Maine 

Victim Witness Advocates

Assistance and Advocacy for Crime Victims

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Multicultural Resource Guide: a listing of specialty service providers for Maine's racial, ethnic and language minority communities

WomensLaw.org: features  links to Maine domestic violence resources

THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a criminal complaint?
           A criminal complaint is a short statement of facts about an alleged crime which, when filed in court, formally begins the criminal process.
           The District Attorney’s Office can authorize a complaint for any Class D and E crime.
            All A, B or C crimes (felonies) must be presented to Grand Jury in Superior Court for indictment.

What are felonies and misdemeanors?
            Felonies are more serious crimes classified A, B, or C depending upon potential penalty.

            Misdemeanors are classified as D and E crimes, which are prosecuted in District Court before a judge only or if the defendant requests a jury trial the case is transferred to Superior Court for a jury trial, or for a trial before a judge only.  A Victim Witness Advocate will be available in the District Courts and Superior Court to help you if a jury trial is requested.

What is Bail?
            Bail is security to ensure a defendant’s presence for trial and compliance with conditions imposed. It is also to ensure that the defendant refrain from any new criminal conduct.  The District Attorney’s Office can request bail conditions such as:
            - no contact with victims
            - not to leave the state, etc., depending upon the charges and        
              circumstances  of the crime
            - victim of domestic violence notified before defendant released from jail on 
              bail

What is an arraignment?
            An arraignment is when the defendant is formally informed by the court of the pending charges.  The defendant must then enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty”.  It is not necessary at arraignment for victims to appear, however, they may if they wish.

What is a probable cause hearing?
            A probable cause hearing is held in felony cases in District Court.  The purpose of this hearing is to establish that the crime charged has been committed and that the defendant committed the crime.  Probable cause hearings do not determine guilt or innocence but whether there is enough evidence to pursue prosecution.

What is Grand Jury?
            Grand Jury is a body of up to 23 citizens of York County chosen to hear evidence about the case.  The accused is not present for the grand jury hearing.

            When the Grand Jury votes, 13 or more members must find that there is probable cause that the accused committed the crimes.  The Grand Jury does not determine guilt or innocence, just whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the case.  The jury’s decision does not become public information until the last day of Grand Jury for that month.  If the Grand Jury finds probable cause, an indictment is returned.

What are Pretrial Motions?

            Pretrial motions are written requests the defendant or District Attorney submit to the court pertaining to evidence at trial.  Trials cannot be scheduled until the court rules on all of the pretrial motions.

When will the trial be scheduled?
            The court, not the Office of the District Attorney, is responsible for scheduling trials.  Sometimes it can take up to a year from Grand Jury before a case is scheduled for trial in Superior Court.

How are Witnesses Called?
            If you are served a subpoena, follow the directions on the subpoena, which will require you to call the District Attorney’s Office to check the status of the case.  Refer to the case as (State of Maine vs. defendant). Witnesses may be notified by telephone by a victim advocate or a police officer as to when and where to appear and what, if anything, to bring with them.  It is important to honor the subpoena, as it is a criminal offense to violate a subpoena in a criminal case. When in doubt, contact the victim witness advocate in your area for information.

What if the Defense Attorney or Private Investigator contacts me?
        Victims and witnesses may discuss the case, but are not required to do so. Private Investigators are not hired by the District Attorney's Office. They are hired by the defendant. It is your decision whether or not to talk to a defense attorney or private investigator. If you choose not to speak with them, just tell them so. If you have any concerns about this, please contact the Victim Witness Advocate.

What happens at sentencing?
            Sentencing occurs when a verdict of guilty is pronounced or the defendant enters a plea of guilty. In Superior Court, the judge may require a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) before imposing a sentence.  PSI’s are completed by the Division of Probation. 

They may include:

             police reports

             defendant’s work & criminal history

             impact the crime has had on the victim(s)

             a psychological or substance abuse evaluation

            The judge then reviews the PSI before imposing a sentence.

            The District Attorney and the Defense Attorney offer information pertaining to sentencing.  It is at this time that the victim can provide a victim impact statement.

Can Crime victims make their feelings known regarding sentencing?
            Yes, if the defendant is convicted, victims have the right to be heard at sentencing.  If  unable or unwilling to appear in the courtroom on the sentencing date, victims may submit a written statement that will become part of the court’s record.  For more information, please call the Victim Advocate.

How do I collect restitution?
           Victims of crime who have suffered financial loss may be eligible to receive
compensation.  Restitution is usually made to the probation office or county restitution office, which will then reimburse the victim.  Questions on restitution can be directed to the victim advocate or restitution clerk in the DA’s Office or the restitution clerk at the Division of Probation and Parole at 822-0806.  A victim witness coordinator for the Department of Corrections may also assist with restitution concerns. (1-800-968-6909)

What about compensation for personal injury?
            Victims of violent crime (including OUI) may be eligible for compensation for medical expenses, counseling, lost wages, and funeral expenses up to $15,000 from The Maine Crime Victims Compensation Program.  Call your victim advocate in the District Attorney’s Office or 1-800-903-7882 if you have any questions about the Maine Victim's Compensation Program.

When can I have my property returned?
            Property is impounded as evidence.  At the final disposition of the case the property is returned.  If you wish to request return of property, contact the investigating police officer that investigated the crime.

How will I know of the sentenced persons release from jail?
           
A victim of any Class A, B, or C crime ( or stalking) where the perpetrator is committed to the Department of Corrections, York County Jail or Maine Youth Center can be notified.  For further information about the procedure or to request notification call the Victim/Witness program.

 

Last Modified: June 13, 2007