KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
You have a right to a speedy and public trial. You have a right to a trial by a jury. When charged with a Class A, B or C crime (a felony), the right to a jury trial is absolute. When charged with a Class D or E crime the right must be exercised by requesting a jury trial in writing within 21 days of arraignment (initial appearance).
You have a right to see, hear, and question all witnesses. This gives you the opportunity and right to confront and cross-examine your accusers, either in person or through your attorney.
You have the right to present evidence and call witnesses in your favor and to testify on your own behalf.
You have the right to remain silent if you choose, which is your right against self-incrimination, and the jury can draw no inference of guilt from your silence.
You have the right to have the Judge order into court all evidence and witnesses in your favor.
Through the conclusion of a trial, you have the right to have your attorney continue to defend you, and to present all defenses that you may have, including the right to challenge as illegal any search and seizure or confession.
In criminal matters you have the right not to be convicted except by proof beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to all elements of the charge(s).
Don't Let This Become Your New Home!
Criminal charges come with collateral consequences regarding your driver’s license. If you are charged with a crime (doesn’t even require a conviction) you can lose your license. If you are sent a notice by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and don’t receive it because you moved, you may not have any defense to a subsequent criminal charge if caught driving with a suspended license. Take any charge seriously and contact a lawyer immediately (this means within one day of the charge).
Bail – Court Appointed Lawyer
If you have posted bail in your name and have a Court-Appointed Attorney, the Court may keep that bail when the case is concluded. If the bail is in the name of someone else, it will be returned if the bail conditions are not violated. 15 M.R.S. §1074 says that your bail may be used to pay fines, must be used to pay restitution and also may be used to pay court-appointed attorney fees. If the bail is in your own name, you need to assume you will not get it back at the end of the case.
In addition to probation there is “Administrative Release” which is available in Class C, D, and E Crimes and is essentially the same as probation, but without a probation officer. The District Attorney supervises but doesn’t put much effort into it and charges a fee, usually $25 per month. This option is more attractive than Probation as there is no probation officer to report to, but is more difficult to obtain in a plea agreement or from a judge when arguing a sentence.
Alternative Sentencing Program
The Alternative Sentencing Program is a 2 day or 5 day work program held at a local camp or school. Even if you are offered more than 5 days, you may be able to attend this program. Sometimes a 10 days jail sentence can be served in the 5 day program and sometimes a longer sentence can be served by reporting to the jail some number of days prior to the program and serving then the jail will bring you to the program to finish serving your sentence. There are flyers for this program you may review.
Discussion of Criminal Case
Do not discuss your case with anyone. If you do this you voluntarily waive your right to remain silent and your statements can be used against you in court. You should assume that any statement you make that is not with your attorney can be used against you. Your statements to me are confidential, but remember, if you tell me one thing then testify to something contrary, I may be required to report this to the court pursuant to the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. You must understand that if you are in jail any discussion of the case may be recorded but, at the very least, it is likely being heard by a jailhouse snitch looking for something to tell the cops to get a more lenient sentence in their case.
Time Served/Good Time
As a general rule you will get credit for time served on your case if bail has been set and you were incarcerated. If you have multiple cases bail must be set on all of them for you to get credit on all of them. Sometimes we ask the court to set bail on a matter because you are already held on another and cannot be released. We do this to make sure you get credit for that jail time served. If you are convicted of a crime and have another pending it is very possible the sentences will be consecutive, and not concurrent, unless we have an agreement for a concurrent sentence.
Motion for Probation Revocation
You need to understand that if you were previously convicted of a crime and sentenced to a certain amount of time in jail or prison. Some of that time was suspended. The State does not need to prove any new criminal conduct against you to impose some or all of that time on you. You are not entitled to a jury trial; only one Judge will hear your case if it goes that far. Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, as is typical in criminal cases, is not the standard you will be afforded at a hearing, if you choose to have one. The State need only prove that you committed the violation of probation by a “preponderance of evidence”; which is best explained as 51% guilt. If the Judge finds that the State is slightly more believable than the Defense, then the motion for probation revocation will be granted.
Even if the State alleges you committed new criminal conduct, if you are on probation, new charges do not need to be filed for you to be found guilty of a probation violation. Only the actions of the criminal conduct need to be proven, not actual new charges.
When imposing jail or prison time on a probation revocation the Judge need not consider the same sentencing factors as new criminal conduct because that was already done when a Judge imposed the underlying sentence. Generally a probation revocation results in more jail or prison time than new charges do for a person not on probation. Also, each subsequent probation revocation generally results in more time than the one before. For example, a third probation revocation on the same probation term can easily result in a full termination at that point even if the alleged violation appears to be minor.
A Probated Sentence is often offered, especially in felony matters, and can be an attractive alternative to a lot of jail time. A probated sentence is a basic large sentence but only part of it needs to be served up front. You would then be forced to report to a probation officer for a year, two years or even longer. The major down side to a probated sentence is that the full amount of time is the actual sentence, not the initial time in jail. These are often noted as 5/1/2 or 5 years all but 1 year and 2 years of probation. This example is a sentence of 5 years in prison and that entire time is the sentence and can be served. The attractive part would the 1 year instead of more, but the last part is the amount of time of probation. In this example you would serve 1 year in prison and once you are released you would be on probation for 2 years but have 4 years hanging over you while on probation. A violation of a condition of probation can result in any amount of time up to the full amount remaining to be served. What may seem like an insignificant violation to you may be treated very harsh by a judge. A probation violation hearing cannot be heard by a jury, just one judge, and has a lesser standard of proof than that of a new crime (preponderance of the evidence or 51% guilt). Any probation violation is likely to easily result in a significant amount of time remaining be served. Please don’t consider a probated sentence to be a joke when contemplating your options. If you cannot follow the conditions of probation you will serve more time in jail or prison. In the alternative, a straight sentence without probation is likely to be 5 to 10 times longer than a probated sentence, making probation an attractive alternative to serving a lot of time now.