Attorney Mikayla Martin Awarded by Super Lawyers


Kennebunk, Maine – The Maine Criminal Defense Group is proud to announce that attorney Mikayla Martin, has been honored with the Rising Star award by Super Lawyers. This highly regarded recognition is a testament to attorney Martin’s dedication, skill, and commitment to excellence in the field of law.

The Rising Star award is presented by Super Lawyers, a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process, involving independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations, recognizes outstanding lawyers who are 40 years of age or younger, or who have ten or fewer years of experience in the legal profession. No more than 5% of practicing attorneys in a state can be added to the registry each year.

In order to achieve this distinction, attorney Martin has demonstrated exceptional legal expertise and a strong commitment to achieving the very best outcomes for her clients. The award reflects her hard work, dedication, and the high regard in which she is held by her peers in the legal community. Attorney Martin has been an associate attorney with The Maine Criminal Defense Group since 2021.

“We are incredibly proud of Mikayla for receiving the Rising Star award,” said managing attorney and owner of The Maine Criminal Defense Group, William T. Bly, “This recognition is a reflection of her talent, dedication, and the outstanding work she engages in on behalf of our clients. Attorney Martin is an incredibly dedicated attorney who represents the future of our firm and the legal profession.”

To reach the Maine Criminal Defense Group, email [email protected].

Call 207-571-8146 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled criminal defense attorneys today.





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Open Container Laws & Penalties in Maine


While you should be aware of the strict OUI laws in Maine, it’s also important to know about other ways you can face a traffic infraction if alcohol is involved. If you have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, you can still face a traffic infraction even if your driving is not impaired by alcohol or drugs. This also applies even if a passenger is drinking alcohol or just possesses the open container.

The open container laws in Maine, §2112-A, prohibit both drivers and passengers from consuming alcohol in motor vehicles and that the drivers will be held responsible if an open container of alcohol is found by law enforcement during a stop.

There are some exceptions to the rule, but drivers and passengers should be aware of the laws so that they don’t create inadvertent legal problems when out on a drive and end up facing a potentially sizable fine.

Open container law in Maine

Maine’s open container law states the following:

“The operator of a vehicle on a public way is in violation of this section [of the statute] if the operator or a passenger in the passenger area of the vehicle:  

  1. Consumes alcohol; or  
  2. Possesses an open alcoholic beverage container.”

What types of alcoholic beverages does the law refer to?

The open container law covers “spirituous, vinous, fermented” or other alcoholic beverages intended for “human consumption” and that contain more than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume.

What is considered an “open container” in Maine?

An open alcoholic beverage container typically refers to any open can or bottle that contains any amount of alcohol above the 0.5 percent threshold. It also covers any other receptacles that are:

  • Open, or
  • Have a broken seal, or
  • Have had the contents partially removed

Does the open container law apply to all parts of a vehicle?

The open container laws in Maine apply only to the “passenger areas”. This refers to the area that is designed for the driver and passengers to sit while the motor vehicle is in operation.

The law does not apply to the trunk or cargo area of a vehicle. However, it should be noted that the glove compartment is considered part of the passenger area as it is readily accessible to both passengers and the driver when they are seated in the vehicle.

Accordingly, if an open container is found in one of these passenger areas, the driver is likely to face penalties.

Does the open container law apply to all roadways in Maine?

The open container laws, like other drunk driving laws in Maine, apply to all public roads or “public ways” in the state. That is, any way that is owned and maintained by the state, county or city that is open for the general public to use, including a right-of-way.

Are there exceptions to the open container law in Maine?

The above-stated laws cover the majority of situations where an open container is found in a vehicle in Maine, supplementing the already harsh drunk-driving laws.

However, even if an open container is found in your vehicle, you might not be liable for the penalties if any of the following applies:

  • The open container of alcohol is found in the trunk: you can lawfully possess an open alcoholic beverage container in the trunk or (if no trunk) behind the last upright seat or in an area not usually occupied by the driver or passengers.
  • Passengers have paid a fee for the driving service: in most vehicles designed to transport passengers for a fee (except taxicabs), passengers can lawfully consume alcohol.
  • The passengers are in their living quarters: if the vehicle is a motor home, trailer, semitrailer, or truck camper, passengers can legally consume alcohol and possess an open container in the living quarters without breaking any laws.
  • The vehicle is a licensed catering vehicle at a catering event: a driver or a driver’s employee can lawfully transport open containers of alcohol to and from catering events if the driver has a valid catering license.

