you probably have a lot of questions about protection orders.  I will answer some of those questions below.  I'm looking forward to our first meeting and learning more about your case.

How is a Protection Order Obtained?

The person seeking a protection order (the "plaintiff") must file a sworn "Complaint for Protection from Abuse" in District Court.  There  is no filing fee required.  The court will usually enter a temporary emergency protection order if it plaintiff makes plausible claim of abuse.  The defendant is then served by law enforcement.

A hearing is then scheduled before a judge.  At the hearing, the plaintiff must prove that (1) the defendant "abused" the plaintiff or the plaintiff's child; and, (2) that the defendant is a "family or household member".  

What Is the Definition of Abuse?

Under the Protection from Abuse law in Maine, "Abuse" means:

  • Attempting to cause or causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact, including sexual assaults;
  • Attempting to place or placing another in fear of bodily injury through any course of conduct, including, but not limited to, threatening, harassing or tormenting behavior;
  • ​Compelling a person by force, threat of force or intimidation to engage in conduct from which the person has a right or privilege to abstain or to abstain from conduct in which the person has a right to engage;
  • ​Knowingly restricting substantially the movements of another person without that person's consent or other lawful authority;
  • ​​Communicating to a person a threat to commit, or to cause to be committed, a crime of violence dangerous to human life against the person to whom the communication is made or another, and the natural and probable consequence of the threat, whether or not that consequence in fact occurs, is to place the person to whom the threat is communicated, or the person against whom the threat is made, in reasonable fear that the crime will be committed;
  • Repeatedly and without reasonable cause: (1) Following the plaintiff; or
    (2) Being at or in the vicinity of the plaintiff's home, school, business or place of employment. 

What is a Family or Household Member?

Family or household member includes:

  • Spouses or Former Spouses;
  • Domestic Partners or Former Domestic Partners;
  • Parents of the Same Child; and,
  • Current or Former Sexual Partners.

What Can the Court Order?

The if the court finds that the defendant abused the plaintiff it can make certain orders including:

  • ​No contact with the plaintiff;
  • No contact with the plaintiff's children;
  • ​The defendant may not possess firearms;
  • Possession of a shared home;
  • Possession personal property;
  • Possession of pets;
  • Ordering the defendant to undergo mental health treatment;
  • Ordering the defendant to participate in a "Certified Batterers Intervention Program";
  • Child Support;
  • Spousal Support;
  • ​Temporary Parental Rights and Responsibilities;
  • Temporary Child-Parent Visitation/Restrictions; and,
  • ​Attorney's Fees

What Happens When a Protection Order is Violated?

If a defendant knowingly violates a protection temporary or final protection order, he or she may be charged with a Class D misdemeanor.  A Class D misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, up to two years of probation and a fine of up to $2,000.00.  In some cases the defendant can be charged with a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison, three years of probation and a $5,000.00 fine.

A conviction for violating a protection order can elevate a future domestic violence charge to a Class C felony even if the violation and the future domestic charge are both "minor" in nature.   For instance, if a defendant pleads guilty to violating a protection order for having contact with the plaintiff's consent and is subsequently charged with spitting on a "family or household member", he or she could be charged with a Class C felony.  

How Long Does a Protection Order Last?

A judge can order that a final protection order last up to two years.  However, the protection order can be extended long beyond two years for a good reason.

Can a Protection Order be Modified or Terminated?

Sometimes.  Provisions concerning contact with children and the parties' finances and property may be modified for good cause, even over the plaintiff's objection.  Occasionally a "no firearms" prohibition will be modified over the plaintiff's objection.  Rarely will a "no contact" prohibition be terminated or modified over a plaintiff's objection.

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Christopher S. Berryment, Esq.