Maine has several laws that punish violent conduct committed against a family member or household member. In Maine, a family or household member includes:
Domestic violence crimes include assault, criminal threats, terrorizing, stalking, and reckless conduct, when committed against a family or household member.
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.
The assault is "aggravated" (more serious) if it causes an injury that:
An "elevated" aggravated assault occurs when the person intentionally or with "depraved indifference" causes serious bodily injury with a dangerous weapon, or causes such injury without a weapon but with "terroristic intent." People act with depraved indifference when they know (or should know) that death or serious bodily injury could occur from their actions but they do them anyway. They act with terroristic intent when they intend to seriously injure more than one person.
(Me. Rev. Stat., tit. 17-A, §§ 2(25), 207, 207-A, 208, 208-B, 208-D, 208-E (2023); State v. Dodd, 503 A.2d 1302 (Me. 1986.)
Domestic violence threats occur when someone places a family or household member in fear of imminent (immediate) bodily injury.
A person commits domestic violence terrorizing by threatening to commit a violent crime dangerous to human life against the family or household member or another person. In order for someone to be guilty of domestic violence terrorizing, the threat must put the other person in reasonable fear that the crime will be committed (or cause the evacuation of a building, or public transportation).
(Me. Rev. Stat., tit. 17-A, §§ 209, 209A, 210, 210-B (2023).)
This offense occurs when someone commits the crime of stalking against a family or household member. Stalking is intentionally engaging in a course of conduct directed at someone that would cause a reasonable person to:
(Me. Rev. Stat., tit. 17-A, §§ 210-A, 210-C (2023).)
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., tit. 17-A, §§ 211, 211-A (2023).)
All domestic violence offenses carry a possible jail or prison sentence (discussed further below). For more information on other aspects of sentencing, including the fines involved, see these articles on Maine misdemeanor and felony crimes and sentences.
Generally, a first domestic violence offense is punished as a Class D crime, which carries up to 364 days in jail.
But if the defendant has a prior conviction for domestic violence offenses, a new conviction is punished as a Class C crime. 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 prohibits possession of firearms and dangerous weapons, or requires them to avoid contact with the victim (or a potential witness to the domestic violence).
Most domestic violence aggravated assaults are Class B crimes, but it's a Class A crime if it causes serious, permanent disfigurement or substantial impairment. Elevated aggravated assaults are also Class A crimes.
Class B crimes carry up to 10 years in prison, and Class A crimes are punishable by up to 30 years.
(Me. Rev. Stat., tit. 17-A, §§ 207-A, 208, 208-B, 1604 (2023).)
A victim of domestic violence can file a petition asking the court to issue a protective order (often called a restraining order). The court must hold a hearing on the petition within 21 days after the petition is filed, and the defendant must get notice so they have an opportunity to attend. (Before that, the court can issue a short-lasting temporary emergency protective order even if the defendant isn't present).
If the judge finds at the hearing that the defendant committed abuse, the judge will grant a protective order, which might prohibit the defendant from:
(Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 19-A, §§ 4006, 4007, 4011 (2023).)
Generally, violating the order is a Class D crime. But if the defendant assaults the victim, or the violation is reckless and creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury, it's a Class C crime.
In any assault case, including domestic violence cases, some general defenses might apply, depending on the circumstances. Self-defense and accident (no intent) aren't uncommon in domestic violence cases. Also, sometimes a defendant can show that the accusations are false because the victim had it out for the defendant or lied for other reasons.
If you're charged with domestic violence or any other crime, you should talk with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can advise you of the strength of the case against you and discuss whether any defenses might apply. A lawyer familiar with the local criminal courts should also have a good idea of whether a plea deal is possible or if instead, the case should go to trial.