Maine Court Records
What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in Maine?
The process of criminal procedure in Maine is relatively straightforward, although there are nuances. Upon making a complaint, the clerk issues a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Law enforcement officers execute the warrant and the defendant into custody. During the arrest, the officer must inform the defendant of the right to an attorney which is almost indispensable in a criminal case. If the defendant has an attorney, he or she shall have the opportunity to contact the attorney. Otherwise, the court shall provide one. Following the arrest, the defendant will be required to make an initial court appearance no later than 48 hours after arrest. Simultaneously, law enforcement and the court shall create and maintain records of the arrest and subsequent actions in the case. Arrest records are publicly available but do not provide definitive proof of guilt.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. The websites often make searching for records simple, as they are unrestricted by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person such as the city, county, or state
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
What Percentage of Criminal Cases Goes to Trial in Maine?
According to Maine Courts Statistics, about 48,000 cases were filed in criminal dockets across the state in 2019. A plea deal resolved about 90% of these. More often than not, criminal cases do not go to a trial for various reasons. In the face of overwhelming evidence, the offender may opt to admit guilt, and the court will impose the appropriate penalties. Other times, the prosecuting team and the defense team will arrive at a plea bargain.
When Does a Criminal Defendant Have The Right to a Trial?
The right to trial is a fundamental tenet of the criminal justice system. After arraignment and if both sides fail to arrive at a plea deal, the criminal defendant has the right to demand a speedy and public trial before a jury. Thus, to ensure that justice is swift, the Maine criminal justice system provides that defendants go to court as soon as possible—as the court prioritizes criminal trials over civil trials.
What Are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Maine?
The stages of a criminal trial in Maine are case-specific, and it is not unusual for a case to go through several stages. A typical criminal trial in Maine goes through eight (8) stages:
- Arrest and Bail
- Complaint & Indictment
- Negotiation of Plea
- Dispositional Hearing
How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Maine?
Criminal trials begin within 70 days, according to Maine’s speedy trial plan. Statutorily, all criminal defendants have the right to a speedy and public trial in Maine. Depending on the nature of the case and the offender’s status, a case proceeds to an arraignment within days to several weeks.
The Maine criminal justice system sets a preference for criminal proceedings over civil proceedings. However, when a criminal case eventually goes to trial, it may go on for several months and even years.
Nevertheless, it is essential to know that Maine sets statutes of limitation on the window of prosecution of a crime. The time limit for felonies ranges from six (6) years to indefinite term in murder cases. On the other hand, the time limit for misdemeanors ranges from one (1) to three (3) years, with the law granting a five-year extension in particular circumstances.
What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Maine?
Criminal trial proceedings follow the Maine Rules of Unified Criminal Procedure. Most cases generally end in a plea bargain and only proceed to trial when negotiations fail. Criminal trials in Maine go through four stages viz:
- Stage 1: The first stage is where the prosecution and the defense make opening statements. The opening statement is non-adversarial at this stage, and the prosecution typically goes first. Generally, each side presents its version of the case to the jury, mentions what evidence the jury should consider, and states other matters involved in the case.
- Stage 2: In what is often the longest stage in criminal trials, the attorneys engage in adversarial arguments, present evidence, and cross-examine witnesses. The witnesses give oral testimony or recount the events of the crime, as they perceived it. The attorneys will also present documents as well as any supporting physical evidence. Ultimately, the prosecutor must establish the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Conversely, the defense counsel does not have to prove the innocence of the defendant. Instead, he or she finds and exposes inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s arguments, witnesses’ testimony, and evidence. Bear in mind that while the burden of proof is not on the defense, the job is not a mere walkover.
- Stage 3: In this stage, the attorneys make closing arguments to the jury. The closing statement by each attorney essentially summarizes the most important and favorable points to bolster the case.
- Stage 4: This is the final stage of most trials. Here, the judge gives instructions to the jury as to the law about the case. Furthermore, the judge will explicitly indicate what is expected of the jury during deliberation. The jury must arrive at a decision solely based on the evidence provided and not on the attorneys’ oral arguments.
Can You Be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Maine?
No. Once guilt has been established and punishment is imposed, the law does not allow for second-guessing. Per the double jeopardy clause under the United States and Maine Constitutions, an individual cannot be put on trial for the same offense more than once. The clause also bars the judiciary from imposing multiple punishments for the same offense. The purpose of the double jeopardy clause is to protect against the emotional, financial, and societal burdens incurred during the multiple prosecutions of a single crime.
How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Maine?
Per the Maine Freedom of Access Act, interested members of the public can request access to publicly available court records. Requests to access court records are typically directed to the Office of the Clerk at the District Court or Superior Court that filed the case. The requesters may visit the Clerk’s Office in person during business hours.
Courts also welcome mail requests for court records. To begin, download and complete the Request for Records Search Form. Enclose the completed request form in a self-addressed stamped envelope and attach a money order or certified check for the applicable fees. The requester will find a description of applicable fees on the request form—it typically depends on the request’s nature.
Send mail requests to:
The Judicial Branch Service Center
P. O. Box 266
Lewiston, ME 04243.
Phone: (207) 753–2901
How to Access Electronic Court Records in Maine
The Maine judiciary has begun transitioning from paper to electronic access to digital court records. However, this service is not available as of September 2020. Meanwhile, the judiciary allows requesters to perform an online records search of traffic violations on the Odyssey Portal.
Nevertheless, interested requesters can access electronic court records on independent repositories. These repositories are useful to access electronic case records in Maine, especially when obtaining multiple records in different jurisdictions. Note that the restriction of access to confidential records also applies to electronic records on these repositories.
How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Maine?
Maine does not expunge court records on convicted criminal offenses. In the case of a pardon, the record custodian will remove the information concerning the conviction from the public domain. Consequently, the record is not available for public inquiries.