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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.

Basic Info

back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and my abuser has a gun. Do I have legal options for getting the gun away from my abuser?

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:

  • He was convicted of a felony in the United States;
  • He was convicted of a crime in Maine that is punishable by a prison sentence of one year or more;
  • He committed a crime using a firearm or other dangerous weapon in Maine, or any other state or the Passamaquoddy Tribe or Penobscot Nation;
  • There is a protection order (as defined by Federal law) against him in Maine or any other state, US territory, commonwealth or tribe that orders him to stop hurting or threatening to hurt an intimate partner, or a child of his intimate partner;
  • He was convicted as a juvenile of a crime that would have been considered a felony if the crime was committed as an adult; and
  • He was found to be not guilty of one of the crimes mentioned above because he has a mental disease or because he is insane.**

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

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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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Guns and Criminal Convictions

back to topIf my abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

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)

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back to topWhat crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

A crime is considered a domestic violence misdemeanor under Federal law if it:

  • Can be defined as a misdemeanor under federal or state law; and
  • Involves physical violence or force, or includes threats made with a deadly weapon; and
  • Was committed by:
    • a current or former spouse;
    • a parent or guardian of the victim;
    • a person with whom the victim shares a child;
    • a person living with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; or
    • a person who has a similar relationship with a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.*

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).

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

A felony under Federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year. *

* 18 USC 3559

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back to topIf a law enforcement officer or other government employee is convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, can s/he own, have or buy a gun?

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)

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back to topHow can I find out if my abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony?

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?

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More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topWhat is the penalty for violating the federal firearm law?

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)

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back to topIf my abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?

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

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back to topWho do I notify if I think my abuser should not have a gun?

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
(207) 780-3324
For reporting illegal firearm activity: 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867)
http://www.atf.gov/field/boston/fo-maine.html

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)

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back to topI do not have a Protection from Abuse order against my abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, is there anything I can do?

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:

  • He committed a crime using a firearm or other dangerous weapon in Maine, or any other state or the Passamaquoddy Tribe or Penobscot Nation;
  • He was convicted as a juvenile of a crime that would have been considered a felony if the crime was committed as an adult; and
  • He was found to be not guilty of one of the crimes mentioned above because he has a mental disease or because he is insane. *

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

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back to topWhat will happen if my abuser tries to purchase a gun?

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.

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back to topMy abuser uses a gun for his job. Does the law still apply?

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)

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back to topI've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

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.

  • You can Write to our E-mail Hotline 
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area (See our ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.).
  • You can also contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111.

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