Maine Criminal Court

Maine Criminal Court Attorney

What was once a two-tiered system of the judicial branch in Maine is now a single entity known as the Unified Criminal Docket (UCD).  Cases processes in this system include:

  • Criminal actions
  • Certain associated civil actions

The UCD strives to:

  1. Promote prompt and fair resolution of cases by sharing  case information early in the process; providing early access to appointed counsel for indigent defendants, and  early consideration of potential resolution of cases;
  2. Eliminate duplicate clerical workload by reducing the number of court appearances required to resolve individual cases.

District Court System

In Maine’s District Court system, there are:

  • Thirty-eight judges
  • Eight regions throughout the state
  • Twenty-nine locations

District Courts hear civil, criminal, and family matters without a jury. Civil suits are cases involving divorces, custody, separations, and property issues. Within the District Court system is a Family Division that handles family disputes under the oversight of eight Family Law Magistrates.

The District Court system also handles:

  • Civil violations
  • Class D and E (criminal offenses if the defendant waives the right to a jury)
  • Juvenile case matters
  • Traffic infraction cases

Decisions of the District Court may be appealed in the Supreme Judicial Court (except small claims, forcible entry, and detainer cases).

Small Claims Court

This court is a session of the District Court system. This court offers a simple, fast, and informal process for a plaintiff seeking a judgment of $6,000 or less. The parties normally represent themselves but can engage the services of an attorney. Small claims cases include:

  • Collecting a debt
  • Receiving a refund
  • Obtaining a security deposit
  • Procuring payment for damage to a rental property
  • Obtaining or repairing personal property loaned to another party

Appeals resulting from a small claims court’s judgment may be taken to the Superior Court, where a jury trial may occur.

Superior Court

The Maine Superior Court is the state’s trial court of general jurisdiction. Only in the Superior Court are jury trials available. The courts have 20 locations around the state. Seventeen justices hold court regularly in each of Maine’s 16 counties. The Superior Court hears cases such as:

  • Criminal cases
  • Civil cases
  • Murder cases
  • Class A, B, C, D, and E offenses
  • Post-conviction reviews
  • Jury and jury-waived criminal cases
  • Jury and jury-waived trials in civil cases (e.g., car accident lawsuits)
  • Injunctions
  • Appeals from decisions of state and local administrative agencies (e.g., the Department of Human Services)

Superior Court appeals may be taken to the Supreme Judicial Court.

State of Maine Supreme Court

The Supreme Judicial Court was established when Maine separated from Massachusetts in 1820. It is Maine’s highest court and is the court of final appeal. The court consists of seven justices and one Chief Justice, who is the head of the  State Judicial Branch. The present Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Court is Hon. Leigh I. Saufley.

The Supreme Court is responsible for deciding appeals that arise from civil actions and criminal cases. Parties file briefs (a written document outlining their legal arguments)  and thereafter are ordinarily permitted oral argument before the court to further argue their respective positions.

After considering the arguments, the justices later issue a written opinion in favor of one party or the other.  The justices’ opinions are published and are binding law in the state on the issues decided therein.

The Supreme Court of Maine also:

  • Hears appeals of defendants’ sentences in criminal cases;
  • Issues advisory opinions to the Governor or Legislature concerning legal issues of considerable public importance; and
  • Oversees admission to the Bar and the discipline of lawyers and judges.

Felonies and Misdemeanors

In Maine, crimes are classified as felonies or misdemeanors depending on the seriousness of the offense. They are classified alphabetically from Class A (most serious) to Class E (least serious). Essentially a crime is classified as a misdemeanor if it carries a penalty of less than one year and as a felony if the penalty exceeds one year.

Class A, B, and C crimes are felonies Class D and E crimes are misdemeanors.  heinous than felonies.

  • A Class E crime carries a penalty of up to six months incarceration while carries a term of imprisonment for less than one year;
  • Class C and B crimes carry penalties of up to five years  and 10 years of incarceration respectively; and
  • Class A crimes provide for a penalty of up to  thirty years of imprisonment.

Maine United States Federal Courts

The United States District Court for the District of Maine is the federal trial court in Maine.  One such court is located in Portland and the other in Bangor.  Crimes that violate federal law are heard in federal court. Certain criminal conduct may violate both state and federal law and may be prosecuted in either jurisdiction. The types of crimes typically adjudicated in federal courts are:

  • Crimes occurring in multiple states;
  • Crimes involving large scale criminal enterprises;
  • Crimes in national parks or on Native American reservations;
  • Interstate drug offenses;
  • Drug offenses that involve large quantities of drug whether possession or trafficking;
  • White collar crimes (e.g., fraud,  money laundering or security violations etc.)
  • Violent crimes including hate crimes, organized crime, and the like;
  • Cyber bullying;
  • Human trafficking; and
  • Child pornography and exploitation.

Portland Criminal Defense and the Law Office of Richard S. Berne

Richard Berne represents defendants in  criminal matters in every type of court in the state as well as in federal court.  The breadth and depth of his experience and knowledge in both state and federal criminal law qualify him to represent you in either jurisdiction.  Mr. Berne prides himself in communicating effectively with clients to fully understand both  the details of their offenses as well as the details of their personal circumstances that resulted in their being charged with criminal conduct.  His history of going beyond what is expected has made him a true advocate for those facing serious charges. Call now to get the help you need. Our initial consultation is free.