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What are Maine Criminal Court Records?
Maine criminal court records refer to all documented information generated during criminal court proceedings. These records are maintained by the State of Maine Judicial Branch and can be accessed by interested members of the public in accordance with the state’s Freedom of Access Act. Criminal court records for the state of Maine typically include sworn affidavit, witness testimonies, deposition tapes, trial transcripts, plaintiff and/or defendant information and records of court actions, motions filed and judgments.
Understanding the Maine Criminal Court System
The Maine state court system can be grouped into two, the Supreme Judicial Court and the Trial Courts. Trial courts include Superior Courts, District Courts, and other lower courts, all spread out across the state. In detail, the Maine state court system can be broken down as follows:
Supreme Judicial Court
The Supreme Judicial Court consists of seven justices including a chief justice, who is the head of the state judicial branch. The Supreme Judicial Court is the state’s court of final appeal, and its major function is to hear appeals arising from criminal and civil cases tried in any of the state’s trial courts. The court does this by hearing briefs and oral arguments presented by lawyers, reflecting on these briefs and issuing written opinions either affirming or reversing the decision of the trial court. The opinions published by this court are binding on all the state’s lower courts.
The Superior Courts are the state’s general jurisdiction trial courts. With the exclusion of juvenile cases, family matters, and civil violations, these courts may hear any types of felony and misdemeanor criminal cases and civil cases. At least one Superior Court can be located in each of the state’s counties, and these are the only courts in the state of Maine where trials by jury are available. In addition to this, the Superior Courts also hear appeals from state and local administrative agencies.
The State of Maine Judicial Branch is divided into eight judicial regions which consist of several District Courts located across the state. These District Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of criminal and civil cases, which include offenses with a penalty of less than a year in prison and/or a fine of $2,000, and all trials in this court are carried out with a jury.
This is a specialized division of the District Courts with jurisdiction over cases involving families and children. Types of cases heard by this division include emancipation, parental rights, grandparent visitation, divorce, child abuse, harassment, and juvenile cases.
Business and Consumer Court
Excluding any matters that involve children, the Business and Consumer Court hears cases between business entities and consumers which may require specialized judicial management. This court seeks to promote effective and efficient processes for resolving these disputes and at the same time keep litigation costs reasonable without placing any unnecessary burdens on the court and the litigants.
Small Claims Court
The Small Claims Court handles cases involving monetary judgments of a maximum of $6,000. Litigants usually represent themselves and if either party is unsatisfied with the judgment rendered, an appeal may be filed to the Superior Court within thirty days.
Judicial Branch Violation Bureau
This is a specialized division of the Maine judicial branch designed to handle all traffic violations for the state of Maine.
Drug Treatment Courts
The Maine Drug Treatment Courts are specialized courts created to provide treatment services to individuals who have a history of criminal conduct, serious substance abuse, mental illness and/or child neglect. These courts are made up of Adult Drug Treatment Courts, Family Treatment Drug Courts, and Co-occurring Disorders and Veterans Court. The activities of a Drug Treatment Court are supervised by a presiding judge, who also has the final approval on participants who may be admitted into these courts.
The Probate Courts in the state of Maine operate under county jurisdiction. Each county has a Probate Court, and these courts have jurisdiction over probate matters such as cases involving estates, trusts and name changes. These courts sit without a jury, and the decisions rendered by them may be appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court on matters of law.
Federal crimes in Maine fall under the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the District of Maine.
What is included in a Maine Criminal Court Record?
While records vary with each case, criminal court records in the state of Maine typically include the following information:
- Case details
- Information on the defendant and/or the plaintiff
- Criminal charge(s) details
- Actions taken on the case
- Judge(s) and legal counsel information
- Hearing dates and times
- Motions, briefs and pleadings
Obtaining Maine Criminal Court Records
In accordance with the Maine Freedom of Access Act, members of the public who wish to inspect and/or obtain copies of Maine criminal court records may do so by any of the following means:
- Inspecting and/or obtaining these records in-person
- Sending mail-in requests to the appropriate record custodian
- Accessing records online
- Utilizing a third-party aggregate site
How Do I Access Maine Criminal Court Records in Person?
Parties who wish to obtain copies of criminal records in person may do so through the following steps:
Step 1. Identify The Right Court
Criminal cases in the State of Maine Judicial Branch are typically handled by the superior and district courts which are located in the state counties. Therefore, the first step in accessing these records in-person is identifying the right court where the case in question was filed and/or heard. To assist members of the public with this task, the State of Maine Judicial Branch provides a courthouse directory that contains contact information for all the superior and district courthouses across the state.
