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It’s an unpleasant fact that people get ugly; we all have the capability of causing harm within us, no doubt dating back to when we had to fight to survive. There is a significant difference in losing one’s temper and shouting as opposed to becoming threatening and violent, however, and no one, even your children, should become the victim of bullying or dangerous behavior. Maine has specific laws in place to protect its citizens from harassment and abuse, and it is easier to determine whether you should file for a protective order, commonly called a “restraining order,” if you understand what constitutes threatening behavior and how to file for the restraint.
Types of Orders
Two separate sections of Maine law cover protective orders: Title 5, Sections 4651 to 4660-A and Title 19-A, Sections 4001 to 4011. Title 5 sets forth the provisions for a Protection from Harassment order against an unrelated individual harassing you, a family member or your business. Title 19-A sets forth provisions for a Protection from Abuse order against a relation or former domestic partner who is abusing you, your children or other members of the household, including seniors under your care. Your situation will dictate the type of restraining order you will need to file with the court.
Harassment Versus Abuse
The primary difference between Maine’s definitions of harassment and abuse is whether you are “related” to the perpetrator or you and the perpetrator had a domestic relationship (IE, girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife). If you are being bothered by a stranger or by someone with whom you do not have a relation, the court might conclude you’re being harassed if:
You are confronted, intimidated, physically threatened and/or become the victim of physical force with the primary intent of causing you and/or your property damage at least three times.
The harasser has once broken a Maine law protecting citizens from crimes such as stalking, terrorizing, sexual assault and violation of privacy to name a few.
A “relation,” as defined for an infraction to qualify as abuse, includes marital, familial, household, or someone you are dating. Maine considers the harassing acts listed above abuse, as well as:
physical harm, including bodily injury, sexual assault, and forcing a person to do something against his or her will;
stalking an individual, whether that be physically or electronically, and presenting a genuine threat to the individual, family, friends and/or the victim’s pets;
unlawfully restricting or confining a person, including preventing an individual access to his or her home or business, moving a person against his or her will, and/or binding or confining a person.
These are rough guidelines for what Maine constitutes as harassment and/or abuse, and other disruptive or dangerous acts might fall under these provisions, as well.
Maine looks at harassment and abuse cases under two types of actions: civil and criminal. Simply put, the difference between the two is whether you desire only court protection or to have the perpetrator charged with an actual crime. Most restraining orders are filed through civil court as they are considered a matter of civil law, i.e., you desire the court to issue an order protecting you from your abuser. Should your abuser violate the restraining order and/or harm you in another way, criminal charges may be filed.
The process for obtaining a protective order are, for the most part, the same. Briefly, to obtain the legal protections afforded by a restraining order, you should:
Contact the police regarding any instance of harassment or abuse, preferably during the incident if possible, and have the authorities document the occurrence properly. Request the authorities issue a “Notice to Stop the Harassment” to the offender if you will be filing for protection from harassment, as the courts require this documentation.
Go to your district’s courthouse, or the courthouse where the harasser lives, and fill out the required paperwork. You can obtain the necessary documentation directly from the civil clerk or by downloading the forms online. If you fill out the forms prior to taking them to the courthouse, do not sign them. All forms must be notarized properly.
File the forms with the clerk and pay any court fees. The clerk will take your paperwork to the judge, who will review your motion to determine whether a temporary restraining order is required. Be prepared to discuss your situation with the judge. A hearing date will be set for your final protective order.
If the judge issued a temporary restraining order, this plus a copy of your complaint and notice of the hearing date will be served to your harasser. Know that your harasser has the right to motion for removal of the temporary restraining order. If a temporary order has not been issued, your harasser will be served with the complaint and hearing date.
• Attend the hearing for the final restraining order. At the hearing, the judge will consider both positions in the case. If the judge determines that the defendant does indeed pose a threat to you and/or your loved ones, the final protective order will be issued.
As you can see, this process is a complicated and stressful one, but worth it if you are being harassed or abused. No one should live in fear, and the Law Office of William T. Bly is focused on protecting individuals under Maine’s harassment and abuse laws. We’re here to enforce your rights and can bring an action against the harasser or abuser on your behalf.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with
one of our team members, who will discuss your case with you and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys
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