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Standards of proof for restraining orders in Maine


As we have talked about before on our blog, restraining orders can happen fast if you are a defendant. And, in an effort to protect families, the burden of proof for restraining orders is lower than it is for a criminal conviction. But, it is important to understand that just because restraining orders can happen rapidly, that doesn’t mean that there are not serious consequences to attached to them.

In today’s video Merritt Heminway talks about the standards of proof for restraining orders in Maine, and gives an example of a typical situation that doesn’t seem serious at first, but can turn serious rather quickly.

If you have any questions at all, or are facing the possibility of a restraining order, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. We would be happy to help.

Please email us at or call (207) 221-6363.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Portland Maine, Restraining Orders in Maine

Merritt Heminway, Criminal Defense Lawyer in Portland, Maine

Below is a transcript  of today’s video:

Standards of proof for restraining orders in Maine.

In the law there are different standards of proof. In the criminal law, for the state to find you guilty, the state must prove everything beyond a reasonable doubt, which is an extremely high standard of proof. Much less than that standard of proof is what we call a preponderance of the evidence. And so if beyond a reasonable doubt is about 99% of the way there, a preponderance of the evidence is about 51% of the way there. Preponderance of the evidence is also described as, more likely than not. So if a plaintiff can prove, at this super-quick super-fast hearing, that it’s more likely than not, that the defendant abused her. That defendant may be stuck with the restraining order for as long as two years. That restraining order may have child-support, may have kicking you out of the house, may have monetary compensation all attached to it. Any violation of the restraining order, during that entire two-year period, is a criminal offense.

Agreeing to a restraining order has consequences.

Here’s a common scenario, a defendant is served with the restraining order and shows up for their hearing and instead of doing a contested hearing in front of a judge, wants to play nice. And instead, agrees to the restraining order in place. And that restraining order may be as long as two years. So the defendant walks away from court with a restraining order for two years that prohibits contact with children, that may prohibit contact with the plaintiff, that may prohibit the defendant from going to certain locations. And may think nothing more of it. Another two weeks later, when the defendant wants to talk with his children on the phone and absentmindedly dials the number, as soon as someone picks up, that’s a crime. And the police take it very seriously. They come fast. And they may take you to jail right away. And then you are facing the criminal charge of violating a restraining order. That’s a misdemeanor in the state of Maine, as a first offense, and that can carry up to a year in jail.