If you aren't an experienced attorney, then a criminal charge for domestic violence in Maine can be a bit difficult to fully comprehend. This is understandable because the legality behind a domestic violence charge is complex, and involves multiple elements that may not be intuitive. Many people find this confusing, so it's helpful to break down a domestic violence charge into its respective elements.
The Two Elements of a Domestic Violence Charge
One of the best ways to think about a domestic violence charge is that it is really just a different crime, like sexual assault, or stalking, but conducted against a specific set of people. Only when both of these elements are satisfied – both the attendant crime and the fact that it was conducted against the specific set of people – is it considered a crime of domestic violence. This is why domestic violence crimes often include a reference to the other crime involved, like domestic violence terrorizing, or domestic violence assault.
The First Element – The Attendant Crime
To be charged with a crime of domestic violence, you have to also be charged with an attendant crime. This can include pretty much any crime in the law books, but some of the most common criminal charges made in a domestic violence context are:
The Second Element – A Household Member
None of these crimes, on its own, is a crime of domestic violence. However, if any of them are done to a “household member,” then it will turn into a domestic violence crime.
The state of Maine defines a “household member” as current or former spouses or domestic partners, the parents of a child, or adults who are related by blood or who are in a sexual relationship. Therefore, any crime done to one of these people will turn that crime into one of domestic violence.
An important footnote to this law is that the victim need only allege a prior sexual relationship. Furthermore, the age of the relationship is irrelevant. For example, if you and your wife have been divorced for 10+ years and she later accuses you of slapping her around during an argument over who is picking up your child from school, you can be charged with domestic violence.
Oftentimes, "victims" will call the police on their spouse or boyfriend during an argument and make wild accusations for the purpose of having that person removed from the home. The "victim" will then seek to get a Protection from Abuse order against the "batterer". PFA hearings are a great way to short-circuit divorce and custody issues. The male can be excluded from the home, ordered to have no contact with the "victim" and perhaps even be barred from visitation with the child. Since the defense of a PFA case is directly related to the defense of the underlying charge of Domestic Violence, it is extremely important that you retain an attorney to represent you on both matters.
Domestic Violence Crimes Carry Harsher Penalties
It might seem strange to make a distinction between identical crimes by focusing on who they happened to. However, that is exactly what Maine law does when it comes to domestic violence crimes.
The distinction is important, too, because when a crime is committed in a domestic violence context, it carries harsher penalties than if it were done to someone who is not a “household member” of the person being charged. Not only are there all of the punishments that come with the original crime, but a domestic violence offender will be put on probation and made to enroll in a rehabilitative course. A protective order will also likely be filed, prohibiting their contact with the victim, even if this forces them out of their home. There are many other consequences of a domestic violence conviction that go far beyond the consequences of a similar crime, not done in a domestic violence setting.
Attorney William T. Bly
A domestic violence charge is a serious thing, and a conviction for a crime of domestic violence can have a life-long impact. Hiring a solid domestic violence defense attorney like William T. Bly can be the best way to beat a criminal charge against you. Call his law office at (207) 571-8146 or contact him online.