What are the penalties for an open container in Maine?

The good news if you are charged under Maine’s open container law is that you won’t face a criminal charge, jail time or license suspension as you would in some states.

Instead, you will be deemed to have committed a traffic infraction. This is punishable by a minimum fine of $25 and a maximum fine of $500.

What are the rules and penalties for underage offenders?

In Maine, minors (individuals under the age of 18) are generally not permitted to possess or consume alcohol. They are also not usually permitted to transport liquor in a motor vehicle.

The illegal transportation of liquor by a minor is specifically dealt with in the Maine legislature as follows:

“a minor may not knowingly transport [liquor] or knowingly [allow liquor to be transported] in a motor vehicle under the minor’s control. The following penalties apply to violations of this subsection.

  1. A minor who violates this subsection commits a civil violation for which a fine of not more than $500 may be adjudged.
  2. A minor who violates this subsection after having previously violated this section commits a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $500 must be adjudged, none of which may be suspended.
  3. A minor who violates this subsection after having previously violated this section 2 or more times commits a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $500 must be adjudged, none of which may be suspended.”

There are some exceptions where a minor can lawfully transport liquor in a motor vehicle in Maine:

  • If the act is in the scope of the minor’s employment
  • If the act is at the request of the minor’s parent or guardian, or
  • If the liquor is placed outside of the passenger’s and driver’s area (such as a trunk or locked glove compartment) and the minor doesn’t have actual knowledge of its presence in the vehicle.

If a minor is found with alcohol in the vehicle or is caught consuming alcohol, he/she can only be charged with one offense (illegal possession or illegal transportation), rather than both offenses.

Do the penalties apply to open marijuana containers in Maine?

The Maine legislature also addresses open marijuana containers.

Under this law, the operator of a vehicle on a public way commits a traffic violation if the operator or a passenger in the passenger area of the vehicle consumes marijuana or a marijuana product or possesses an open container.

Again, the operator will not face criminal charges because marijuana is legal in the State of Maine.

In this sense, an open container is a receptacle that contains any amount of marijuana or consumable products made from marijuana and has a broken seal or a receptacle from which the contents have been partially removed.

Similar exceptions exist with the open marijuana container law as with the open container laws for alcohol. An additional exception exists, however, for a passenger who possesses an open container and is a cardholder for medical marijuana.

For experienced legal help with any OUI crime, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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Can I Get an OUI Reduced to a Lesser Charge in Maine?


OUI charges are handled severely in Maine. For many people, a drunk-driving charge is their first time dealing with the criminal justice system and, understandably, they are keen to know the potential consequences of an OUI conviction.

With an otherwise clean criminal record and robust legal representation, you may be able to reduce the consequences for your future and even get the charge reduced to a charge with fewer consequences.

Let’s look at what that could involve.

What is an OUI in Maine?

An OUI is Maine’s term for a DUI or DWI—terms that you probably know from other states. It means “operating under the influence”. This term draws attention to the fact that you don’t actually need to be driving a vehicle (nor drunk or even over the legal limit) to be charged with a drunk-driving offense in Maine.

You can check the Maine OUI statute for details about the law but we’ll look at some key aspects below.

First offense OUIs in Maine

Around 80 percent of OUI arrests are for a first-offense OUI in Maine. This means that the person charged has no prior OUI/DWI/DUIs in any state and no refusal to provide a bodily sample in Maine in the last ten years.

First-offense cases (like second offenses) are handled as misdemeanors but if aggravating factors are present a mandatory minimum jail time may still apply. Such factors include: particularly high blood-alcohol content, a passenger under the age of 21, speeding, or causing an accident.

Assuming no aggravating factors are present, a first-offense OUI carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 150 days of license suspension and a $500 fine. After 30 days of no license, the driver can be reinstated if an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) is fitted to any vehicle that they drive for 120 days.

Jail time is very rare for a first offense OUI in Maine but it should not be discounted— a criminal conviction can show on background checks for life, creating potential long-term implications.

Consequences of an OUI in Maine

The consequences of an OUI become more serious for repeat offenders if they are convicted.

A second OUI within 10 years will mean that driving privileges (via a restricted license) take much longer to be restored, which can severely impact employment. Offenders are also hit with an automatic seven-day jail sentence (twelve days for a refusal), a $700 fine ($900 for refusal), and a three-year suspension of vehicle registration.

