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
Felonies are more
serious crimes classified A, B, or C depending upon potential penalty.
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
of the crime
- victim of
domestic violence notified before defendant released from jail on
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
What is a probable cause
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
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
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
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:
defendant’s work &
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
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
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
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?
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.