Location of Court
If you get charged with operating under the influence (OUI) in Portland, your case will be handled in the Portland Unified Criminal Docket, in Portland, Maine. This courthouse is located at 205 Newbury Street, in a large, bulky, white stone building. Driving directions can be had using Google Maps, and are also available on the court's website.
Importantly, make sure that you go to the correct courthouse. The Federal District Court for Southern Maine is located directly across Pearl Street from the Maine District Court. The Federal District Court is for federal cases – many people mistakenly go to the federal courthouse when they actually have a state case. Your OUI charge is a state charge, so will be handled in the Maine District Court, not the Federal District Court. Unfortunately, both courthouses look very similar, and are right across the street from each other. Make sure that you go to the correct court; if you don't, and are unable to make it to a court proceeding that requires your presence, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest. If you have any doubts, stand in Lincoln Park, near the intersection of Pearl Street, and Federal Street, and stand with your back to the park, facing the intersection. You want to be in the Maine District Court, the building on the left. You will only have to walk across one road – Federal Street – to get to it. To get to the Federal District Court from that point, you will have to walk across two roads – Federal Street, and Pearl Street.
Unfortunately, as many local Mainers know full well, parking in Portland is extremely difficult to come by. All of the streets within a few blocks of the courthouse have a strictly enforced two hour limit, so street parking may not be the best option. There are, however, two public parking lots near the courthouse. The first one is a parking garage located across the street from the courthouse, on Federal Street. However, this garage is a favorite of those who work both nearby and in the court, so it fills up very quickly. If you arrive close to the court's opening, at 8am, you might be able to find a spot at one of the nearby meters, or in this garage. If you get lucky and this works out, the price for the garage is $2.50 per hour, and is cash only.
If you don't manage to find a parking spot in this garage, your second option is an outdoor lot at the corner of Congress and Pearl Street, on the other side of Lincoln Park from the court, named Top of the Old Port Parking.
If you're attending court for the first time (assuming it is your arraignment), court will likely be held in courtroom #1, which is located on the 1st floor. For all other court appearances, your case will likely be held in courtroom 7. You will not have to venture up to the third floor – this area is only for the Cleave's Law Library and for the Maine Law Court Justices' offices. If you're case is set for jury selection or jury trial, you'll likely be in courtroom #11, which is on the second floor.
Your first court appearance is your arraignment. You are required to attend your arraignment, as Portland's court rules require you to appear in person for your arraignment to plead guilty or not guilty. If you are represented by an attorney, he or she can appear on your behalf. You should try getting to the court 15 minutes before your court appearance. If you're late for your court appearance, the court will likely issue a warrant for your arrest. However, if you don't get to court early, you probably won't be able to find a seat, as the courtroom is often packed to standing room only. This is especially true of courtroom 1, on the first floor, which is where the general public as well as prisoners are arraigned before the court. Oftentimes, family members attend with their loved ones, which can cause the courtroom to be quite crowded.
Even though you should make sure to get to court a little early, you will want to bring a book and a boatload of patience. Court moves very slowly. If your case is scheduled for 9am, you might not see the judge or prosecutor until nearly noon.
Most cases will be set for a trial date approximately 75 days from the arraignment date.
Typically, there is only one opportunity to resolve the case before trial, which is at the dispositional conference. Regardless of whether you want to take the case to trial or not, you will have to attend this conference. Your presence will only be excused by the court in the most extraordinary of circumstances. This is another of Portland's unique set of court rules – the courts in most other counties allow an attorney to completely take care of the criminal matter in the absence of the client, including arraignment and sentencing.
If a deal isn't struck at the dispositional conference, the trial will be held on a later date. If you are found guilty following a trial, be prepared to be placed into custody immediately. While judges have discretion to impose a stay of execution of the sentence, many judges will order the defendant to being serving their jail sentences immediately.
The District Attorney for Cumberland County, including Portland, is Stephanie Anderson. Ms. Anderson has held the position since 1991, a string of five terms. Her office of prosecutors is divided into four teams. Each team is led by an experienced prosecutor, and is responsible for specific police departments. They handle all of those police departments' criminal caseload, including both misdemeanor and felony cases.
As always, if you have any questions about the process of dealing with an OUI charge in Cumberland county, feel free to call the law offices of William T. Bly at (207) 571-8146.