Can the abuser have a gun?
Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession. There are a few places where you can find this information:
- first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Maine have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
- second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
- third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.
You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website.
What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
Here are some ideas of what you can do:
- Make several copies of the PFA order as soon as possible.
- Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
- Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
- Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
- Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
- If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them. One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the order.
- Take steps to safety plan, including changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many abusers obey protective orders, but some do not. It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Click on Safety Tips for suggestions.
I was not granted a protection from abuse order. What are my options?
You may want to get advice from a lawyer as to whether or not you can appeal the decision. However, the grounds for appeal are limited to “error of law” and “abuse of discretion” and there is a limited amount of time to file. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. See our Filing Appeals page for basic information on appeals.
You may also be able to reapply for a PFA order if a new incident of abuse occurs after you are denied the order. Also, you may decide to report the abuse to the police to see if they will arrest the defendant if they believe a crime was committed.
If you were not granted a PFA order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify, you may be able to seek protection through a protection from harassment order. You will find more information about this process in our Protection from Harassment Order section.
In addition, remember that there are still some things you can do to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Safety Tips. You will find a list of Maine resources on our ME Advocates and Shelters page.
What can I do if the abuser violates the order?
Violations of an order can be pursued through the police and/or through filing a contempt petition in court.
Violations enforced by police or through a civil contempt motion:
However, the police can only arrest for certain violations. The police may arrest for a violation of the following terms in an order (and it can be a Class C or D crime).1 If any of the following terms are violated, you can call 911 or otherwise report it to law enforcement:
- Order the Defendant to leave you alone and have no contact with you;
- Order the Defendant not to hurt you or threaten you;
- Order the Defendant to stay away from your home, school, business or place of employment;
- Order the Defendant not to follow you or otherwise stalk you;
- Order the Defendant not to interfere with your property;
- Order the Defendant not to possess a gun or any other dangerous weapon;
- Grant possession of the home to you or the Defendant; and/or
- Order the Defendant to provide suitable housing for you.2
If the Defendant is charged with a violation of the order and prosecuted, you may want to contact the victim advocate at your county district attorney’s office for information and support.
Violations only through a civil contempt motion:
The police cannot arrest for a violation of any of the following terms of the order - for a violation of any of these terms, the plaintiff would have to file a motion in court for civil contempt and the judge can punish the defendant accordingly.1 To file a motion, you can go to the clerk’s office at the courthouse where you got the order:
- Order the Defendant to get counseling or attend a certified batterers’ intervention program;
- Grant custody and care of any pets to you;
- Order division of personal property;
- Order the termination of a life insurance policy that is owned by the defendant if you are the person whose life is insured;
- Order the Defendant to pay temporary support for you and/or your child;
- Order the Defendant to pay you for loss of earnings, injury to you, medical bills, or property or moving expenses that occurred as a direct result of the abuse;
- Order the Defendant to pay court costs or attorney fees; and/or
- Order anything else you need to stay safe.2
What happens when the judge orders the defendant to turn in his/her firearms?
If as part of the protection from abuse order, the judge rules that the defendant cannot have a firearm or other dangerous weapon, the judge will direct the defendant to turn over the firearms within 24 hours (or sooner) after s/he is served with the order to law enforcement (or to someone else). If the weapons are turned over to someone other than a law enforcement officer, the defendant must file with the court or local law enforcement agency (within 24 hours) a written statement that contains the name and address of the person holding the weapons and a description of all weapons held by that individual. Later on, the judge can issue a search warrant authorizing a law enforcement officer to take any firearms and other dangerous weapons at any location if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant did not turn in such firearms or dangerous weapons.1
1 ME ST T. 19-A § 4007(1-A)
Can the order be changed, extended or canceled?
A PFA order will be issued for a fixed period or time, not to exceed 2 years.1 If the order is going to run out and you believe that you need protection, you can file for an extension of the order. The clerk will set a time and date for your motion to be heard by the judge after the defendant has received notice of hearing. A motion to extend can generally be filed 30 days before the order runs out. If you do not file the motion to extend before the old order runs out, you will have to start all over again by filing a new protection from abuse complaint. The judge can extend an order for such additional time as s/he believes is necessary to protect you or your minor child from abuse.1
Also, either side can file to modify a final order. If there is sufficient cause to do so, the judge can modify an order from time to time as circumstances may require.1
Note: A defendant can file in court to ask that an ex parte order be modified or dismissed and you may get only 2 days’ notice of the hearing date (or shorter notice if the judge allows for it). At that hearing, if the defendant challenges a finding in the ex parte order, you will have the burden of justifying that finding (determination).2
To find a lawyer, go to ME Finding a Lawyer page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.
1 ME ST T. 19-A § 4007(2)
2ME ST T. 19-A § 4006(7)
What happens if I move?
If you move within Maine, your order will still be valid and good. Additionally, the federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands. To read more information about moving out of state, visit our Moving to Another State with a Protection from Abuse Order page for Maine.
If you are moving to a new state, you may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order in another state.