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Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Civil Violations in Maine

The criminal justice system in the state of Maine classifies all criminal offenses except murder into five categories. For the purpose of sentencing, they are Classes A, B, C, D, and E (17-A M.R.S.A §4). Although Maine no longer officially uses the traditional felony and misdemeanor classifications, they are still occasionally used to describe the severity of an offense. Non-criminal offenses in Maine are designated as civil violations (17-A M.R.S.A §4B). Criminal cases in Maine are adjudicated within the state's criminal courts. Members of the public who are interested can request and receive Maine criminal court records from the specific court where the proceedings occurred.

What is a felony in Maine? 

Felonies are punishable by prison terms of more than one year. The most serious offenses in Maine, except murder, are designated as Classes A, B, and C crimes, with prison terms no less than one year, fines of up to $50,000, or both imprisonment and fines, depending on the severity of the crime. 

  • Class A Crimes: these are the most serious offenses, punishable by prison terms of up to 30 years (17-A M.R.S.A §1604). Class A crimes are also punishable by fines of up to $50,000, or both imprisonment and fines (17-A M.R.S.A §1704). Manslaughter is a Class A crime in Maine (17-A M.R.S.A §203).
  • Class B Crimes: offenses punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or fines of up to $20,000 are Class B Crimes. Aggravated assault is a Class B crime in Maine (17-A M.R.S.A §208).
  • Class C Crimes: these are offenses punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years or fines of up to $5000. Offenders may also be punishable by both imprisonment and fines. Terrorizing is a Class C crime. (17-A M.R.S.A §210).

What are some examples of felonies in Maine?

Some other examples of felonies, offenses designated as Classes A, B, and C crimes, are:

  • Corrupting waters
  • Felony murder
  • Gross sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Causing a catastrophe
  • Burglary with a firearm
  • Aggravated reckless conduct
  • Aggravated forgery
  • Aggravated criminal forced labor
  • Criminal use of explosives
  • Possession of armor-piercing ammunition
  • Trafficking in or furnishing counterfeit drugs
  • Theft by extortion
  • Tampering with a slot machine or table game
  • Perjury
  • Retaliation against a witness, informant, victim, or juror
  • Assault on an emergency medical care provider

In Maine, murder is punishable by imprisonment for life or a term of no less than 25 years.

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Maine? 

Felony convictions cannot be removed from court records in Maine. If a person is granted a full and free pardon by the governor, such persons may request that references to the pardoned crime be deleted (15-14 M.R.S.A §2167.307). Such persons must make a written application to the State Bureau of Identification to have all references deleted from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s records. State materials will also be returned to respective contributing agencies. To be eligible, the applicant must have no criminal convictions since the pardon, and no other pending criminal charges. Interested persons may make applications 10 years after the date of discharge from their sentence.

Although a full pardon does not equal an expungement of criminal records, the information in the criminal history records of a pardoned person is considered confidential. Records designated as confidential criminal history information are inaccessible to the public. They can only be accessed by authorized persons (16-7 M.R.S.A §703). The following types of records are considered confidential criminal history information:

  • Records of summons or arrest that are over one year old with no active or pending prosecution from the arrest
  • Information showing that law enforcement officer or agency responsible for an arrest chose not to refer the matter to a prosecutor
  • Information showing that a prosecutor chose not to press charges or approve criminal proceedings
  • Information showing that a grand jury did not find enough evidence to return a formal charge
  • Records of a criminal proceeding that has been dismissed or postponed for more than one year because the defendant was not mentally fit to be sentenced or to stand trial. 
  • Records showing that a criminal charge was filed, one year after the date of filing
  • Records showing that a criminal charge was dismissed with prejudice
  • Records showing acquittal of a criminal charge
  • Records of mistrials
  • Records showing that a defendant petitioned for and was granted a full pardon

Criminal history record information includes:

  • Notations of arrests, summons, detention, and bail
  • Criminal charges and indictments
  • Disposition and sentencing
  • Involuntary commitment and discharge from involuntary commitment
  • Petitions and warrants for pardon, amnesties, reprieves, and commutations 

Criminal records do not include identifying information such as photos, fingerprints, palm prints, or footprints. Traffic infractions and other civil violations are also not included.

Youthful or juvenile offenders may be able to have some of their convictions expunged. To be eligible, the following requirements must be met:

  • The defendant must have been no less than 18 years old and not up to 21 years old at the time of conviction
  • The offense committed must have been an eligible Class E crime
  • Four years must have passed since the completion of all sentencing terms
  • The defendant should have no other pending charges at the time of the application
  • There must be no other convictions on the defendant’s record
  • The defendant must not have committed a juvenile crime for which there was a public hearing
  • The defendant must not have had any other charges dismissed or deferred

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Maine?

In Maine, confidential criminal history records are sealed and only available to authorized persons. Confidential criminal history records are accessible to:

  • Criminal justice agencies in Maine, for employment and administration purposes
  • Anyone directly authorized by state statutes or court order
  • Any persons who conduct background checks for law enforcement employment purposes
  • Researchers under an agreement with criminal justice agencies
  • Public entities for the purposes of visa issuance and citizenship grants

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Maine?