A third offense within ten years is treated as a felony, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison (minimum 30 days), a $5,000 fine, and two years of probation.

Other potential long-term effects of a criminal conviction include effects on employment, increased insurance premiums, difficulties traveling abroad (even in Canada), and immigration status issues for non-US citizens.

What factors affect the ability to plead down an OUI in Maine?

A first-time OUI offender is more likely to be successful with obtaining a reduction or “diversion” than a repeat offender. However, plea deals can even be arranged for repeat offenders in some circumstances.

What’s possible is dependent on the facts of the case, as well as the experience of your OUI lawyer.

The main factors affecting whether we can successfully plead down an OUI charge with a prosecutor are as follows:

  • The criminal background of the defendant
  • Whether the defendant has previous driving offenses on their record
  • The level of cooperation with law enforcement during the investigation
  • Whether the defendant refused to take a breath or blood test
  • The strength of the state’s case against the defendant (sometimes, issues with the traffic stop, arrest, evidence, test results, or Constitutional rights weaken the state’s case)
  • Whether an OUI conviction will result in extraordinary hardship beyond the license suspension, such as the loss of employment

Much depends on how the prosecutor in the case views the OUI charges. With more lenient prosecutors, the option of a lesser charge may be available if no aggravating circumstances are present. Other stricter prosecutors may be less amenable to pleading down the charge.

What are the plea-bargaining options in Maine OUI cases?

A first or second OUI offense is a Class D misdemeanor. The purpose of plea bargaining is to reduce the charge to a lesser offense, such as driving to endanger, which is one of the most common plea deals in Maine.

A person is guilty of driving to endanger if the person, with criminal negligence, “operates a motor vehicle in any place in a manner that endangers the property of another or a person, including the operator or passenger in the motor vehicle being driven.”

Driving to endanger is a Class E misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, but jail time is rarely served for a first-time offender. Usually, this offense will result in a fine of below $1,000 and a 30-day loss of license.

On the plus side, this is far less than the 150-day loss of license mandated for a first offense OUI conviction. However, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will usually administratively suspend a license before the defendant gets to Court. Therefore, it is important to waste no time in challenging the administrative suspension through your OUI lawyer.

Sometimes, prosecutors will agree to remove an aggravating factor against a defendant, so that the penalty is more manageable for the offender (and can prevent a mandatory minimum jail sentence).

However, it should be remembered that pleading an OUI charge down is only possible in some circumstances and with some prosecutors. This will also become more likely if the state’s case is particularly weak. That’s why it’s essential to hire a seasoned attorney to identify and highlight weaknesses in the case against you.

For experienced legal help with any OUI charge, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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Firework Laws in Miami: What You Need to Know for the 4th of July


The 4th of July is fast approaching, bringing with it a wave of celebrations. In Miami, people come together to enjoy barbecues, family gatherings, and, of course, fireworks. While fireworks can be thrilling and spectacular, it’s crucial to understand and adhere to local laws to ensure a safe and legal celebration.

Find in this blog everything you need to know about fireworks laws in Miami, and some essential safety tips to keep in mind.

 

Florida’s Firework Laws

In Florida, fireworks are regulated under state law, but there are also specific local regulations that vary by county and municipality. Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

1. Legal vs. Illegal Fireworks:

  • Illegal Fireworks: Fireworks that explode or propel themselves through the air are generally illegal for consumer use. This includes items like firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and mortars.
  • Legal Fireworks: Fireworks like “sparklers” and other novelty items such as fountains, snakes, and glow worms are allowed. These items produce effects without an explosion and are considered safe for consumer use.

2. Holiday Permits:

  • It’s true that there are certain holidays, like July 4th, when Florida makes an exception to the fireworks ban. However, this does not override local ordinances, so it’s important to get the necessary information from the local authorities.

3. Local Ordinances:

  • In Miami-Dade County, there are specific ordinances that may further restrict the use of fireworks. For example, some areas may have designated zones where fireworks are permitted or completely banned due to fire hazards or noise concerns.
  • Always verify with local law enforcement or the Miami-Dade County Fire Department before purchasing or using fireworks.

 

Penalties for Violating Firework Laws

  • Fines: If you commit a crime by using illegal fireworks, fines can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the severity and circumstances of the offense.
  • Criminal Charges: If your offense caused property damage or injury, it’s very likely that you could face misdemeanor or even felony charges. This could lead to criminal records and significant legal consequences.

