Know the Laws: Maine
UPDATED November 28, 2012
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.
Yes. If you have a Protection from Abuse order (PFA) against your abuser, or if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, then Federal law states that it is illegal for your abuser to buy, own or have a gun in their possession.*
In addition, Maine state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if:
Note: There are certain requirements that your Protection from Abuse order must meet for it to qualify under Federal law. See the next question to read more about what those requirements are.
If you are not sure if your abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?
To read the definition of a felony, see What is the definition of a felony?
* 18 USC Sec. 922(g)
** ME Statute; Title 15, Section 393
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:
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
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:
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:
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)
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)
No. Under Federal law, if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, s/he cannot have or buy a gun.* If you're not sure if your abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?
To read the definition of a felony, see What is the definition of a felony?
* 18 USC 922 (g) (9)
A crime is considered a domestic violence misdemeanor under Federal law if it:
Note: The crime does not have to specifically mention "domestic violence" in order for it to be considered a domestic violence misdemeanor, and for the federal firearm law to apply.** The relationship that the victim has with the offender is what determines whether or not the misdemeanor is a "domestic violence" misdemeanor.***
For example: If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his wife, he may no longer have or buy a gun.
If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his neighbor, he may still be able to have or buy a gun.
If you're not sure if a certain crime counts as a domestic violence misdemeanor, you can contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit at 1-800-903-0111.
* 18 USC 921 (a) (33)
** United States v. Kavoukian, 315 F. 3d 139 (2d. Cir. 2002); United States v. Meade, 175 F.3d 215 (1st Cir. 1999).
*** United States v. Denis, 297 F.3d.25 (1st Cir. 2002.); United States v. Costigan, No. 009-B0H, 2000 U.S. Dist. (D. Me. June 16, 2000).
A felony under Federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year. *
* 18 USC 3559
No. Law enforcement officers and other government officials who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony cannot own, have or buy guns for any purpose, including their official duties, according to federal law. *
* 18 USC 925 (a) (1)
Domestic violence misdemeanor and Felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where your abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records. You can find contact information for courthouses in Maine on our ME Courthouse Locations page.
Domestic violence misdemeanor and Felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NCIS. Your local police department may be willing to search NCIS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.
To read more about the NCIS, please see the question, What will happen if my abuser tries to purchase a gun?
Anyone who owns, has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.*
* 18 USC 924 (a) (2)
If the judge decides that your abuser cannot have a gun while your PFA order is in effect, the judge should also write in the PFA order what type of gun/ weapon your abuser cannot have. You can ask the judge to do this.
Once your abuser is served (given notice) of the PFA order, the court should tell your abuser to give all of his guns and other dangerous weapons to a law enforcement officer or other individual within 24 hours after receiving notice. Note: If your abuser is at the PFA hearing, he can be told all of this at the hearing, which means he will have to give up all of his guns/weapons 24 hours after the hearing takes place.
If your abuser decides to give his gun(s) to an individual that is not a law enforcement officer (such as a friend or family member), your abuser must file a written statement with the court or law enforcement agency designated in the order, that gives the name and address of the person holding the guns and a description of each gun being held.
Note: If there is reason to believe that your abuser did not give his gun(s) away, the court can send a law enforcement officer to search the abuser's house (or other location) and take away any guns that are there.* You can also call your local police department to ask them to do this. We have contact information for sheriff departments on our Maine Sheriff Department Locations & Info page.
* Maine Statutes; Title 19-A, Section 4007; 1-A
You can call your local law enforcement agency if you think your abuser is violating federal or state firearm laws. Let them know that either you have a Protection from Abuse order against your abuser, or your abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor. You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our ME Sheriff Department Locations & Info page.
You may also contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to report the violation. There is a field office located in Portland, Maine. Their contact information is:
Portland Field Office
Resident Agent in Charge
68 Marginal Way - 3rd Floor
Portland, ME 04101
For reporting illegal firearm activity: 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867)
A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page..
Note: Generally, your abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for violating the law. If your abuser has a gun or buys a gun in violation of the law, your abuser can be arrested, whether or not your abuser knows he/she was in violation of the law. *
* United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)
In addition to being subject to a PFA order or being convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, a person in Maine cannot have a gun if:
If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Staying Safe page for more information. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help. You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety. See our ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
* ME Statute; Title 15, Section 393
Before purchasing a gun, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS). If your abuser has a qualifying Protection from Abuse order against him, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence crime, those records should be in the NCIS, which should prevent your abuser from buying a gun. Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.
If your abuser is able to purchase a gun, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away. Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because your abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him to have one. The criminal background check system is not foolproof.
Note: There may also be some loopholes in the law that your abuser can take advantage of. For more information, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. Go to our ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page to find an organization near you.
Maybe. If your abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, then s/he might be able to continue to use their gun for work purposes, but not for personal use.
However, if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, your abuser cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee. *
If you are confused or not sure whether your abuser can still use their gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111.
To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
* 18 USC 925 (a)(1)
Trying to understand both Federal and State law can be confusing. There are people who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.