Except they are sealed, felonies will stay on a person’s criminal history record indefinitely. Such information will also be available to the public, except they are juvenile case records (15-6 M.R.S.A §3308). Public criminal history records can be made available by a criminal justice agency to anyone for any reason and at any time(16-7 M.R.S.A §704). 

What is a Misdemeanor in Maine?

Offenses designated as Class D and Class E crimes are less serious offenses, and therefore considered misdemeanors. However, misdemeanors are criminal offenses, and they are punishable by prison terms or fines.

  • Class D Crimes: these offenses are punishable by up to one year in county jail, fines of up to $2000, or both imprisonment and fines (17-A M.R.S.A§1604). Stalking is a Class D crime in Maine (17-A M.R.S.A §210-A).
  • Class E Crimes: considered the least serious criminal offenses, Class E crimes are punishable by prison terms of up to six months in county jail, fines of up to $1000, or both imprisonment and fines. Unlawful excavation is a Class E crime in Maine (27 M.R.S.A §375).

What are some examples of Misdemeanors in Maine?

Some examples of Class D and Class E crimes in Maine include: 

Class D Crimes: 

  • Soliciting for confidential information
  • Operating a vehicle with dyed fuel
  • Failure to file, pay or return taxes
  • Damage to hotel property
  • Altering, forging, or counterfeiting certificates 
  • Criminal use of disabling chemicals
  • Possession of a machine gun
  • Assault while hunting
  • Aiding or soliciting suicide
  • Criminal threatening
  • Reckless conduct
  • Desecration and defacement

Class E Crimes: 

  • Unauthorized practice of law
  • Closing and restricting use of highway
  • Failure to appear as a witness
  • Falsifying declaration of value
  • Unlawful operation of a ferry in Casco Bay
  • Violation of rights of a person with an intellectual disability
  • Interference with probation
  • Unlawful pharmacy practice
  • Misuse of a municipal seal
  • Prohibited dumping
  • Tampering with signs
  • Use of closed way
  • Illegal employment of aliens

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Maine?

Class D and Class E crimes, which are considered misdemeanors in Maine, cannot be removed from criminal history records in Maine. However, for persons who have been granted a full and free pardon by the governor, criminal history records will no longer be public. 

Youthful offenders, no less than 18 years old and not up to 21 years old at the time of conviction, may apply to make their criminal records confidential. To be eligible for a confidential court order, such persons must:

  • Apply four years after the completion of their sentence
  • Not have any pending criminal charges or actions
  • Not have other criminal convictions in Maine or other states
  • Have committed an eligible Class D crime 

Records of Class D crimes such as assault, domestic violence, violation of a protective order, and operating under the influence (OUI) are not eligible to be kept confidential. Persons whose records have been sealed may choose not to disclose any information about or knowledge of the conviction. However, if such a person is convicted of another criminal offense, their criminal history records will become public once again.

Can an OUI Be Expunged in Maine?

Persons charged with Operating Under the Influence of alcohol or other intoxicants (OUI) may not have records of their convictions expunged or sealed in Maine. OUI is a Class D crime but can be designated a Class C crime, depending on the attending circumstances (29-A M.R.S.A §2411). Apart from imprisonment and fines, OUIs have other consequences, such as:

  • Driver’s license suspensions
  • Suspension of the right to register a motor vehicle
  • Vehicle seizure or forfeiture 
  • Participation in an alcohol and other drug programs

What constitutes a Civil Violation in Maine? 

In Maine, all acts that are forbidden by law but not punishable by prison terms are civil violations. They are not considered criminal offenses and they are enforceable by public officials in a civil action. Civil violations may be punished by fines, sanctions, or other forms of penalties. According to the Maine criminal code (17-A M.R.S.A §4-B), offenses that are designated crimes without imprisonment are civil violations. In Maine, civil violations are the least serious offenses. They include violations of municipal laws, minor traffic infractions, and possession of small amounts of marijuana.

When a person commits a civil infraction, a law enforcement officer issues a summons or a ticket for the infraction. The summon will contain an instruction to appear in a district court for a trial. Persons charged with civil infractions do not have a right to a jury trial. If a person has been issued a ticket or a summons and they fail to appear in court on the set date, they could be charged with a Class E crime (17-A M.R.S.A §17). Refusal to give a law enforcement officer accurate information, such as name and address, is a Class E crime. In the case of traffic offenses, a failure to appear in court may result in licenses seizure.

What are some examples of Civil Violations in Maine?

Some examples of civil violations in Maine are:

  • Failure to maintain control of a vehicle
  • Texting while driving
  • Keeping a dangerous dog
  • Avoidance of traffic control device
  • Failure to yield right of way
  • Failure to register a vehicle
  • Violating speed limits 
  • Permitting unlawful vehicle use
  • Improper parking
  • Operation of defective vehicle
  • Hitchhiking on a public way
  • Abandonment of vehicle on a public way
  • Excessive sound system noise
  • Littering

Can Civil Violations be Expunged from a Maine Criminal Court Record? 

In Maine, civil violations are not considered criminal offenses, therefore they are not included in criminal records. However, records of some traffic infractions may stay on a person’s driving records, which are held by the state motor vehicle agency. Unlike minor traffic infractions, serious traffic offenses such as OUI are classified as misdemeanors (or Classes D or E crimes) and are punishable by imprisonment, fines, or both imprisonment and fines. OUI records are criminal records and are not eligible to be expunged or sealed.

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