 

Safety Tips for a Fun and Legal 4th of July

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy a fun, but above all legal 4th of July. There are many ways to achieve this, for example: purchase fireworks only from licensed vendors who comply with state and local laws, It’s very important to use fireworks responsibly; always read the instructions to prevent accidents, try to light fireworks in a spacious area that is free from buildings, trees, vehicles, or flammable substances nearby, maintain a reasonable distance between yourself and the fireworks, and above all, do not leave fireworks within reach of children.

 

We know fireworks are an essential part of July 4th celebrations, but it’s crucial to understand and adhere to the laws and safety guidelines to avoid legal issues and ensure everyone’s safety. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Russell A. Spatz of the Spatz Law Firm, PL, in Miami, Florida, has decades of experience handling serious criminal cases. To meet with lawyer Russell Spatz to discuss your criminal matter, please call the Spatz Law Firm, PL, at 305-442-0200. You may also contact the firm online.



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Proposed Changes to Domestic Violence & Stalking Laws in Maine


The domestic violence and stalking laws in Maine are currently being updated to address some shortcomings in the previous laws and to add clarity for both victims and accused parties in such cases.

A recent high-profile case in Colorado ended up in a Supreme Court appeal in June 2023, and highlighted difficulties when prosecuting alleged perpetrators of stalking and domestic violence crimes, with an emphasis on stalking that takes place online or without any physical contact. First Amendment rights to free speech are strong in the U.S. and proving “true threats” can be challenging when pursuing a conviction.

The new laws are designed to provide more clarity for courts across Maine, as well as for the victims in these cases and the defendants charged with these crimes.

Domestic violence in Maine

Domestic violence is most commonly used to describe spousal abuse in Maine. This may take the form of physical or sexual abuse or verbal and emotional abuse.

The crime has a very broad definition and includes any type of abusive behavior committed by one member of a household against another. It also includes threats to commit violence and even crimes committed against a domestic partner’s pet to control and/or intimidate the alleged victim.

In Maine, members of a family or those in an intimate relationship—a marriage, dating relationship or even cohabiting members of a household—can be charged with domestic violence. If convicted, the penalties usually involve probation, the requirement to avoid contact with the victim for a specified period, enrollment in a rehabilitative course, and potential removal from the home.

Stalking laws in Maine

Maine’s stalking laws are harsh—and even harsher if the person alleged to have been stalked is someone close to the defendant. This crime can lead to a charge of domestic violence stalking, rather than standard stalking.

Standard stalking laws prohibit knowingly engaging in a “course of conduct directed at or concerning a specific person that would cause a reasonable person” to:

  • Suffer emotional distress or serious inconvenience
  • Fear getting hurt
  • Fear for family, close friends, lovers, business associates, or even pets, or
  • Worry about his or her property

If someone who has been accused of stalking is in a relationship with the alleged victim, the stalking charge becomes a domestic violence stalking charge. This is a Class D crime in Maine, punishable by up to 364 days of incarceration.

What do the new stalking laws mean?

A large number of alleged stalking cases have not been followed up in Maine since the Supreme Court decision. Law enforcement has often been unable to arrest suspects and the District Attorney’s office has dismissed many cases because the current stalking statute is seen as unconstitutional and the likelihood of conviction very low.

The new proposed laws in Maine are designed to create a constitutionally-sound criminal and civil justice system in response to domestic violence. The idea is that crimes can be successfully and constitutionally prosecuted under Maine law rather than cases ending in dismissal or acquittal.

Representatives from the Maine Attorney General’s office, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault testified in support of the proposal.

What represents a “true threat” in stalking cases?

The nature of a “true threat” was central to the Supreme Court decision in the Colorado case. That’s because “true threats” are not protected by the First Amendment rights concerning free speech.

The Colorado court initially relied on an objective test to make its conviction, a test that deemed that a reasonable person would construe the statement in context as a threat.

The Supreme Court decided that a subjective test standard should be used, which requires that a prosecutor shows that the person who made the statement intended to make a threat. This is generally more challenging to do. Because this was not shown in the initial Colorado case, the appeal was successful and the conviction was vacated, returning to the lower court for a retrial under the new standard.

The decision on the standard for “true threats” set alarm bells ringing in Maine, prompting the changes mentioned.

