FCS is a partner in the Cumberland County Violence Intervention Partnership. The goal of the Violence Intervention Partnership is to increase victim safety and too hold offenders accountable through a coordinated community response to domestic violence.
Through this partnership, Cumberland County has received a federal grant that supports a unit at the District Attorney’s office dedicated to domestic violence prosecution. Members of the partnership, supported by the grant, include the project director, a victim’s assistant and secretary at the DA’s Office, a Victim’s Advocate at FCS, a Maine Pretrial Services caseworker, and a probation officer. In addition, the Violence Against Women (S.T.O.P.) funds support an investigator in the Sheriff’s Department and the State of Maine supports the Assistant District Attorneys.
Some frequently asked questions about the criminal justice system regarding domestic violence:
What happens if my partner has been arrested?
Your partner may be taken to the County jail in the area where the arrest occurred. He or she may also be booked and released at the local police station or sheriff’s office. Your partner may be released on bail or held at the jail.
When the police officer or sheriff is asking you about what happened, and taking information for his/her report, you can request that your partner be prohibited from calling you from the jail. If you want your home phone number or your work phone number blocked, you should give the officer those numbers and sign the page of the police report that asks if you want any numbers blocked. If you want other phone numbers blocked, such as a relative’s phone number where you live or spend time, you have to ask that relative to make the request in writing within a week to the jail Administrator at the Cumberland County jail. The person making the request also has to send in a copy of his or her phone bill along with the request to keep the phone blocked beyond the first week.
You can also request to be notified when your partner is going to be released from the jail and provide a phone number where you can receive this message. The jail staff will try to notify you, but there is no guarantee that you will be notified. Plan for your safety in case you are not notified.
If your partner has been released from jail, he or she may have been released under bail conditions that restrict contact with you (the victim). This means that if you receive a call, a note or a message from your partner, your partner is violating the bail agreement and this is a crime. It is not possible for you to violate bail conditions that were imposed on your partner. Only a judge can amend or change bail conditions; this requires that the defendant request a hearing before a judge. Otherwise, the bail conditions will remain in effect until the case is resolved.
What happens if my partner has been charged?
The person being charged is the defendant, and you (the victim) are a witness for the State. You should know that it is not your responsibility to “press charges.” It is the State that is charging your partner, not you. This means that an assistant district attorney will make any decisions regarding charges, including whether they will be dropped.
An arraignment is a court hearing where the defendant (the person being charged) is told what he or she is being charged with. Then the defendant must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads not guilty, he or she will be given another court date which will be the trial date. This trial date will be about six weeks after the arraignment. You should receive a subpoena for this next court date. You will likely receive a letter from the victim/witness advocate for your county, explaining to you the charges, your role and how you can contact him/her with any questions or concerns.
If the case results in a guilty verdict, or the accused pleads guilty, you have the right to speak to the judge about sentencing. The sentence may include jail time, which may be suspended, and/or probation including certain conditions. One of these conditions may be that the defendant attend a batterer’s intervention program.
What is a Batterer’s Intervention Program?
Batterer’s Intervention Programs (BIPs) are classes that men who have assaulted their partners are sometimes mandated to attend. Sometimes, men who recognize that they have some problems with the ways that they treat their intimate partners choose to take part in these classes. BIPs were developed as another penalty that the courts could impose for abusive behavior. BIPs are not therapy groups. They are classes led by a trained team of facilitators (a man and a woman). Men mandated to a BIP must attend weekly class meetings for 48 weeks. The classes focus on holding men accountable for their violence against women, and discusses issues such as sexism, racism, classism, and other forms of oppression.
If your partner is attending a BIP, it is important to remember that just because he is in the class, that does not mean that he will stop his abusive behavior. Continue to plan for you and your children’s safety.
For more information, contact:
- Opportunity For Change: Portland – 207.774.4603
- A Different Choice: Windham – 207.818.4960
- Choices, The Men’s Group: Midcoast – 207.442.0181
What is a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order?
An Order for Protection From Abuse (PFA) is a tool used by the courts to allow family and household members who are victims of domestic abuse to obtain quick and effective protection against further abuse. It is issued by a judge, and typically prohibits the other party (the abuser) from contacting the victim, or sets strict guidelines on any contact. The order itself prohibits certain conduct; it is only when the defendant engages in the conduct prohibited in the order that he or she commits a criminal offense.
For more detailed information, please visit the Pine Tree Legal Assistance page, which deals specifically with Protection From Abuse orders and can answer more of your questions. Our advocates at our Outreach offices can answer some of your questions as well.
Who can I contact for more information?
If you have any questions about the criminal justice system and how it can help victims of domestic violence, please contact us for assistance.
You may also call the:
- Victim/Witness advocates at the District Attorney’s Office (Portland District Court) 207.871.8384
- Eastern Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office – covering Brunswick Freeport Harpswell (West Bath District Court) 207.443.5104
- Sagadahoc County District Attorney’s Office (Bath) 207.443.8204