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Know the Laws: Maine

UPDATED November 28, 2012

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Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. To find help, please click on the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

Guns and PFAs

back to topI have a Protection from Abuse order against my abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

It depends. If your Protection from Abuse (PFA) order specifically states that your abuser cannot have a gun or buy a new gun, then s/he cannot have a gun. Maine state law says that if you are applying for a PFA order in Maine, the Judge can order your abuser not to have a gun or any other dangerous weapon while the PFA order is in effect.*

Also, Maine state law and Federal law say that if there is a Maine PFA order (or protection order from another state) issued by a civil court against your abuser and the order meets the requirements that are outlined in the Federal Firearm statute, your abuser cannot buy or have a gun.**

Note: It does not have to written on your PFA order that your abuser cannot have a gun in order for the Federal Firearm law to apply.

In order for your PFA order to qualify under Federal law, the defendant (person who the PFA is against) must:

  • Be served (given) notice of the court hearing. In other words, the defendant must have been given paperwork that told him or her about the hearing.
  • Have an opportunity to attend the court hearing.
    • Note: The abuser does not have to be at the hearing, but s/he has to have the opportunity to come to the hearing.
  • Be an "intimate partner" of the victim, which includes:
    • A current or former spouse
    • A person with whom you share a child
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past
Note: If your PFA order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under Federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply. The PFA expiration date should be written in the upper right-hand corner of your PFA order.

Note: This law may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.*** If your abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for their job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options. See ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

* ME Statute; Title 19-A; Section 4007
** 18 USC § 922 (g)(8) and ME Statute: Title 15, Section 393 (D)
*** 18 USC Sec. 925 (a)(1)

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back to topIf my abuser is not an "intimate partner" according to the Federal definition, can my abuser's gun still be taken away when I get a Protection from Abuse order.

Yes. Even if your abuser is not an "intimate partner" according to the Federal definition, you can still ask the Judge to order that your abuser cannot have or buy a gun.* However, if the Judge does not agree to do so, then your abuser may still be able to have a gun.

* ME Statute: Title 19-A, Section 4007

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that my abuser's gun is taken away when I get a Protection from Abuse order (PFA)?

While it does not need to be written on your PFA order that your abuser cannot buy or have a gun in order for the Federal law to be enforced, it may make it easier if it is written. Not all law enforcement officers are familiar with the Federal law, which means it may be more difficult to have your abuser's guns taken away if there is nothing written on your order that says your abuser cannot have a gun.

There are a couple steps you can take to help make enforcement easier:

  1. If your abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns he has, and if he has ever threatened you with a gun(s). On the ME Complaint for Protection from Abuse form, you will be asked if your abuser has a firearm, and if your abuser has ever used the firearm in a threatening or abusive way. Check the "Yes" box if your abuser does have a gun.
  2. Ask the judge to specifically write in your PFA order that your abuser cannot buy or have a gun while the PFA order is in effect.
    Note: On the complaint for PFA form, you will have the option of checking a box that orders your abuser "not to have or use a firearm or dangerous weapon." Even if your abuser does not have a gun, if you think that your abuser might have access to a gun, or if you think that your abuser might buy a gun to use against you, it might be a good idea to check this box.
  3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is written or checked on your PFA order.

It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. If the judge agrees to order that your abuser cannot keep his guns while the PFA order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:

  • Require the abuser to give his guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser's house and get them.
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from your abuser.
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to your abuser.

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back to topMy abuser did not show up for the Protection from Abuse order hearing. Can his gun still be taken away?

Maybe. Your abuser does not have to come to the hearing in order for the law to apply to him, but he does have to be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to attend.*

If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given about the PFA order, then the federal firearm law might not apply to your abuser.**

 * United States v. Bunnell 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002)
 ** United States v. Spruill 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002)

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back to topI have a Temporary order against my abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a permanent order before my abuser's gun is taken away?

Maybe. Maine State Law allows a judge to order that the defendant (the person who the order is against) cannot have guns while subject to a Temporary Protection from Abuse order. It is up to the judge to decide whether or not this protection is necessary. If the judge sees your abuser's firearm as a serious enough threat, the judge might decide to order that your abuser give up his gun(s) before the permanent court hearing. You can ask the Judge to do this.

If your Temporary PFA does not prohibit your abuser from having guns, your abuser can most likely keep his guns until a permanent order is issued. Under Federal law, a defendant's gun(s) generally cannot be taken away until a permanent order is in place.*

* There are exceptions, but these are rare. See United States v. Calor 172 F. Supp. 2d 900 (E.D. Ky. 2001), aff'd, 340 F. 3d 428 (6th Cir. 2003)

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