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Protection From Abuse Order in Maine

Protection from Abuse Orders in MaineWhile law enforcement is generally reluctant to get involved in domestic matters in Maine, victims of domestic violence have several legal options available to prevent further abuse.

Protection from abuse orders include emergency protection orders and standard protection orders, which are commonly referred to as restraining orders.

If these types of court orders are violated, a victim or their family can call the police and have the alleged abuser arrested and charged with a crime.

To arrange protection orders at these stressful and upsetting times for families can be a challenge. The process is made much easier with the help of a domestic violence lawyer experienced in such matters.

What are Protection from Abuse Orders? 

A Protection from Abuse Order is a court order that can help protect against anyone who has been violent or made threats to you or your children.

In Maine, they can be temporary orders of 21 days or “permanent” orders of two years.

Most commonly, protection orders are issued against:

  • A spouse or ex-spouse
  • A cohabitant or someone you used to cohabitate with
  • A current or ex-partner
  • A stalker or person who has sexually assaulted you
  • A person who has threatened to use explicit photos of you
  • Extended family members or care workers of over 60-year-olds who are dependent on others or incapacitated

Plaintiffs, who are classified as the victim, often include spouses, children, family members, roommates, or current or former romantic partners. 

What can you do if your child is being abused? 

The legal system in Maine can act quickly if a child in your care is being abused as these matters are taken extremely seriously.  However, the burden of proof remains relatively high. 

If you are responsible for the child, you can ask the court to issue an order for you and on behalf of the child that protects you both.

The process begins by preparing the required court forms, either online or by going to the clerk’s office at the district court and asking for the Protection from Abuse (PFA) forms. 

Without the assistance of a lawyer experienced in protection orders, the process can be a little challenging.

Seek the assistance of a lawyer at The Maine Criminal Defense Group immediately if a child under your care is being abused.

What if you are threatened with a dangerous weapon? 

Threats come in many forms. If the perpetrator has access to dangerous weapons or has already threatened you with a weapon, this is no time to take chances.

The protection order you request from the court can restrict access to any weapon that can cause serious injury or death, including:

  • Guns
  • Knives
  • Swords
  • Bows or crossbows

When you fill out your Protection from Abuse forms, you are the “plaintiff”. You will need to explain to the judge why the “defendant” should not be allowed access to the dangerous weapon. 

You will normally sign an affidavit and file it with the PFA forms, describing the weapon and how it has been used in as much detail as possible.

The forms then need to be notarized. If you are represented by a lawyer from Maine Criminal Defense Group, we will take care of all the paperwork for you.

In making its decision, the court will consider many factors, including the defendant’s past criminal history, the level of threat of the weapon being used, and whether the weapon has been used to cause injury to you or a child in your care.

If the order is granted prohibiting access to weapons, you can call the police if you believe the order has been violated and the defendant can be arrested.

How long will it take for the Court to issue an order?

If you are in immediate and present danger, a judge can act quickly to issue a temporary 21-day order (sometimes called an Emergency Protection Order), which protects you from an immediate threat.

You need to indicate the immediate threat on your form and, if the court finds that the alleged conduct conforms with the statutory definition of abuse or harassment, the protection order can be issued right away. 

As soon as the order is served on the defendant by the police, it goes into effect and the defendant can be locked out of the home and prevented from contacting certain people mentioned in the court order.

Will you need to appear before a judge?

After you have completed your form and filed it with the clerk of the court, it will be presented to a judge as soon as possible if you are requesting a temporary protection order because of an immediate threat.

The judge may request more information, in which case he may deny the order and set it for a hearing, which means no temporary order is in effect. 

If no more information is required, the 21-day order can be issued without you needing to appear before a judge until your final hearing.

If the temporary order is denied, the judge must explain the reasons for the denial.

What provisions can be included in a protection order? 

A protection order may be requested for a variety of reasons and can include provisions for the following:

  • No contact The defendant is prohibited from calling, texting, emailing or otherwise disturbing the plaintiff.
  • Peaceful contact: The defendant may only communicate with the victim for specific and limited reasons, such as visiting their child.
  • Stay away: The defendant must keep a certain distance away from the plaintiff’s home, job, school, vehicle, etc. (usually at least 100 yards).
  • Move out: The defendant must move out of the shared home.
  • Firearms provision: The defendant must surrender any weapons and is prohibited from purchasing a firearm.
  • Counseling provision: The defendant is ordered to attend counseling, such as batterer’s intervention or anger management.

What happens if a protection order is violated? 

Violation of a protection order is a criminal offence in Maine and the violator may be arrested by police.

Simply contacting the victim over Facebook or by text can result in serious criminal charges that carry life-altering consequences if convicted.

Generally, for the first violation of a protection order, the offence will be treated as a Class D misdemeanor. This can result in a jail sentence of up to 364 days at the local county jail and a fine of $2,000 as well as a term of probation.

For repeat violators or those previously convicted of domestic violence, the case may proceed as a Class C felony charge. This more serious charge can lead to imprisonment of up to five years (in state prison), a term of probation, and a fine of up to $5,000.

What is the difference between a restraining order and a protection order?

In Maine, protection orders and restraining orders are used interchangeably.

The court may consider a protection order / restraining order without the knowledge of the target individual, who will need to present their side of the story at a later court hearing.

Whether you need help arranging a protection from abuse order as the plaintiff or challenging one as the defendant, call Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 or contact us online immediately.

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