I am an experienced domestic violence defense attorney in Maine. Over the past decade, I have defended many domestic violence cases all across Maine with a heavy concentration in Portland Maine. Below I am sharing a Maine DV Defense Attorney’s perspective of defending those accused of violating Maine’s Domestic Violence Laws. This article shares information regarding Maine Domestic Violence Laws, Penalties and DV Defense Strategies. If you are accused of Domestic Violence in Maine, the charges are serious. The good news is that a seasoned Portland Maine DV Defense Attorney will be able to help you. A Maine DV Defense Attorney can review the evidence, point out issues with either the process used to obtain the evidence or the quality of the evidence itself. DV Defense of Domestic Violence cases in Maine are anything but simple. These cases are complicated from examining the evidence to cross-examining the victim’s account of events. Simply put, DV Defense can be described as shining light on the evidence and showing reasonable doubt to the jury.
The Portland District Attorney’s goal is to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” the domestic violence charges. The prosecutor will focus upon the serious nature of domestic violence, discuss piece by piece the incident of domestic violence within the relationship, and corroborating the victim’s account. Domestic Violence Cases involve complex issues of statutory interpretation, character assassination, and the validity of trail evidence. With the right DV defense attorney, they can leverage the weaknesses and inconsistencies of the evidence thereby creating a solid DV defense strategy for you.
As we talk about the details of your case at the free consultation, one of things we discuss is the line in the sand for your DV Defense. 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 rights, 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 experience.
If you are facing Domestic Violence Charges in Maine, we will give you a head start with what you need to know and how a Portland Maine DV Defense Attorney helps to develop a successful DV Defense. This DV Defense article will review:
- What are the Maine Domestic Violence Laws?
- How does a Portland Maine DV Defense Attorney Defend Domestic Violence Charges?
- What is the Maine Court Process for Domestic Violence Misdemeanors?
- Impacts of Domestic Violence Criminal Charges
- Understanding the Certified Batterer’s Intervention Program
What are the Maine Domestic Violence Laws?
Generally speaking, Maine has six (6) domestic violence offenses:
- Domestic Violence Assault – A simple assault when the victim is a “family or household member” of the accused.
- Domestic Violence Criminal Threatening – When a person knowingly places a “family or household member” in fear of imminent bodily injury.
- Domestic Violence Terrorizing – When a person communicates a threat to commit a violent act dangerous to human life to a “family or household member” with an object that can be used as a weapon
- Domestic Violence Stalking – Stalking when the victim is a “family or household member” of the accused.
- Domestic Violence Reckless Conduct – When a person recklessly creates a substantial risk to a “family or household member”.
- Violation of a Protective Order (VPO) – When a person is found in violation of a restraining order placed upon them by a “family or household member”.
For Domestic Violence in Maine, you will note that all DV charges have the victim as a “family or household member”. Maine Domestic Violence laws guide that domestic relations go beyond a marriage spousal relationship. Domestic relationships are considered either family or household members. These relations are not limited to family blood relatives or current spouses. Additional “household” members often include:
- Current and former spouses
- Current and former domestic partners
- Adult household members
- Biological Parents of the same child
- Dating or Sexual Partners (if you have had sex with the person, you will always be considered in a domestic relationship with them. Even after the relationship ends.)
With all Domestic Violence Charges in Maine, it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to clearly prove that the accused committed the crimes beyond all responsible doubt. Frankly speaking, there are few open and shut cases. It is my job to develop a successful DV Defense strategy.
How does a Portland Maine DV Defense Lawyer Defend Domestic Violence Charges
A Portland Maine DV Defense Attorney’s responsibility is to help you understand the guidance that the law provides, your legal rights, how evidentiary procedure works, what the police operating procedures are, and what defenses you can mount to fight your domestic violence charge. My goal is to make these charges go away. I work to achieve this goal by fighting for you on several fronts. If you have a defense to the charge or your rights were violated during the investigation, my main focus is on exploiting these weaknesses in the State’s case for your benefit. If you do want to go through the stress of a public trial then I aggressively advocate for you with the prosecution to negotiate a favorable offer. I work to bring up reasonable doubt inherent in the State’s case. Some common DV defense strategies I explore when mounting a DV defense against domestic violence charges in Maine are:
- Review the Police Investigation for any Violations of your Miranda Rights – Were the constitutional rights of the accused respected? Did the police conduct a proper investigation? Did the police attempt to coerce a confession out of the accused? If the police investigation is based upon a confession or information which violate the accused’s constitutional civil rights, then we can petition the court to have that evidence and any trail of the “tainted fruit” excluded from trial.
