Know the Laws: Maine
UPDATED November 27, 2012
A protection from harassment order is a civil order that protects you, your family, or your business from harassment regardless of the harasser's relationship to you.
back to topWhat is the legal definition of harassment in Maine?
For the purpose of getting a protection from harassment order, Maine law defines "harassment" as:
- Three or more acts of intimidation, confrontation, physical force, or threat of physical force that are:
- Directed against any person, family, or business; AND
- Made with the intention of causing fear, intimidation, or damage to property; AND
- Actually causes fear, intimidation, or damage to property; or
- If the harasser committed a single act or a course of conduct that violates one of the following laws: stalking, assault, aggravated assault, criminal threatening, terrorizing, reckless conduct, gross sexual assault, kidnapping, criminal restraint, criminal restraint by parent, harassment, incest, arson, violation of privacy, criminal mischief, aggravated criminal mischief, aiding or soliciting suicide, murder, felony murder, manslaughter, violation of your constitutional rights, or interfering with, oppressing or threatening any other person.* Note: You can click on any of these crimes to read the legal definition on our ME Statutes page.
If you are being harassed by a spouse or former spouse, someone you have a child with, someone who you live with or used to live with, your current or former sexual partner, someone you are related to by blood or marriage, or someone you are currently or formerly dating, whether or not you were sexual partners, you may be eligible for a protection from abuse order. Please see our Protection from Abuse Orders
page for more information.
* 5 M.R.S. § 4651(2)
back to topWhat is a protection from harassment order?
A protection from harassment order is a civil court order that protects you from a harasser. You do not need a special relationship with the harasser who may be a relative, neighbor, or co-worker. For more information about how a protection from harassment order may be able to help you, please see How can a protection from harassment order help me?
The Maine Courts website has a guide called “A Guide to Protection from Abuse and Harassment Actions,” which may be helpful to read through.
In addition to (or instead of) filing for an order, if you are being harassed because of your race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation, you can contact the Maine Attorney General's office at (207) 626-8800 ext. 4 to make a complaint under the Maine Civil Rights Act.
back to topWhat kinds of protection from harassment orders are there? How long do they last?
There are 3 types of protection from harassment orders: an emergency order, a temporary order, and a final order.
1. Emergency protection from harassment orders – This type of order could be granted on nights, weekends, or holidays when the court is closed or if there is no judge available in your local district court. An emergency temporary order may be entered if you meet the requirements explained in the next section. The order would be in effect until a hearing is held in the appropriate district court.*
2. Temporary protection from harassment orders – A temporary order can be granted on the day that you file your petition in court. It does not matter whether or not you have notified law enforcement about the harassment. You can only be granted a temporary order without notifying the harasser (known as “ex parte’) if:
- the judge believes from the information you provide, that you or your employees may be in immediate and present danger of physical abuse or of extreme emotional distress as a result of the harasser’s conduct; OR
- your business property is in immediate and present danger of suffering substantial damage as a result of the harasser’s actions; AND
- you or the court have made reasonable efforts to give notice to the harasser or the harasser’s attorney that you are seeking a temporary order – but only if it is “reasonable” to require this based on the circumstances of your case.*1
If a temporary order is issued without notice to the harasser it will take effect as soon as it is served on the harasser. The order will stay in effect until the final hearing and it can be extended if a hearing is postponed.*2
Even if the judge does not grant you a temporary ex parte order, the case can still be scheduled for a final hearing where you can offer more evidence to show why you need the order.
A harasser may ask the court to terminate (vacate) or modify (change) the temporary order and must only give you 2 days’ notice.*3 The court may also have the final hearing at the same time it hears the harasser’s request to terminate or modify the temporary order.*4
3. Final protection from harassment orders
– To get a final order, you must attend the final hearing that was set by the court and listed on your temporary protection from harassment order. A final protection from harassment order can be issued only after a court hearing in which you and the harasser both have a chance to present evidence, testimony, and witnesses and the judge rules in your favor OR you can get an order without having a trial if the harasser consents to having an order against him/her – this is known as “an order by agreement” or a “consent order.”
Protection from harassment orders can last up to one year. However, you may be able to have it extended.*5 For more information, see How can I modify (change) or extend my protection from harassment order?
* 5 M.R.S. § 4654(3)(A), (C)
*15 M.R.S. § 4654(2)(A), (B)
*2 5 M.R.S. § 4654(7)
*3 5 M.R.S. § 4654(6)
*4 A Guide to Protection from Abuse and Harassment Actions
on the Maine Courts website
*5 5 M.R.S. § 4655(1), (2)
back to topWhat is the difference between an order granted after a hearing and a consent order?
The main difference between the two orders is that an order that is granted after a hearing is granted after the judge has heard all of the evidence presented by you and by the harasser and the judge has decided that you were, indeed, harassed. The judge will make what is called a “finding” of harassment. A consent order is issued without a hearing and without any “finding” of wrongdoing by the harasser. The harasser would agree to you having an order against him/her and you would both agree on what terms will be in the order.
Consent orders can include all the protection that an order issued after a contested hearing would provide. Violation of a consent order can be prosecuted just as a violation of an order issued after hearing would be. However, before giving up the right to a hearing, you should make sure that a consent order has enough protection and other relief since the harasser may try to leave out of the order certain protections that you can get in an order after a hearing.
Once you both appear in court, the judge may right away ask you and the harasser whether you are willing to consider a protection order by consent or agreement, instead of having a contested hearing. Normally, consent orders are worked out by the judge speaking to the parties, or through the use of go-betweens (often lawyers or domestic violence advocates).*
* See A Guide to Protection from Abuse and Harassment Actions on the Maine Courts website
back to topHow can a protection from harassment order help me?
A temporary, emergency, and a final protection from harassment order can give you the following protections:
- Prohibit the harasser from threatening, assaulting, molesting, harassing, attacking, or abusing you or your employees;
- Prohibit the harasser from entering your home or property (but a protection from harassment order cannot be used to evict a tenant);
- Prohibit the harasser from taking, selling, destroying, or damaging your property;
- Prohibit the harasser from following you repeatedly without cause;
- Order the harasser to stay away from the area around your home, school, business, or place of employment (without good cause to be there); or
- Prohibit the harasser from having direct or indirect contact with you.*
In addition, only a final protection from harassment order
- Order the harasser to pay court costs and/or your reasonably attorney’s fees;
- Order the harasser to reimburse you for money you lost as a direct result of the harassment. Reimbursement is limited to:
- Loss of earnings or support;
- Reasonable expenses you spent for safety/ protection;
- Reasonable expenses you had for personal injuries or property damage; and
- Reasonable moving expenses; and
- Order the harasser to do anything else the court thinks is necessary and appropriate.**
If you are going to be seeking the money damages described above, you can ask for a hearing where you can prove the amount of damages you suffered. If you choose, you can make a motion to the court to have the case moved to superior court so that you can have a jury trial on the money damages issue. To have a jury trial, you MUST make a motion before the hearing for the final protection from harassment order.***
However, if the court finds that your complaint for a protection from harassment order is “frivolous
,” it can order you to pay the harasser’s court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.**** Therefore, if you are really unsure as to whether your case qualifies as harassment, you might want to speak to an attorney before filing. You can go to our ME Finding a Lawyer
page for legal referrals.
* 5 M.R.S. §§ 4654(4)
** 5 M.R.S. § 4655(1)
*** 5 M.R.S. § 4655(1)(D)
**** 5 M.R.S. § 4655(1-A)
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