Helping Those Faced with Civil Offenses (also referred to as Civil Violations)
Proudly Serving the Portland, Biddeford, Saco, Augusta and Bangor Areas of Maine, WTB Law Offers Clients More Than Just Criminal Defense Services
In addition to WTB Law's extensive and preeminent criminal defense practice, the firm also represents many individuals involved in several types of civil actions. This includes helping clients who may find themselves charged with “civil violations,” a unique subset of civil actions.
General Notes Regarding Civil Actions in Maine
First and foremost, if you wish to bring a civil lawsuit against another party in Maine, OR if you have been sued as a named party in a civil action, it is highly advisable that you contact and seek legal representation from an experienced, competent, and successful attorney who specializes in Maine's civil laws and procedures.
In light of that very important caveat, you may conclude that there are numerous civil laws, court procedures, and rules that govern civil actions brought in Maine - with respect to both substantive and procedural requirements. And you would be absolutely correct.
***Note: One example includes the applicable statute of limitations, which sets forth the relevant timeframe within which you can initiate civil actions.
So, do the substantive and procedural rules and laws that govern Maine's civil actions apply to civil violations?
A Special Class of Maine Civil Actions: Civil Violations
The short answer is: No. Despite its name, the “civil violation” came into existence through a modification of Maine's Criminal Code. Specifically, when Maine's legislature enacted Section 4-B of Chapter 1, of Maine's Criminal Code, it created a special class of less-serious civil actions known as civil violations.
The statute aims to make a clear distinction between a criminal violation and a civil violation, by setting forth that, “A law or ordinance which prohibits defined conduct, but does not provide an imprisonment penalty, is a civil violation . . .”
The law further separates the two types of violations by emphatically addressing the situation where a law or ordinance is referred to as a criminal violation, but does not specifically provide for the possibility of imprisonment. If this is the case, then regardless of title, the law/ordinance simply is not a criminal violation (except in very limited situations). Rather, said violation would constitute a civil violation.
Guidance Provided by Maine's Courts Regarding Civil Violations
From time to time, the Administrative Office of the Courts of Maine publishes various handbooks and guides regarding some issues commonly faced by Maine's citizens. One such publication is “The Judicial Branch Citizen's Guide to the Maine Courts” , which generally describes how Maine's Judicial Process Functions.
Also included in the Guide is helpful information regarding the classification of cases brought before Maine's various courts. Below are some details regarding civil violations.
- Civil violations include:
- Minor traffic infractions
- Possession of a small amount of marijuana
- Violations of town and city ordinances, such as leash laws.
- In instances where a law enforcement officer believes that an individual committed a civil violation, the officer will issue a ticket or summons instructing the individual to appear in District Court on a certain date.
- In a trial involving civil violations, the State does not have to demonstrate “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused committed a civil violation. Instead, a lesser burden of proof applies, and the State must demonstrate that it is "more likely than not" that the accused committed the civil violation.
- The State does not need to show that the accused intended to commit the civil violation nor that the accused knew he or she committed the violation (as is the case in criminal matters). Instead, the State only needs to show that the accused committed the violation.
- Evidence obtained pursuant to an unlawful search and seizure shall not be admissible in a civil violation proceeding.
- If a party does not appear in court or pay the fine on the day as specified in the ticket or summons, a civil violation can become much more serious. For example, with respect to a traffic violation, a party may lose his or her driver's license.
See generally, Part 1 of Maine's Citizen's Guide to the Courts.
Contact Maine's Trusted Civil Violations Attorney Today
As you can see, it may not always be clear whether an action is considered a criminal or civil violation. Moreover, the criminal violation process may be vague and/or confusing. The attorneys at WTB Law have extensive experience handling matters involving civil violations, including the distinctions between criminal charges and civil violations, and their corresponding court proceedings.
If you have any questions whatsoever regarding your criminal charges and/or charges related to civil violations, contact our office today.