Criminal Defense

Accused of a Crime? We’re Maine Defense Lawyers Ready to Fight for You.
Being accused of a crime is frightening and the legal process can seem overwhelming. Your criminal record and your freedom are on the line, and you want to be sure your rights are protected throughout the legal process. Smith Law Offices understand the anxiety you may be feeling and is committed to achieving the best possible outcome for your criminal case.

We have successfully represented hundreds of people accused of crimes throughout Maine in both State and Federal courts. See Client Testimonials and Recent Victories for more on our successful cases in the areas of:

CRIMINAL DEFENSE

  • Accused of a Crime? We Can Help
  • Why You Need a Lawyer
  • Misdemeanor Legal Process
  • Felony Legal Process
  • Glossary of Criminal Defense Terms
  • FAQs
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Why You Need a Lawyer.
While you may be able to handle the legal process yourself, you should consider hiring an attorney no matter how minor the charge(s) you face. A successful defendant is often an informed one and a lawyer can help you understand the nature of the charges filed, available defenses, what plea bargains are likely to be offered, and what is likely to happen in the event of a conviction.

If you face serious charges, an attorney can help negotiate a plea bargain or represent you if the case should go to trial. A competent defense attorney might significantly improve your legal situation by identifying important issues and bringing appropriate motions forth in the case. Smith Law Offices has represented hundreds of clients facing minor and serious criminal charges, and can help ensure your rights are protected. Contact Smith Law Offices today for a free case review.

Misdemeanor
Generally, a misdemeanor crime is punishable by up to one year in county jail. Misdemeanor trials are held in the state’s lower courts, such as Bangor District Court. Examples of misdemeanor crimes include drunk driving, disorderly conduct or shoplifting.

Legal Process for a Misdemeanor:

Arrest >> Arraignment >> Pre-Trial Conference(s) >> Trial >> Sentencing >> Appeal >> Expungement

Felony
A felony crime is punishable by one year or more in state prison. Felonies begin in the state’s lower court system but may eventually move up to the Maine

Legal Process for a Felony:

For crimes handled by Maine’s District Courts:
Arrest >> Arraignment >> Pre-Preliminary Hearing >> Preliminary Hearing

For crimes handled by the Maine State Superior Court:
Arrest >> Arraignment >> Pre-Trial Conference(s) >> Trial >> Sentencing >> Appeal >> Expungement

Glossary of Terms

Arrest: The act of taking a suspected criminal into legal custody. An arrest takes place when an officer takes you into custody or limits your freedom of movement in some way. An officer may arrest you when: 1) There’s a warrant for your arrest, 2) The officer has reason to believe you’ve committed a felony, or 3) The officer has witnessed you committing a misdemeanor.

The most important rights to keep in mind if you’ve been arrested are: 1) Anything you can say can and will be used against you; and 2) You have the right to ask for an attorney to be present before you can be questioned.

Arraignment: A brief hearing at which the defendant is read his / her rights and the charges against him / her. The defendant may appear alone, or he / she may bring legal counsel. Here’s what typically happens at an arraignment hearing:

  1. The prosecutor will provide the defendant with a written explanation of the charge(s) against him / her.
  2. The defendant will be asked to acknowledge his / her identity.
  3. The court may appoint an attorney to represent the defendant if he / she wants but cannot afford one.
  4. If charged with a misdemeanor, the defendant is required to enter a plea of either guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If charged with a felony, the defendant may or may not be required to enter a plea at the initial arraignment.
  5. In a misdemeanor case, the judge will set the defendant’s tentative appearance schedule. In a felony case, the judge will set the defendant’s tentative preliminary hearing or grand jury.,
  6. Bail is established.
  7. Discovery (typically a police report and complaint) is usually presented to the defense attorney.
  8. If the defendant pleads guilty at the arraignment, the judge may sentence the defendant at that time.

Pre & Pre-Preliminary Hearings: These hearings only occur if the defendant pleads not guilty to a felony charge. They are conducted in front of a judge without a jury present and are used to determine if the case is ready to go to trial.

Pre-Trial Conference: A meeting at which the prosecution and defense discuss: plea bargain opportunities, strengths and weaknesses of the case, pretrial motions, and other factors, such as the defendant’s character and past history.

Trial: The process by which a defendant is tried on charges and considered guilty or not guilty. Defendants charged with serious misdemeanors and felonies usually receive a trial by his / her peers (jury trial). Minor misdemeanor charges are usually handled by a judge.

Sentencing: If found guilty, a judge, using State and Federal sentencing guidelines, determines the type and length of punishment the defendant will receive at a sentencing hearing. Witnesses are typically allowed to speak to request either a lighter or stiffer sentence. The defendant may make a statement to the court.

Appeal: If a defendant has been found guilty, the defense attorney may request a higher court to review procedural flaws that may have negatively affected the defendant’s right to a fair trial. The object of an appeal is to get the lower court’s decision re-considered. The defendant has a very limited time to file an appeal (usually 30 days).

Expungement: The defendant may request to have his / her record expunged, or sealed, so that the crime is deemed not to have occurred. There are several facts to keep in mind when considering whether to pursue expunging one’s criminal record:

  • Expungements don’t apply to federal job applicants or those campaigning for public office;
  • Not all convictions are eligible for expungement (particulary sex offenses);
  • State court expungements don’t apply at the federal level;
  • Convictions usually can’t be expunged until one year has passed and the defendant completed his / her punishment.
  • Expungements can be considered for sentencing purposes if the defendant is convicted of another crime.