Proposed change to protection from abuse orders in Maine

Another proposed change to Maine’s domestic violence laws is currently in motion. This is in the form of a bill that would amend the law about protection from abuse orders, giving courts the ability to set a specific distance that a defendant must stay away from the victim.

It is helpful to remember here that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by a person known to the victim. Currently, most Maine protection orders only prevent what courts call direct contact, such as a phone call or text—but do not prevent an alleged assailant from walking close to their target, for instance.

The bill states that the defendant must knowingly be within this specified distance to avoid circumstances where the defendant may not know they are near the victim.

A conviction for violating a protection from abuse order carries significant penalties in Maine. It can be classified up to a Class C crime and a sentence of five years’ incarceration. However, a common defense for defendants is to claim that they were unaware that they were near the victim.

The proposed change to the law would effectively negate that defense and bring it into line with several other states that have distance requirements for protection from abuse orders.

The changes to Maine’s domestic violence laws generally give the courts more power to protect alleged victims. It is, therefore, imperative for anyone accused of a domestic violence offense to hire a criminal defense lawyer who is up to date with the new laws and can provide a robust defense.

For experienced legal help with any domestic violence or stalking charge, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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Prostitution and Solicitation Laws in Maine


Both prostitution and solicitation are considered sex crimes in Maine. Buying or selling sexual acts or sexual contact is illegal and has traditionally been considered a criminal offense for all those involved.

However, Maine’s prostitution and solicitation laws have recently been updated with some important changes.

Here’s what you need to know.

What are the old laws regarding prostitution and solicitation in Maine?

Under Maine Revised Statutes 17-A section 853-A, which has now been repealed, engaging in prostitution was illegal in the state.

Illegal behavior included engaging in, agreeing to engage in, or offering to engage in a sexual act or sexual contact in exchange for a pecuniary benefit to be received by the person engaging in prostitution or by a third person.

A “sexual act” was defined as the following (and still is):

  • Any act between two people involving direct physical contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth, anus, or genitals of the other
  • Any act between a person and an animal involving direct physical contact between the genitals of one and the mouth, anus, or genitals of the other, or
  • Any act involving direct physical contact between the genitals or anus of one and an instrument manipulated by another for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire, or for the purpose of causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact

Sexual contact is defined as any touching of the genitals or anus (directly or through clothing), for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire or for the purpose of causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact.

Although the laws regarding the previous offense of engaging in prostitution have now been repealed, soliciting prostitution remains illegal in Maine. This means that paying for (or offering to pay for) someone else in exchange for a sexual act or sexual contact is prohibited and can lead to a criminal charge.

What are the penalties for prostitution and solicitation in Maine?

While prostitution has traditionally been viewed in many quarters as “one of those crimes” that usually goes unpunished, the associated penalties by the letter of the law have always been quite severe.

The precise penalty for a prostitution or solicitation conviction greatly depends on the circumstances of the sex crime. According to the laws, these types of crimes in Maine can be punished as:

  • A Class B crime (felony): Punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
  • A Class C crime (felony): Punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
  • A Class D crime (misdemeanor): Punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
  • A Class E crime (misdemeanor): Punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Most prostitution convictions used to be for engaging in prostitution, which was a Class E crime in Maine. The penalties became harsher if the offender had one or more prior convictions for engaging in prostitution (or a substantially similar crime) within the previous two years. This was usually prosecuted as a Class D crime.

However, important changes in 2023 mean that engaging in prostitution has essentially been decriminalized, while the offense of soliciting prostitution has been upgraded in severity, especially when a child is involved.

Has prostitution been partially decriminalized in Maine?

In June 2023, Maine passed a new law that partially decriminalizes prostitution. It was called “An Act to Reduce Commercial Sexual Exploitation”.

The new law eliminates the crime of engaging in prostitution and elevates the crime of soliciting a child for commercial sexual exploitation from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The main purpose of this law was to ensure that the “victims” of prostitution and the most vulnerable sectors are not saddled with a criminal conviction—but those who exploit such people remain firmly in the crosshairs of law enforcement.

Accordingly, the crime of engaging in prostitution was repealed, but engaging a person for prostitution still exists as a Class D crime.

Under the new law, the crime of soliciting a child for commercial sexual exploitation has been elevated from a misdemeanor (Class D crime) to a felony (Class C crime), with a maximum punishment of five years in state prison.

