What is the legal definition of harassment in Maine?
For the purpose of getting a protection from harassment order, Maine law defines “harassment” as:
- three or more acts of intimidation, confrontation, physical force, or threat of physical force that are:
- directed against any person, family, or business;
- made with the intention of causing fear, intimidation, or damage to property; and
- actually causes fear, intimidation, or damage to property; or
- when the harasser commits a single act or a course of conduct that violates one of the following laws:
- aggravated assault
- criminal threatening
- reckless conduct
- gross sexual assault
- sexual abuse of minors
- unlawful sexual contact
- visual sexual aggression against a child
- sexual misconduct with a child under age 14
- solicitation of a child to commit a prohibited act
- solicitation of a child to engage in prostitution
- unlawful sexual touching
- prohibited contact with a minor
- sexual exploitation of a minor
- dissemination of sexually explicit material
- criminal restraint
- criminal restraint by parent
- harassment by telephone or electonic communication device
- unauthorized dissemination of certain private images
- violation of privacy
- criminal mischief
- aggravated criminal mischief
- aiding or soliciting suicide
- felony murder
- violation of your constitutional rights
- sex trafficking
- aggravated sex trafficking or
- interfering with, oppressing or threatening any other person.1
If you are being harassed by a current or former intimate partner, relative, or spouse, you may be eligible for a protection from abuse order. Please see our Protection from Abuse Orders page for more information.
What kinds of protection from harassment orders are there? How long do they last?
There are three types of protection from harassment orders.
Emergency protection from harassment orders: This type of order could be granted on nights, weekends, or holidays when the court is closed or if there is no judge available in your local district court. You must meet the requirements for getting a temporary protection order, explained below. The order would be in effect until a hearing is held in the appropriate district court.1
Temporary protection from harassment orders: An ex parte temporary order can be granted on the day that you file your petition in court and can last until your final hearing in certain circumstances. It can be granted if it is clear from your complaint and affidavit that:
- you (or your employees) may be in immediate and present danger of physical abuse or extreme emotional distress as a result of the harasser’s conduct; or
- your business property is in immediate and present danger of suffering substantial damage as a result of the harasser’s actions.2
In limited circumstances where you are alleging three or more acts of intimidation, confrontation, physical force, or the threat of physical force as the basis of the harassment, you may also have to meet one of two “notice requirements:” 1) that the harasser was already notified by law enforcement to stop the harassing behavior and you have a copy of the notification; or 2) that you filed a “statement of good cause” as to why you didn’t ask law enforcement to issue this notice or why the notice was not issued.However, this “notice requirement” does not apply if the harassment:
- is related to an allegation of domestic violence, violence against a dating partner, sexual assault, or stalking; or
- is based on the defendant committing one of the 36 crimes listed in What is the legal definition of harassment in Maine?2
Final protection from harassment orders: A final protection from harassment order can be issued in one of two ways:
- after a court hearing in which you and the harasser both have a chance to present evidence, testimony, and witnesses and the judge rules in your favor; or
- you can get an order without having a trial if the harasser consents to having an order against him/her – this is known as “an order by agreement” or a “consent order.”
Protection from harassment orders can last up to one year. However, you may be able to have it extended.3 For more information, see How can I modify (change) or extend my protection from harassment order?
What protections can I get in a protection from harassment order?
A temporary, emergency, and a final protection from harassment order can give you the following protections:
- prohibit the harasser from threatening, assaulting, molesting, harassing, attacking, or abusing you or your employees;
- prohibit the harasser from entering your home or property (but a protection from harassment order cannot be used to evict a tenant);
- prohibit the harasser from taking, selling, destroying, or damaging your property;
- prohibit the harasser from following you repeatedly without cause;
- order the harasser to stay away from the area around your home, school, business, or place of employment (without good cause to be there);
- prohibit the harasser from having direct or indirect contact with you;
- prohibit the harasser from engaging in the unauthorized dissemination of certain private images; and
- prohibit the harasser from destroying, transferring or tampering with your passport or other immigration documents.1
In addition, only a final protection from harassment order can:
- order the harasser to pay court costs and/or your reasonably attorney’s fees;
- order the defendant to remove, destroy or return any “private images” (as defined in the unauthorized dissemination of certain private images) and, if necessary, order the defendant to pay any costs associated with removal, destruction or return of the private images;
- order the harasser to reimburse you for money you lost as a direct result of the harassment. Reimbursement is limited to:
- loss of earnings or support;
- reasonable expenses you spent for safety/ protection;
- reasonable expenses you had for personal injuries or property damage; and
- reasonable moving expenses; and
- order the harasser to do anything else the court thinks is necessary and appropriate.2
Note: If you are going to be seeking the money damages described above, you can ask for a hearing where you can prove the amount of damages you suffered. If you choose, you can make a motion to the court to have the case moved to superior court so that you can have a jury trial on the money damages issue. To have a jury trial, you must make a motion before the hearing for the final protection from harassment order.3
However, if the judge finds that your complaint for a protection from harassment order is “frivolous,” s/he can order you to pay the harasser’s court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.4 Therefore, if you are really unsure as to whether your case qualifies as harassment, you might want to speak to an attorney before filing. You can go to our ME Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.
Under what circumstances would I need to request that law enforcement issue a notice to stop the harassment before applying for an order?
In limited circumstances, you may need to ask a law enforcement officer to issue a written “notice to stop harassment” against the defendant as a first step before requesting a protection from harassment order.
You will not need to get law enforcement to issue the notice if the basis of your petition is an allegation of any of the following:
- the harassment is related to an allegation of domestic violence, violence against a dating partner, sexual assault, or stalking;
- the defendant committed one of the 36 crimes listed in What is the legal definition of harassment in Maine?; or
- the defendant committed harassment by engaging in a course of conduct with the intent to harass, torment, or threaten another person after having already been notified (in writing or orally) not to engage in such conduct by a law enforcement officer, by a protective order, or by a corrections officer if the person is incarcerated.2
You may need to get law enforcement to issue the notice if the basis of your petition is an allegation of three or more acts of intimidation, confrontation, physical force, or the threat of physical force directed against any person, family, or business that are made with the intention of causing fear, intimidation or damage to personal property and that do in fact cause fear, intimidation or damage to personal property.1 Additionally, if the notice to stop harassment would be required, you must either:
- attach it to your petition for a protection from harassment order; or
- file a “statement of good cause” along with your petition, which explains why you did not request such a notice from law enforcement or why law enforcement didn’t issue it, if you requested it.1
Note: The judge can issue a protection from harassment order even without a notice to stop harassment depending on how severe the situation is.1
If you are not sure whether or not you would need to request from law enforcement this written notice to stop the harassment in your specific situation, you may want to get advice from a lawyer. Go to our ME Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.