Criminal who are being accused for crimes committed within the boundaries of Maine are captured by the various law enforcement agencies in the state and tried in one of the courts which is a part of the state’s judicial network. The Office of the Attorney General or the District Attorney represents the state of Maine in such matters.
The Criminal procedure of Maine is a broad body of statutes that lay down the process for handling adult criminal offenses. Among the first few laws in Title 15 of the Maine Revised Statutes deals with the issue of active warrants and arrests made without these directives. Undoubtedly, this goes to show that the issue of arrest warrants is the starting point of criminal processing in the state.
How are arrests handled in Maine?
When possible, the police will detain an accused without resorting to the use of an active warrant. However, if there is the possibility of such an arrest being deemed unlawful, the cops will get in touch with the court to procure a judicial order calling for the arrest of the accused. All outstanding warrants from ME find their basis in either a pre-warrant hearing or a grand jury indictment.
In both hearings, the judiciary examines the evidence and decides if there is probable cause to hold the accused responsible for the crime. The only difference is that a magistrate presides over the pre-warrant hearing while jury members take the call on the availability of probable cause at the indictment. If the indictment is returned, an active warrant issue will follow on its heels.
The preliminary sessions held after arrests and before trial
“Preliminary sessions” is an umbrella terms given to all court hearings held before the matter is bound over to a trial level tribunal. These are usually handled by courts with limited jurisdiction and include the first appearance and the arraignment for those accused of Class A and B felonies and the arraignment for suspects of Class C and D offenses. In case of the latter, setting of bail will also be addressed at the hearing.
Those who are being held for serious criminal transgression will be taken to court for the first appearance where the judge will explain the charges and his rights to the defendant. The accused will be asked if he has legal representation. Because jail time will undoubtedly be involved if the charges are proved, the accused has the right to request a state appointed attorney if he cannot afford legal representation.
At the arraignment for felonies as well as misdemeanors, the defendant will be expected to enter his plea which can be “not guilty”, “guilty” or “no contest”. Bail is conditional release usually offered on bond; the defense attorney can revisit the matter at a later stage if bail is denied initially.
The plea bargain
This is possibly one of the most important pretrial aspects since whether the matter goes to trial or directly to sentencing is decided through this process. As its name suggests, this is a negotiation between the sparring sides which helps both to save time and effort. If the defendant agrees to accept his crimes, the prosecution will reduce the charges and seek a lighter sentence; this is the premise of the negotiation.
If the plea bargain is not accepted, the matter is bounded over to the appropriate tribunal. After the pre-warrant motions in which several case related intricacies are discussed and agreed upon, the matter is taken before the jury. Defense can waive the right to a jury trial and choose to be heard by the judge instead.
If jurors are involved, they will have to be unanimous in their decision for it to be accepted as the verdict in the case.If proven guilty, the accused will be sent back to police custody while the judge studies the presentencing report before pronouncing the sentence.