The new law is designed to clamp down hard on those who promote prostitution, exploit sex workers, and abuse minors. However, it also recognizes that many unfortunate individuals are pushed or trafficked into the sex trade out of necessity rather than by choice.

Sex workers often come from marginalized communities for whom a criminal conviction would create further distress. The new law aims to break the cycle of arresting and re-victimizing people for their own exploitation.

What is the penalty for soliciting a child to engage in prostitution in Maine?

Under Maine’s new prostitution and solicitation laws, solicitation of a child to engage in prostitution is a Class C crime. The crime is classified as a sexual assault under Title 17-A of the Maine Criminal Code:

  1. A person is guilty of soliciting a child to engage in prostitution if the actor knowingly solicits directly or indirectly by any means a person the actor knows or believes is under 18 years of age to engage in prostitution, as defined in section 851.
  2. Violation of this section is a Class C crime.

As a Class C crime, the penalties for a conviction are up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. The elevation of this crime to the equivalent of a felony gives judges less leeway for leniency, but the penalties will depend on the circumstances of the case.

What is aggravated sex trafficking in Maine?

Sex trafficking laws in Maine include promotion of sex trafficking (a Class D crime) and aggravated sex trafficking (a Class B crime).

Under Title 17-A, a person is guilty of aggravated sex trafficking if the person knowingly:

  1. Promotes prostitution by compelling a person to enter into, engage in or remain in prostitution;
  2. Promotes prostitution of a person 15, 16 or 17 years of age; or
  3. Promotes prostitution of a person who suffers from a mental disability that is reasonably apparent or known to the actor and that, in fact renders the other person substantially incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct involved.

Aggravated sex trafficking is considered a Class B crime, with a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

If a person knowingly promotes prostitution of a person 14 years of age or younger, this form of aggravated sex trafficking is treated as a Class A crime, which can result in up to 30 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

For experienced legal help with any sex crime, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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Differences Between State and Federal Drug Crimes in Maine


Any criminal charge for a drug-related offense is a serious matter in Maine,but how consequential the outcomes can get may depend on whether the charge is filed at the state or federal level.

A drug crime conviction may lead to a permanent criminal record, in addition to a potential prison sentence and a hefty fine. The sentence applied will depend on the jurisdiction handling the prosecution. Federal prosecutions of drug crimes tend to lead to notoriously harsh outcomes.

If you’ve been charged with a drug crime in Maine, it’s important to understand the jurisdiction (state or federal) that is handling your case, how the law varies between jurisdictions, and what the potential consequences could be now and in the future.

What are the main types of drug crimes in Maine?

Drug crimes are outlined in Maine’s statutes as well as the U.S. Criminal Code. The statutes prohibit the manufacture, possession, and dispensing of any controlled substance.

What are considered controlled substances?

Controlled substances are illegal drugs that can harm an individual’s health and welfare. They range from recreational drugs deemed to have no medical benefit, to prescription drugs and other substances that are used to create drugs that can be harmful to users.

Most commonly, drug crimes in the U.S. involve controlled substances like marijuana (which is still illegal at the federal level despite being decriminalized in Maine), as well as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, etc. However, there are other controlled substances that do lead to drug charges for manufacture, possession or trafficking/distribution.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is responsible for designating controlled substance status and classifying the drugs into a series of five “schedules” or categories. Schedule I drug crimes carry the most severe penalties, while crimes associated with Schedule V substances carry the least severe penalties.

Schedule I drugs are deemed to have no accepted medical use and many of them are highly addictive. Drugs listed in the other schedules may have accepted usages and be less addictive.

What is considered drug trafficking in Maine?

Drug trafficking or distribution is the act of furnishing another party with unlawful drugs. The crime has two primary categories: “unlawful trafficking” and “aggravated unlawful trafficking.”

If aggravating factors are present, the more serious charge of aggravated unlawful trafficking will apply. Aggravating factors may include:

  • Trafficking drugs while with a minor
  • Prior convictions for unlawful trafficking
  • Carrying a firearm at the time of the offense
  • Trafficking near a “safe zone”
  • Enlisting the assistance of a minor to traffic drugs

To be charged with a drug trafficking crime, an individual or group of individuals must be accused of doing any of the following:

  • Making an illegal sale of a controlled substance
  • Supplying a controlled substance
  • Delivering a controlled substance

Trafficking charges are most commonly proved by showing that an individual sold drugs but the exchange of money is not technically required to convict a person of trafficking,

What is drug manufacturing in Maine?