- Determine if a Private Investigator May Be Beneficial – As time passes, we may remember things differently. This is often the case with witnesses, including the complaining victim. The witness or victim can change their story from when the police made their initial report. A private investigator can talk with the witnesses again. The Private investigator will also talk with any witness which may have not been approached by law enforcement to see how those witnesses remember the event. Any difference in witness stories is important for the defense of your case.
- Ascertain if the State’s witness has credibility problems – With domestic violence charges in Maine, a key component of the State’s evidence of the crime is the witness statements gathered by the police when the incident occurred. Often the State’s best witness tying the accused to the crime is the victim. In our justice system, defendants accused of committing a crime have the right to confront their accusers at court and to cross-examine their testimony. It is the role of the criminal defense attorney to defend the case by highlighting the holes in the state’s case and inaccuracies in witness testimony.
- Evaluate the factual evidence – As I have a decade of legal experience, I will take a close look at the facts examining what occurred during the incident. Was alcohol a factor? In the heat of the moment, who started what? Was the physical content intentional, knowing or reckless? Was the contact “offensive” or maybe it was someone just trying to quickly leave a situation turning rapidly worse?
- Was self-defense sensible in this situation – As Mainers, we are allowed to protect our self if someone is trying to physically harm us. If self-defense was warranted, then it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove that it was not warranted in this instance.
Given all of these nuances and specific facts of your situation, I often find several points to help mount a successful DV defense highlighting reasonable doubt. Often a minor inconsistency can be the leading event which shines reasonable doubt on the state’s case. Other times these minor inconsistencies are the bricks and mortar, I leverage to negotiate a better outcome for you with the prosecution. Over the past ten years, I have learned a lot about the various prosecutors throughout Maine. I know which tactics work with which audience.
What is the Maine Court Process for Domestic Violence Misdemeanors
In Maine the first offense of domestic violence is a class D misdemeanor. The Maine Domestic Violence laws do not carry a mandatory minimum sentence. This lack of a mandatory minimum penalty for domestic violence charges was substantiated recently by the Maine Supreme Judicial court by State of Maine v. Rogers Harrell. However, in 2013 Governor LePage did sign into law that you can be sentenced to attend a certified batterer’s intervention program. The Maine Statute states the penalty for domestic violence misdemeanors are:
Penalties for a Maine DV Misdemeanor
|Fine||$2,000 fine (plus fees and surcharges)|
|Jail Time||364 days jail|
|Probation||Often sentences for DV charges require a period of Probation
which carry a condition requiring the completion of a 48 week
Certified Batterer’s Intervention Program (CBIP)
You have the constitutional right to a speedy trial. As your attorney, I will educate you on the Maine Court Process. This is something you need to know as what happens and what comes next in the legal process.
As with all crimes, we will start after the arrest when it is the question if you can make bail. You should be aware there are Mandatory Bail Conditions for Domestic Violence Charges in Maine. After being brought to the jail, bail can be set. It is vital that you make bail, you can see the reasons why in this article on Bail in Maine. Quite often, those accused of domestic violence assault make bail. After making bail, the person is released under a number of 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
If you make Bail
If you made the bail established by the Bail Commissioner, you have received a Summons with an Arraignment date to appear at court. At Arraignment, you have the opportunity to answer to the charge in the form of Not Guilty after the Judge reads the charges to you. If there were any objectionable bail conditions to which you or your attorney filed a motion to modify over, then any issues pertaining to bail can be addressed at Arraignment, or set for a hearing at a later date.
If you do not make Bail
If you could not make the bail set by the Bail Commissioner, then you remain incarcerated until you can be brought in front of a Judge to be Arraigned. This is normally within 48 hours. While standing before the Judge, the charges against you would be read, and you would have an opportunity to answer to the charge in the form of Not Guilty. At Arraignment, conditions of bail could also be reset.
When facing a charge for domestic violence assault in Maine, it is essential to enter a plea of Not Guilty at Arraignment. If you pled guilty, you would be convicted and sentenced without the State having to meet its burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The next significant court date in a domestic violence assault in Maine case is a dispositional hearing, called a Dispositional Conference or Docket Call. Here, the attorneys have the opportunity to discuss a potential resolution to the case without going to a trial. If the State’s case is weak in any way, Defense Counsel will emphasize the State’s weaknesses.
