In Maine, the police must bring a defendant for an initial appearance before a judge “without unnecessary delay and in no event later than 48 hours after arrest, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays, and court holidays.” The appearance can occur through live videoconference, but if it hasn’t happened within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, the authorities must release the suspect or take him or her immediately to court. (Me. R. Crim. P. 5, 5C.)
(For general information on arraignment and initial court appearances, see Arraignment: Getting to Court.)
Maine’s highest court briefly entertained a 2013 proposal to extend the 48-hour time limit to 72 hours. The proposal was in response to a sheriff’s concern about the release of people from jail because initial appearances couldn’t be scheduled within 48 hours of arrest, especially in rural areas. But, the proposal failed. (Associated Press, Maine court kills proposal to increase jail wait time, September 4, 2013.)
Maine courts determine what constitutes an unnecessary delay on a case-by-case basis—they evaluate all the circumstances. But even if a court finds a delay to be unreasonable, there isn’t a standard remedy—such as suppression of evidence obtained during the delay—for each case. (State v Franklin, 463 A.2d 749 (Me. 1983).)
Getting to Court
Police officers must take someone they’ve arrested under a warrant to the court designated in the warrant or the nearest available court. If the arrest occurs 100 miles or more from the court designated in the warrant, the police must take the arrestee to the nearest available court for the setting of bail (unless a judge previously set or denied bail).
People who have been arrested without a warrant and who haven’t been released within 48 hours—includingweekends and holidays—are generally entitled to a probable-cause determination. A judge must determine whether there’s probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a crime. If the government is unable to provide evidence establishing probable cause, the judge must order the defendant’s release from jail.
When evaluating whether probable cause exists, the judge must consider:
- the sworn complaint
- any affidavits filed by the state, and
- any in-person or telephonic sworn statements that are transcribed or electronically recorded.
(Me. R. Crim. P. 4A.)
Statement of Rights
At an initial appearance, the judge informs the defendant of certain rights (unless the authorities have already played for the defendant a prerecorded statement to the same effect).
The judge will inform the arrestee of::
- the nature of the charges
- the right to hire an attorney or have one appointed
- the right to have time to meaningfully consult with an attorney before entering a plea, and
- the right to remain silent (the judge will also warn arrestees that their statements made be used against them).
At the initial appearance for a defendant accused of a Class D or E crime (these are less serious offenses), the judge will also inform the defendant of:
- the maximum sentence and any mandatory minimum sentence, and
- the right to a trial by jury (and any need to demand a jury trial).
At the initial appearance, if not earlier, judges will appoint counsel to defendants who want and can’t afford lawyers. The lawyer for the initial appearance may be different than the one who later represents the defendant. (Me. R. Crim. P. 5, 5C.)
Entering a Plea
After advising defendants charged only with Class D or E crimes of the above rights, judges ask them to enter a plea unless they request to speak to an attorney. Unless certain procedures first occur, judges don’t ask defendants charged with Class C or higher crimes to enter a plea to those charges at the initial appearance. (Me. R. Crim. P. 5, 5C.)
Defendants typically plead “not guilty” at initial court appearances. (See How should I plead at arraignment?)
Get a Lawyer
If you’ve been arrested, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Only such an attorney can fully advise you of the applicable law and effectively represent your interests.