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Home > Blog > Domestic Violence > How Bail Works in Domestic Violence Assault Cases
Nov 5, 2015

How Bail Works in Domestic Violence Assault Cases

The number one cause for murder in the state of Maine is attributed solely to acts of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a serious problem in the state and every District Attorney’s Office takes it seriously. The problem with domestic violence, in part, is the disruption of families and relationships. Often times, when I meet with clients, their first and primary concern is how do they get back with their partner. Unfortunately, if you’ve been charged with domestic violence, it will prove very difficult to get your bail amended for the purposes of reuniting with your loved ones.

In Maine, the purpose of bail is as follows: to ensure the integrity of the judicial system; to ensure the safety of the public; to ensure the defendant appears for all of his or her court dates; and to ensure that the defendant does not reoffend. The purpose of bail in Maine is not to reunite couples or families; at least with respect to domestic violence cases.

When you’re charged with domestic violence, the police arrest you, take you to jail, book you and place you on bail conditions. Invariably, those bail conditions include no direct or indirect contact with the “victim”. Direct contact is obvious. You cannot call, text message, email, or meet with the “victim” at any time or at any place. If you are in direct contact with the “victim”, you run the serious risk of being arrested and charged with a new crime. You also run the risk of having your bail revoked. Indirect contact is not so obvious. Indirect contact includes passing messages to the “victim” through friends, family or even coworkers. Even in direct contact will result in a violation of your bail conditions, which will land you in jail.

So, how do you go about reunited with the family member or other loved one? Because courts are so concerned about violence escalating between family members, it is unlikely that the court will approve a bail modification request that includes direct contact with that family member or allowing you to move back into the home. One of the things the court will look at is your ODARA score. What is ODARA? It is a formula that the District Attorney’s Office employees when evaluating the risk the defendant opposes to the victim. Some of the factors include whether or not the “victim” and defendant have children together; whether or not strangulation was involved; whether nonviolence has occurred in the past; whether or not the defendant threatened the “victim” and other numerous factors. This formula produces a score. The higher the score, the higher the risk the defendant poses to the victim. In virtually every case the defendant will have a score of one or greater. The judge will be advised of the ODARA score and will take that score heavily into consideration.

In order to be successful with any bail modification, it is imperative that you, the defendant, come up with a plan that includes substance abuse counseling and anger management counseling. In addition, it also helps a great deal if the “victim” is on board with a bail modification and wants to be reunited as well. With that said, expect that it will take some time before full reunification can be expected.

If you’ve been charged with a crime of domestic violence here in the state of Maine, call my office to speak with me. Together, we’ll formulate a strategy to ensure the best possible chance of a successful outcome in your case.

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