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.
If after reviewing the State ’s evidence and the criminal defense attorney believes that some evidence might have been obtained in violation of your constitutional rights, then your Portland Maine DV Defense attorney would file an appropriate pretrial motion, such as a Motion to Suppress. A Motion to Suppress requests that the questionable evidence be suppressed (excluded) from trial. After briefs are filed, a Hearing is held where the Judge will decide whether or not the questionable evidence can be “suppressed.” If the defense is successful in this effort, this can result in parts of the State’s evidence out of evidence at 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 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 potential jurors to separate their personal and emotional biases from the case that is in front of them. During the jury selection process, the attorneys will try to exclude the potential jurors who might be biased in favor of one party or the other. Despite the attorney’s best efforts, sometimes, biased jurors slip through jury selection and onto the jury. 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.
Impacts to your freedom from Domestic Violence Criminal Charges
If you are charged with a domestic violence offense in Maine, there are restrictions on your freedom that are placed while you are out on bail. If you have been convicted there are additional restrictions placed on your freedom after you are released from jail, known as collateral consequences.
Looking at the mandatory bail conditions in Maine and how they impact your freedom:
- A No Contact Order: You will need to avoid all contact with the alleged victim. This order bans any contact with the alleged victim by any means. You cannot have direct contact, such as facebook messaging, face to face discussions, phone calls or living in the same residence. You will not have any opportunity to apologize or talk the events through with the victim. If the alleged victim tries to contact you, you cannot respond to them. You will need to establish a temporary residence until the criminal charge has been resolved.
- No use or possession of Alcohol or Illegal Drugs: While out on bail, you will need to remain sober or get sober immediately. If you believe you will need help recovering from an addiction, you will need to take the appropriate steps. If this is your situation, let’s talk about options that can help you.
- No possession of dangerous weapons, including all firearms: While you fight the domestic violence charges, you cannot own any firearms or dangerous weapons (swords, knifes, bow and arrows). This will impact your ability to go hunting as you cannot hunt without a dangerous weapon.
- Being subject to random searches and seizures of your person, home, and vehicle to assure that you are complying with you bail conditions
Looking at the collateral consequences resulting from a DV in Maine and how they impact your freedom:
- If you are convicted of domestic violence charges, you will permanently lose your right to carry/own firearms. Federal law (18 U.S.C. § 922[g][1-9]) forbids the possession of firearms, ammunition or explosives. The penalty for violating this law is ten years incarceration and up to a $250,000 fine. For more information check out my gun rights in Maine article.
Understanding the Certified Batterer’s Intervention Program (CBIPs)
Certified Batterer’s Intervention Programs were first established in the late 1970s. They have shown good progress with helping prevent the continued abuse cycle through educating people on the effect of abuse and providing education on anger management. On April 4th, 2013 Governor LePage signed into law standards which certify Batterer’s Intervention Programs in Maine. A part of the law is to extend the education to women as well as men. Typically, Certified Batter’s Intervention Programs consist of 2 hour per week of educational sessions for a 48 week period. If you are accused of domestic violence, we will talk about if taking the CBIP early will help your case. My advice on the situation depends on the specific circumstances of your case.
This article has a lot of good information on how a Portland Maine DV defense attorney can highlight reasonable doubt to fight domestic violence charges. You have learned how hiring a criminal defense attorney gives you an advocate who can provide counsel on the Maine legal system. We have gone over some of the proven strategies to defending domestic violence assault in Maine cases. Rest assured, I have other strategies I have used from time to time. The sooner our legal team becomes involved in the case the more time we will have to do our own fact finding as we help to prepare your defense. Effective action taken by a seasoned criminal defense lawyer before charges are filed by the DA sometimes can result in a lesser charge or in some cases prevent any charges from being filed. Whether you are accused of Domestic Violence assault in Maine or Violation of a Protection Order, we have defended successfully defended those in similar situations.
Our committed legal team is determined to take immediate action to seek a positive case outcome. If you or someone you know is charged with domestic violence assault in Maine, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. We will take the time to answer your questions and to put your mind at ease as we work with you to determine a defense strategy.
It is well worth your time to check out:
If you would like to call us now at (207) 571-8555, we can begin to develop your case strategy.
If you enjoyed this article on How a Portland Maine DV Defense Lawyer can help, you may also want to read:
- What you need to know if fighting Domestic Violence Assault Charges
- What you need to know if accused of Domestic Violence Criminal Threating in Maine
- 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?