal trials because both the hearing and the PFA complaint and order are “official proceedings” and deemed “prior sworn statements” under Maine Law. See State v. Maynard, 2007 ME 79, 926 A.2d 172.
Possible Outcomes of a PFA
There is a range of ways that Andre and Michelle’s PFA case can be resolved:
Plaintiff Withdraws PFA Complaint: If Michelle has a change of heart before the PFA Hearing, she can choose to go to the Court and withdraw her PFA Complaint she had filed to start the case.
Note: This is very different from a domestic violence criminal case, where the wishes of the domestic violence victim have no impact on whether or not the domestic violence criminal case gets prosecuted.
Dismissal at Court: If Michelle got cold feet on the day of the PFA Hearing and did not show up, and if Andre did appear, then the case would be dismissed as though it had never happened.
Consent Agreement: If both Andre and Michelle attended the PFA Hearing, they would be afforded an opportunity to work out an agreement that they could both live with as a resolution, called a Consent Agreement. The Judge would sign off on their agreement, making it an official court order. The benefit of a Consent Agreement is that it avoids having the Judge having to make a determination whether or not there was domestic abuse.
Formal PFA Hearing: If Andre and Michelle are unable to reach an agreement, a formal PFA Hearing is held in front of the District Court Judge. After the PFA Hearing, the Judge will make a determination whether or not there was domestic abuse:
- Not a Finding of Abuse. If the Judge does not find that there was abuse, then the PFA case would be dismissed on the merits.
- Finding of Abuse. If the judge arrives at a Finding of Abuse, this means that “by a preponderance of the evidence” there was domestic abuse. Michelle wins a highly favorable PFA Order, which is in effect for two (2) years, and Andre has to follow whatever conditions are in the PFA Order.
Court Process for a Maine Protection From Abuse (PFA)
Here is the court process for a PFA. It takes place solely at the Maine District Court.
Filing a PFA Complaint
A Protection from Abuse (PFA) case begins when the person complaining of domestic abuse goes to the Maine District Court to pick up a packet of forms containing the Maine PFA Complaint and completes these forms. The Court Clerks are trained to assist you in completing these forms. The person filing the PFA Complaint is called the Plaintiff. The person who is the subject of the PFA Complaint becomes the Defendant. Filing the PFA complaint is free for the Plaintiff.
Temporary PFA Order
Once filed, a Maine District Court Judge will review the PFA Complaint. If the Plaintiff requested a Temporary Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order, then the Judge may grant it. The Temporary PFA Order may include provisions such as the following:
- Order the Defendant to stop abusing the Plaintiff
- Limit the Defendant’s contact with the Plaintiff and/or any minor children
- Forbid the Defendant from possessing any firearms
Service of Process on the PFA Defendant
After the Temporary Order is granted, the Complaint and Temporary Order are served on the Defendant, usually by a civil deputy Sheriff.
PFA Hearing and Order
After a Temporary Order is granted, a PFA Hearing date is also set. Maine Statute states that “a hearing must be held within 21 days at which the plaintiff must prove the allegation of abuse by a preponderance of the evidence.” The purpose of a Maine Protection from Abuse (PFA) Hearing is to resolve the PFA Complaint, whether by agreement or by a Judicial finding.
At the PFA hearing the parties have an opportunity to reach a Consent Agreement, which can contain any terms and conditions, as long as they are agreed upon by the parties and signed off on by the Judge. A signed Consent Agreement carries the same effect as a formal Court Order in that the agreement becomes enforceable in the event it is violated.
If the parties cannot reach a resolution, then a full Hearing is held. This means that the parties must present evidence to show the alleged abuse occurred, and the hearing must observe the Maine Rules of Evidence. A defense lawyer is trained in the Rules of Evidence, and can ensure that the judge hears the most important evidence in your favor. An attorney may also cross examine the PFA Plaintiff on the stand to expose inconsistencies the Plaintiff’s sworn statements.
Violating a Protection from Abuse Order
Violating a Protective Order is a crime of domestic violence according to Maine Statute. This could be either violating a temporary order, a Consent Agreement signed by the Judge, or violating a PFA Order determined by a finding of abuse. As a new and separate criminal charge, the Defendant would face a completely different set of court dates and risks, including conviction, fines, and possible jail time. Here, if Andre violates his PFA Order, and then commits new conduct later that results in a domestic violence charge instead of a PFA, then Andre is looking at a case of Felony Domestic Violence.
For More Information on Protection from Abuse Orders
If you liked this article on Maine Protection from Abuse Orders, you might also like the following articles:
- 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?
- What is a CBIP in Maine?
- Is an arrest mandatory when police are called for domestic violence in Maine?
- Can I ever get my gun rights back after a Domestic Violence Assault conviction?