Under Maine law, the manufacture of scheduled drugs is considered a form of trafficking. Manufacturing is defined is as follows:

“To produce, prepare, propagate, compound, convert or process, either directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis.”

Both state laws and federal laws criminalize the chemical manufacture of drugs such as methamphetamine. Under federal law, growing marijuana is also categorized as manufacturing.

What’s the difference between state and federal drug charges/crimes?

Generally speaking, the decision whether to prosecute a drug crime at the state or federal level depends on three main factors:

  1. The quantity of unlawful drugs involved
  2. The number of individuals involved in the activity
  3. Whether the activity crossed state lines

Even with Maine following many other states in legalizing the possession of marijuana, any activity that involves marijuana possession could still be prosecuted federally.

However, in reality, anyone who follows state law is highly unlikely to be prosecuted in a federal court.

State vs. federal drug crimes and charges

Most federal drug crimes involve a large quantity of drugs and a large-scale trafficking conspiracy, such as the types of operations run by criminal gangs.

If these factors are absent, the case will often proceed in the state courts rather than in a federal court. State courts only have the jurisdiction to handle cases within the state’s territorial boundaries. Most cases that proceed at the state level in Maine involve the possession of controlled substances and are prosecuted as misdemeanor offenses. The local law enforcement departments press charges and the local state prosecutor will decide how to proceed.

If a case crosses into another state, federal prosecutors are more likely to intervene. Federal courts also have jurisdiction over crimes committed on federal property. Therefore, anyone who uses a federal agency (such as US Mail) to aid criminal activity may be the subject of a federal investigation. Agencies such as the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will handle these investigations.

Most arrests for drug crimes in Maine that end up in the federal courts are for drug trafficking. These are felony charges that are filed by federal prosecutors (the U.S. Attorney’s Office) and the convictions that come with them carry much more serious punishments, including mandatory minimum prison sentences.

Drug crimes, whether charged at the state or federal level, are not to be taken lightly. Serious, life-changing penalties can result. It’s essential to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable attorney who is experienced in defending drug charges.

For experienced legal help with any drug crime, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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6 Tips To Stay Within The Law This Summer


The summer season has arrived, and this means that vacations are starting for many. People plan outdoor activities, family gatherings, etc. However, to be able to enjoy all of this properly, it is important to take measures and precautions and remain vigilant about safety and legal compliance.

Here are some essential summer safety tips to help you stay safe and out of trouble with the law.

 

1. Don’t Drink And Drive

Summer often means road trips, barbecues, and parties. It is important to remember that driving under the influence of alcohol or any substance (DUI) is a serious offense. Alcohol and recreational drugs impair your abilities behind the wheel, and this increases the likelihood of having a tragic accident where you can not only hurt yourself but also someone else. Always designate a sober driver or use rideshare services to avoid DUI charges and keep everyone safe.

 

2. Fireworks Law

Fireworks are essential to summer celebrations, especially around the Fourth of July. As with everything, you must understand and follow local laws to enjoy this. Ignoring fireworks laws can lead to criminal charges. Ensure you purchase fireworks from licensed vendors and follow all safety guidelines to prevent accidents and legal trouble.

 

3. Avoid Alcohol Consumption in Public Places

Public intoxication is another common issue during summer festivities. You must know that Miami has ordinances against alcohol consumption in public spaces, especially in parks and beaches. Remember that excessive drinking, even when permitted, can lead to inappropriate behavior and result in criminal charges. Drink responsibly and avoid prohibited areas.

 

4. Boating and Water Safety Regulations

Boating is a very popular activity during the summer, but it comes with its own set of legal requirements. You must ensure that your vessel is in good condition and properly registered, but most importantly, that you understand the laws related to this activity, such as speed limits and restricted areas. Make sure everyone on board wears life jackets and follows safety protocols to prevent accidents and legal issues.

 

5. Avoid Distracted Driving

Summer road trips can be long and tiring, which can lead to many distractions, such as texting, eating, or adjusting the GPS while driving. Distracted driving has caused many accidents in Miami. Avoid this by taking breaks, using hands-free devices, getting a good night’s sleep beforehand, and eating something that keeps you active.

