Domestic abuse has been recognized as a very serious problem affecting families and household members all across Maine. A protection order can, among other things, prohibit one party from contacting another party, and a violation of this order can result in criminal charges. “Abuse” and “family or household members” have specific definitions under the law, and are explained below.

Relief for The Plaintiff

Whether you are looking to obtain a protection order, or defending against one, it is advantageous to contact an attorney. After a finding of abuse is made by the court, or the parties enter a consent agreement without a finding of abuse, the plaintiff may be entitled to certain relief. This can include an order that the defendant not have any contact with the plaintiff, that the defendant not possess any dangerous weapons, award parental rights, and much more (a complete list can be found by clicking Here).  A protection order can last up to two years, at which time it may be extended if the court determines it necessary to protect the plaintiff.

The Hearing

After filing a complaint, the court may enter a temporary order if it considers it necessary to protect the plaintiff or minor child from abuse. The temporary order can prohibit the defendant from possessing a firearm, muzzle-loading firearm, bow, cross bow, or other dangerous weapons for the duration of the temporary order.

Within 21 days of the filing of a complaint, a hearing must be held at which the plaintiff must prove the allegation of abuse by a preponderance of the evidence. If a request for temporary, emergency or interim relief is denied, the hearing must be held as soon as practicable within the 21-day period.

Crime for Violating a Protection Order

When the defendant has prior actual notice of a temporary, emergency, interim, or final protective order, or of a court-approved consent agreement, most violations are a “Class D” misdemeanor crime.  It is a “Class C” felony if the violation of the protection order is through conduct that is reckless and that creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to the plaintiff, or assault to the plaintiff.

Important Definitions to Know:

“Dating partners” means individuals currently or formerly involved in dating each other, whether or not the individuals are or were sexual partners. 19-A §4002(3-A).

“Family or household members” means spouses or domestic partners or former spouses or former domestic partners, individuals presently or formerly living together as spouses, parents of the same child, adult household members related by consanguinity or affinity or minor children of a household member when the defendant is an adult household member and, for the purposes of Title 15, section 1023, subsection 4, paragraph B-1 and Title 15, section 1094-B, this chapter and Title 17-A, sections 15, 207-A, 209-A, 210-B, 210-C, 211-A, 1201, 1202 and 1253 only, includes individuals presently or formerly living together and individuals who are or were sexual partners. Holding oneself out to be a spouse is not necessary to constitute “living as spouses.” For purposes of this subsection, “domestic partners” means 2 unmarried adults who are domiciled together under long-term arrangements that evidence a commitment to remain responsible indefinitely for each other’s welfare. 19-A §4002(4).

“Abuse” means the occurrence of the following acts between family or household members or dating partners or by a family or household member or dating partner upon a minor child of a family or household member or dating partner:

  • Attempting to cause or causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact;
  • Attempting to place or placing another in fear of bodily injury through any course of conduct;
  • 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 by:
    • Removing that person from that person’s residence, place of business or school;
    • Moving that person a substantial distance from the vicinity where that person was found; or
    • Confining that person for a substantial period either in the place where the restriction commences or in a place to which that person has been moved;
  • 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:
    • Following the plaintiff; or
    • Being at or in the vicinity of the plaintiff’s home, school, business or place of employment; or
  • Engaging in the unauthorized dissemination of certain private images as prohibited pursuant to Title 17-A, section 511-A;
  • Engaging in aggravated sex trafficking or sex trafficking as described in Title 17-A, section 852 or 853, respectively. §4002(1).

This article is intended to be a brief overview of Maine law on protection from abuse orders. If you have additional questions, please contact Attorney Eric S. Thistle at the law firm of Irwin & Morris for a free consultation.

Attorney Thistle can be reached by email at or by telephone (207) 274-3811.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about Maine law. This article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

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