I defend people facing criminal charges in many Maine courts including the Unified Criminal Court in Portland, Maine. This court processes most Misdemeanor and all Felony charges filed in Cumberland County. There are a total of three criminal courts in Cumberland County and I handle cases in all of them:
Cumberland County Process for Misdemeanor Charges
People charged with misdemeanor crimes will be summonsed for an arraignment date. That’s where a person is informed of the charges and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. The arraignment will normally be in the court nearest the location of the incident. Every defendant who pleads not guilty to a misdemeanor in Cumberland County is scheduled for a “dispositional conference” in the Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court in Portland, Maine. That conference is a chance to discuss the case with the prosecution to see if some agreement might be reached to resolve the matter. If that does not happen, the case is set for further proceedings and eventually for trial. All trials are automatically before a jury, unless a defendant chooses to waive that right.
Cumberland County Process for Felony Charges
People charged with felonies are also scheduled for initial appearance but all court dates will be in the Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court. Felonies must be presented to a “grand jury” before the charges can proceed and that takes time. People are often not indicted at the time of the initial appearance and so they are not called on to enter a plea at that date. The judge will tell them what the preliminary charges are and will consider whether bail should be set or modified. At the initial appearance, the case is set for dispositional conference and follows the same path as a misdemeanor except that felonies often take substantially longer since they can involve more complicated issues. Like misdemeanors, felony trials are heard by a jury unless the defendant chooses to have a judge trial.
Portland’s Unified Criminal Court
The Unified Criminal Court is unique to Portland and a few other locations around Maine. It streamlines the process by eliminating the distinction between District and Superior Court and automatically setting all cases for jury trial. This unification forced a reorganization of the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office into prosecutor teams. Those are discussed in the linked article.
How can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
If you are facing misdemeanor charges, your lawyer can enter a not guilty plea for you and avoid your need to attend the arraignment. In fact, your attorney may be able to attend other court dates on your behalf and you might never need to go to court. For felony charges, a lawyer can simplify and streamline the arraignment process. In either case, your attorney can help you understand the process, negotiate with the prosecution, and plan a defense strategy.
For information on a specific case type, please use the menus at the top of the page. Every case is unique and you might not find the information you are looking for on this site or any other. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss the details. Those conversations are confidential and there is never a fee for initial consultation.
I also handle cases in other locations including Androscoggin County and York County criminal courts and occasionally I will take a case in another county. I also defend Federal crimes charged in the Maine District Court in Portland.