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Out-of-State Protection from Abuse Orders in Maine

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Oct 20, 2022

Out-of-State Protection from Abuse Orders in Maine

Understanding Out-of-State Protection from Abuse Orders in Maine

In our previous post, we discussed some of the finer points of protection from abuse orders (PFAs) in the State of Maine. In that article, we focused specifically on protection from abuse orders developed and finalized here in the State of Maine, and we made a few references to out-of-state PFAs

In this post, we’d like to flip this situation and focus on out-of-state protection from abuse orders in Maine law. As we touched on briefly before, there are all sorts of things which someone needs to be aware of if they attempt to register and enforce an out-of-state protection from abuse order in this state. We’re going to layout the details, point by point, so that non-resident readers, and residents carrying PFAs from out-of-state, have the tools they need when it comes to enforceability.

If you have a protection from abuse order which needs modification, or you have concerns about enforcement, or you need to petition for a new order altogether, the attorneys at the Maine Criminal Defense Group can be of assistance.

Our team has the knowledge and experience to help you navigate through the process of registering a foreign PFA, or obtaining a new PFA. If you’d like to learn more, contact us today by calling (207) 571-8146.

Your Maine PFA is Potentially Enforceable in Other States

Before we discuss out-of-state orders in the State of Maine, let’s first briefly touch on the matter of Maine orders in other states. Under current federal law, if a Maine resident moves out-of-state and has a valid PFA, no special procedure must be completed to make this Maine PFA enforceable. As long as the Maine PFA is valid, which means that the underlying process in creating the order was lawful, the other state’s law enforcement should recognize the PFA. However, readers should know that different states have different rules when it comes to formally registering a protection from abuse order, and that registering an out-of-state order is always a wise thing to do. But, as a general rule, your Maine PFA will be valid in another state provided that it was valid within this state.

The Enforceability of Maine PFAs Depends on Several Criteria

As mentioned, if a Maine resident moves to another state with a preexisting PAO, that PAO will be recognized in the other state as long as certain criteria are met.

The following criteria must be met:

  1. the protection from abuse order was designed to prevent physical abuse, verbal harassment, stalking, or other type of offensive behavior normally targeted by PFAs;
  2. the court which issued the protection from abuse order had both the personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case; and
  3. the offender targeted by the PFA received proper notice and had the opportunity to present his or her side of the situation prior to the creation of the PFA.

If these three basic criteria are met, then the presumption is that the Maine PFA will be recognized and observed in the foreign state.

Temporary PFAs Follow the Same General Enforceability Rules

Readers may ask: what about a temporary Maine protection from abuse order, how will that order be treated in another state? Will temporary Maine PFAs be treated differently than permanent PFAs? The answer is no, as long as all the normal criteria are met, then the temporary PA will be viewed and treated in the same manner as a permanent PFA. Of course, given the lifecycle of temporary PFAs (they last up to 21 days), this concern won’t last for very long.

Out-of-State PFAs are Enforceable under the Same Rules

When a non-resident relocates to the State of Maine with an out-of-state protection from abuse order, the same general rules apply when it comes to enforceability. In other words, non-residents carrying an out-of-state PFA to Maine have to face the same standards as Maine residents carrying PFAs to other states. These non-residents can expect that, if the PFA meets the criteria outlined above, their PFA will be properly recognized and observed by Maine law enforcement and court system. So, non-residents need to show that their PA was issued to prevent real abuse, and that the issuing court had jurisdiction, and that the offender received proper notice prior to the final order.

The Procedure for Registering an Out-of-State PFA is Relatively Simple

Although there is no procedure involved to have a foreign protection from abuse order observed in Maine, non-residents carrying a foreign PFA should still make the effort to formally register their PFA with the State of Maine. In this context, “register” basically means that you notify the court system in Maine about the order and verify that the PFA is legitimate. When an out-of-state PFA is formally registered, this will make enforcement simpler, and consequently the person protected by the PFA will be a bit more secure. To formally register a PFA in Maine, the protected person simply needs to visit the clerk’s office in any District Court or Superior Court in the state. You will need to bring a certified copy of the order, along with a basic photocopy of the order. After reviewing these documents, the court will update its records to include the out-of-state order. Now, court employees can freely search and find the order, making it easy to substantiate and enforce.

