Offenses Against The Person
The following is not legal advice but is for information only. Legal advice is when an attorney applies the law to a person's individual circumstances and advises them on their legal options or potential exposure to legal harm, which a web page clearly does not.
Assault in Maine is defined as an intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly (the intent) causing offensive physical contact or bodily injury to another person. The OR here does a lot of heavy lifting, as will be outlined. Offensive physical contact does not mean in a moral sense - but purely that the contact was not wanted by the other person. Bodily injury does not have to be caused, only that the contact was made and was unwanted. A poke, shove, or pat can be perfectly fine OR offensive physical contact depending on the facts and circumstances and be enough to either get a case dismissed or lead to a criminal charge depending on whether it was within the bounds of normal behavior or not wanted. Needless to say, the most minor behavior can be charged as a criminal act, and often is.
In Maine, assault can be charged as a Class D misdemeanor, a Class C felony, or a Class B felony, depending on the severity of the offense and the defendant's criminal history of prior assaults. A Class D misdemeanor assault conviction can result in up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, while a Class C felony can carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. A Class B felony can result in up to ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Maine law also recognizes certain aggravating factors that can increase the severity of an assault charge, such as the use of a dangerous weapon, causing serious bodily injury, or assaulting a victim who is a family or household member. An assault becomes an aggravated assault when it is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or results in serious bodily injury to the alleged victim. The state's criminal code defines aggravated assault as a Class B crime.
A deadly weapon is defined as any instrument, substance, or device that is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury, such as a firearm, a knife, or a blunt object. Serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or causes serious, permanent disfigurement or loss or impairment of a bodily function.
Assault can also be charged as domestic violence in Maine if the alleged victim is a family or household member of the defendant. Under Maine law, domestic violence is defined as any crime involving physical force or the threat of physical force against a family or household member. It is charged this way because of future consequences and penalties.
A family or household member includes current or former spouses, people who have a child in common, people who are related by blood or marriage, people who are or have been in a dating relationship, and people who currently live together or have lived together in the past.
Law enforcement officers are required to arrest a person if they have probable cause to believe that the person has committed an act of aggravated domestic violence (a felony) that involves serious injury or behavior where death was a risk. However, that is not the case for simple domestic assault. In those circumstances, a police officer is required to use "reasonable means" to prevent further abuse, not that they are required to arrest. Arrest is only one option. In any event, whether an arrest is made it is without regard of whether the alleged victim wants to press charges. This means that even if the alleged victim does not want the defendant to be arrested or prosecuted, law enforcement officers may still arrest the defendant depending on the severity of the offense.
Once an arrest has been made, the defendant will be taken into custody and processed through the criminal justice system. The court will set bail conditions, which will very likely include requirements to stay away from the alleged victim, restrictions on contact, and other conditions deemed appropriate by the court. This can also include a ban on possessing firearms (with random searches), and restrictions about use or possession of alcohol and drugs with searches and tests based on reasonable suspicion.
It is essential to note that even if the alleged victim does not wish to press charges, the state of Maine may still pursue charges in cases of domestic violence. A criminal case in Maine is never one in which the alleged victim has the final say in either whether an arrest will happen, as explained, or once there is a charge in whether the case should go forward. That is because the case is by The State of Maine and not the complaining witness – even if prosecutors will repeatedly claim to be representing victims or even refer to the complaining witness as ‘their victim.’
A person charged with assault, and domestic violence assault, should consult an attorney as soon possible. The consequences are serious and an investigation can begin to prevent loss of any evidence.