Step 2. Gather Case Information
Under the Maine Freedom of Access Act, parties who wish to access public records are not required to provide a statement of purpose for seeking these records. However, interested parties who wish to inspect and/or obtain copies of criminal court records are required to provide the record custodian with any relevant information necessary to facilitate a search for these records. This information usually includes the names and date of birth of parties to the case. However, it should be noted that the information required to facilitate record searches may vary according to the court where these records are located.
Step 3. Visit the Court Record Custodian
In the State of Maine Judicial Branch, the record custodian for criminal court records are typically the superior court clerks. After the right court has been identified, a request to inspect and/or copy criminal court records may be made in person at the office of the superior court clerk. Interested parties will be required to complete a Request for Records Search Form.
Step 4. Pay Required Fees
In accordance with the Maine Freedom of Access Act, the State of Maine Judicial Branch charges a record search fee and a separate fee for copying court records. Interested parties who wish to access criminal court records may be required to provide a form of identification, usually a government-issued photo ID and pay all applicable fees, which are calculated by the court. However, individuals who wish to access criminal court records for cases they were party to are exempt from paying any record search fees.
How Do I Find Maine Criminal Court Records by Mail?
Members of the public who wish to access court records by mail must download and complete a Request for Records Search Form. The completed form should be mailed to:
Judicial Branch Service Center,
PO Box 266,
Lewiston, ME 04243.
Interested parties are required to include a self-addressed stamped envelope and appropriate payment (usually in the form of money orders or checks, made out to the “Treasurer, State of Maine”) when mailing in the completed request form. As mentioned earlier, individuals who wish to access court records for a case they were party to are exempt from paying any record search fees.
How to Find Maine Criminal Court Records Online?
The State of Maine Judicial Branch does not officially provide members of the public with online access to criminal court records. However, interested parties who wish to access these records online may do so via a number of unofficial third-party websites. Third-party aggregate sites can also be utilized by members of the public who wish to obtain criminal court records from the state of Maine but are unable to do so in-person or via mail. These websites provide interested parties with the advantage of accessing these records, and/or obtaining copies of these records from remote locations. To search for records on these sites, requestors are required to provide the name(s) of any parties involved and the location of the record in question.
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Are all Maine Criminal Court Records Public?
Most criminal court records are considered public records and may be obtained by any member of the public, except where stated otherwise by statutory law. According to the Maine Freedom of Access Act, public records are defined as any documentary materials, regardless of its medium of storage, from which information can be obtained directly or indirectly, that is in the custody of a state agency or public official and has been received or prepared for use in connection with the transaction of public business.
How do I find Maine Public Records for Free?
Interested parties can inspect public records for free in the state of Maine by querying the appropriate record custodian. However, in accordance with the state’s Freedom of Access Act, a records search fee, as well as fees for copying any of these records, may be charged before these records can be obtained.
Can I Access Sealed Maine Criminal Court Records?
Pursuant to Maine state law, sealed criminal court records are accessible only to eligible parties. These parties are usually authorized members of a law enforcement agency or officers of the court. However, other interested parties who wish to access sealed criminal court records may do so by obtaining a court order authorizing the unsealing of the record(s) in question.
Are all Juvenile Criminal Court Records open to the Public?
In accordance with Maine State Law Title 15 Chapter 507 Section 3308, juvenile case records are deemed confidential and thus may only be accessed by authorized parties which include, but are not limited to, the juvenile, the juvenile’s parents or legal custodians and the juvenile’s attorneys.
What Records are Automatically Sealed by Maine Statute?
The state of Maine does not automatically seal any public records. Some public records are however considered confidential, and as such, state agencies and public officials are not statutorily required to produce them to members of the public. Some of these records include:
- Medical records and reports of emergency medical service units
- Social security numbers
- Juvenile inmate records
- Personal contact information of public employees.
- Juvenile case records
Are Trial Transcripts Open to the Public?
Trial transcripts are considered public records in the state of Maine. Interested parties who wish to obtain a copy of a trial transcript are required to complete a Transcript Order Form. This completed form should be submitted at the office of the court clerk where the case was heard. Litigants representing themselves or attorneys representing indigent clients who wish to obtain transcripts at the state’s expense will also need to submit a Motion for Transcript at State Expense. Any interested member of the public may obtain a transcript for a trial as long as the hearing was public. Transcripts of closed hearings may also be obtained if the interested parties were party to the hearings. Requestors who were not a party to closed hearings and wish to obtain a transcript of the hearing are required to provide written permission from the judge who heard the case. In addition to this, the State of Maine Judicial Branch also provides an option for interested parties who wish to obtain trial transcripts for reference purposes only to do so online via eScribers.