Readers should be aware that, when a foreign PFA is registered in Maine, the State of Maine will not make an effort to contact the offender. The reason for this is because, oftentimes, non-residents carrying foreign PFAs relocate to Maine with the express purpose of avoiding the offender listed in the PFA. Of course, there is still the possibility that the offender could find out about the protected person’s whereabouts through other means; but, as a rule, the court will not notify the perpetrator when a foreign PFA is registered.

Maine Law Enforcement Will Honor Unregistered Out-of-State PFAs

Another point which should be noted is that out-of-state protection from abuse orders will still be recognized in the State of Maine even when they are not formally registered. However, this still presumes that the underlying order itself is valid; ultimately, even without a formal registration, a foreign PFA will need to be vetted before any sort of prosecution can occur for potential violations. Basically, the registration of a foreign PFA makes it easier to enforce in the State of Maine, and so this is why registration is so highly recommended. When someone registers their PA, the order goes into a national database (i.e. the National Criminal Information Center, or NCIC) which is searchable by certain authority figures. The signals to the authorities that the order is valid. If the order isn’t uploaded to this database, and the protected person doesn’t have a copy of the order on his or her person, enforcing the order might be more difficult in certain cases.

The bottom line is that all out-of-state protection from abuse orders need to be formally registered with the State of Maine as soon as they are carried into this state. If, for whatever reason, the protected person is unable to register the PFA, the protected person should always keep a copy of the order ready to show to law enforcement.

Maine Courts Cannot Alter or Cancel an Out-of-State PFA

Many non-residents who relocate to Maine with a foreign PFA wonder: if I take my out-of-state PFA to a court in Maine, can I petition the Maine court to alter or cancel the PFAO? The answer is “no,” it’s not possible to have a Maine court make any sort modifications (including cancellation) to a foreign PFA. A Maine court can enforce an out-of-state PFA, but is unable to change or remove it. If the non-resident wants to alter or cancel the underlying PFA, the non-resident protected person needs to file a motion in the proper jurisdiction – namely, the court which issued the original order. Fortunately, with modern technological advances, it’s possible today to conduct virtual or telephonic court conferences, and so a non-resident in Maine may be able to alter the order without having to physically leave the State of Maine.

If the out-of-state protection from abuse order expires, then the non-resident may be able to obtain a new order issued by a Maine court. The potential problem with this, however, is that the Maine court won’t normally be able to create a new PFA unless new incidents involving the original offender have taken place. In many cases, this will make obtaining a Maine PFA very difficult, if not impossible. When it comes to out-of-state PFAs, readers should remember that the goal of the Maine justice system is to keep people safe, and so the design of the registration process is consistent with this goal. But, Maine courts can’t overstep their authority, in any situation, and so this means a Maine court would likely need to see fresh evidence before issuing a new PFA.

The Court Will Not Automatically Notify the Offender of the Registration

Although we mentioned this earlier, it’s worth emphasizing again: pursuant to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), courts in the State of Maine will not notify the offender of an out-of-state protection from abuse order when that order is registered in Maine. In fact, under VAWA, courts in Maine are not permitted to do so, and the reason is because doing so could possibly jeopardize the safety of the protected person.

If you’re a non-resident looking to possibly move to Maine, and you have an existing permanent PFA, you may want to take a few safety precautions in order to maximize your security. There are many things which can be done to help prevent any additional damage.

Contact the Maine Criminal Defense Group for More information

Although we can’t cover every detail, the sections above do well to capture most of the essential points when it comes to enforcing out-of-state PAs in Maine. At the Maine Criminal Defense Group, we strive to be a top resource in all our practice areas. This means focusing on the sort of issues which often go overlooked by others. The enforceability of out-of-state protection from abuse orders in the State of Maine is one of these easily overlooked areas. Although the typical firm may not be familiar with these more obscure processes, we take pride in being able to offer counsel in these kinds of areas.

If non-residents have additional questions about enforcing or registering their PFA in Maine, or have questions about a related matter, they should reach out to the Maine Criminal Defense Group today by calling 207-571-8146.

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