In Maine, an allegation of domestic violence can result in the filing of criminal charges, a complaint for a protective order, or both. Both have the potential to result in serious sanctions.
Domestic Violence Offenses
Maine law identifies several domestic violence offenses: domestic violence assault, domestic violence criminal threatening, domestic violence terrorizing, domestic violence stalking, and domestic violence reckless conduct (all explained in detail below). A conviction for any of these offenses is punished as a Class D crime, which carries up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
If a defendant is convicted of a domestic violence offense but has a prior conviction for any of the domestic violence offenses identified in the preceding paragraph, the new conviction is punished as a Class C crime, which is punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. A new conviction is also a Class C crime if the defendant has one or more prior convictions for violating a condition of bail that requires the defendant to avoid contact with the victim or a potential witness to the domestic violence, or a bail condition that prohibits possession of firearms and dangerous weapons.
Assaults. A person who commits an assault against a family or household member is guilty of domestic violence assault. An assault occurs when one person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury or makes offensive physical contact with another person.
(Me. Rev. Stat. §§ 17-A-207, 17-A-207A)
Domestic violence criminal threatening. This offense occurs where a person places a family or household member in fear of receiving an imminent bodily injury.
(Me. Rev. Stat. §§ 17-A-209, 17-A-209A)
Domestic violence terrorizing. A person commits domestic violence terrorizing by communicating to a family or household member a threat to commit a violent crime dangerous to human life against the family or household member or against another person. In order for a person to be guilty of domestic violence terrorizing, the threat must be such that either the person to whom the threat is communicated (or the person who is threatened) reasonably fears that the crime will be committed, or the threat causes the evacuation of a building, facility, or public transportation.
(Me. Rev. Stat. § 17-A-210, 17-A-210B)
Domestic violence stalking. This offense occurs where a person commits the crime of stalking against a family or household member. Stalking is intentionally engaging in a course of conduct directed at a certain person that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious inconvenience or emotional distress, to fear bodily injury or death, to fear the bodily injury or death of a close relation, to fear damage or destruction of property, or to fear injury or death to an animal owned by or in the possession of the victim.
(Me. Rev. Stat. §§ 17-A-210A, 17-A-210C)
Violence reckless conduct. A person who recklessly creates a risk of bodily injury to a family or household member is guilty of domestic violence reckless conduct.
(Me. Rev. Stat. §§ 17-A-211, 17-A-211A)
A victim of domestic violence may file a petition requesting that the court issue a protective order. The court must hold a hearing on the petition within 21 days of the petition being filed. If the person (referred to as the plaintiff) seeks an emergency or temporary protective order, the court must hold a hearing as soon as practicable, and it may be held without the defendant being present. If the court finds that the plaintiff or a minor child is in immediate danger of abuse, the court may enter a temporary protective order that remains in effect until a hearing can be held where the defendant is notified and afforded the opportunity to participate.
(Me. Rev. Stat. § 19-A-4006)
If, after conducting a hearing, the court finds sufficient evidence that the defendant committed abuse, the court may grant a protective order containing a number of provisions, including but not limited to provisions that prohibit the defendant from:
- threatening, harassing, attacking, or otherwise abusing the plaintiff or any minor child living in the home
- possessing a firearm
- entering the premises of the plaintiff’s home
- following or stalking the plaintiff, or being at or near the plaintiff’s home, school, business, or workplace, and
- having any direct or indirect contact with the plaintiff.
In granting the protective order, the court may also:
- divide personal property between the parties as well as order that either party not take, sell, or damage certain property
- with respect to any minor children, award some or all temporary parental rights and responsibilities
- require the defendant to obtain professional counseling
- order temporary financial support for a party or a minor child in the party’s custody, and
- require the defendant to pay the plaintiff for lost income, medical expenses, property damage, and moving expenses incurred as a result of the defendant’s abuse.
(Me. Rev. Stat. § 19-A-4007)
Violating a Protective Order
Defendants can be held in contempt of court if they violate a term of a temporary, interim, emergency, or final protective order that pertains to to the division of property, the defendant’s maintenance of a life insurance policy insuring the plaintiff, the defendant receiving counseling services, temporary support of the dependent party and/or children in the dependent party’s care, monetary compensation for losses resulting from the defendant’s abuse, court costs or attorney’s fees assessed against a party, or a provision pertaining to the custody of an animal.
If the violation concerns a provision other than one of the preceding provisions that are punishable by contempt, it is a Class D crime, unless the violation is reckless and creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to the plaintiff or the defendant assaults the plaintiff, in which case the violation is a Class C crime.
(Me. Rev. Stat. § 19-A-4011)
Consult with an Attorney
If you are charged with committing a domestic violence offense, or if you are accused of domestic abuse in a complaint seeking a protective order, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can evaluate your case and provide valuable guidance while your case remains unresolved. Criminal charges can carry serious penalties, including substantial fines and jail time, and a protective order can have profound effects on your rights as a parent and a property owner. An experienced lawyer is essential to protecting your liberty and rights when you are accused of domestic violence.