 

6. Protect Your Home and Property

During the summer, many people tend to vacation, leave the city, and leave their homes unattended. This makes them a perfect target for burglaries. Make sure to securely close all doors and windows of your house before leaving, use security systems, and ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your property regularly. A break-in can lead to significant financial loss and emotional distress, and in some cases, dealing with criminal investigations.

 

Summer is a time for fun and relaxation, but it’s also a season where legal issues can arise if you’re not careful. By staying cautious and integrating these safety tips, you and your loved ones can enjoy your summer activities without the worry of legal trouble. 

Russell A. Spatz of the Spatz Law Firm, PL, in Miami, Florida, has decades of experience handling serious criminal cases. To meet with lawyer Russell Spatz to discuss your criminal matter, please call the Spatz Law Firm, PL, at 305-442-0200. You may also contact the firm online.



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Answering Common Criminal Law Questions in Florida: Top 10 Questions


Criminal law is a complex and constantly changing area that’s vital for upholding fairness and stability within society. For people living in Florida, grasping the ins and outs of our state’s criminal laws is key. So, let’s explore together as we tackle some common questions about criminal law in Florida, aiming to offer clear answers and valuable insights for anyone curious about this complex topic.

 

1. What Constitutes a Crime in Florida?

Florida, like any other state, has its own set of laws that define criminal offenses. Crimes in Florida can range from misdemeanors to felonies, with severity classifications determined by factors such as the nature of the offense and the presence of aggravating circumstances.

 

2. What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

In Florida, misdemeanors are less severe offenses typically punishable by up to one year in jail, while felonies are more serious crimes that may lead to imprisonment for a year or more. Felonies often involve violence or high-value property crimes and can have long-lasting consequences on an individual’s life.

 

3. How Does the Juvenile Justice System Work in Florida?

The juvenile justice system in Florida is designed to handle cases involving individuals under the age of 18. Juveniles accused of crimes are subject to a different set of procedures, with a focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

 

4. What Are the Common Defenses in Criminal Cases?

Defendants in criminal cases can use various defenses, including self-defense, lack of intent, or the exclusion of evidence due to constitutional violations. It’s crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine the most effective strategy for a particular case.

 

5. What is Expungement and Sealing of Criminal Records?

Florida law allows for the expungement or sealing of certain criminal records under specific circumstances. Expungement removes the record from public access while sealing restricts access to the record but does not erase it. This process can help individuals move forward without the burden of a criminal record.

 

6. How Are Sentences Determined in Florida?

Sentencing in Florida considers various factors, including the severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances. Judges have discretion in sentencing, but sentencing guidelines provide a framework for determining appropriate penalties.

 

7. What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Florida?

Domestic violence in Florida involves acts of violence or the threat of violence between individuals in a familial or household relationship. Understanding the signs of domestic violence and knowing how to seek help is crucial for both victims and those accused of such offenses.

 

8. Can I Carry a Concealed Weapon in Florida?

Florida allows concealed carry with a license, but strict requirements apply. Understanding eligibility criteria and the permit process is vital for responsible gun ownership.

 

9. What is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law?

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law permits individuals to use force, including deadly force, in self-defense without the need to retreat first. Understanding its application is essential for those concerned about self-defense.

 

10. How Does Florida Handle Drug Offenses, Including Marijuana Possession?

Drug offenses, including marijuana possession, are treated seriously in Florida. Understanding the laws regarding the possession, sale, and cultivation of controlled substances is important, given the potential penalties and evolving attitudes toward marijuana.

 

It’s essential to remember that legal situations are often unique, and seeking professional advice from a qualified attorney is crucial for accurate and personalized guidance. Stay informed, know your rights, and ensure a just legal process in the face of criminal accusations.

Russell Spatz, of the Spatz Law Firm, PL, has decades of experience handling serious criminal law cases. Contact him at 305-442-0200 to discuss your case.



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False Accusations: Understanding Legal Protections in Florida


Being falsely accused of a crime can shatter lives, unleashing a storm of legal battles, emotional turmoil, and lasting consequences. For individuals caught in this turbulent situation, understanding the legal protections available and navigating the path to justice becomes not just essential but important.

 

The Harrowing Impact of False Accusations

False accusations can spring from various sources, from genuine misunderstandings to malicious intent. Regardless of their origins, the fallout can be devastating. Accusations of theft, assault, domestic violence, or more serious crimes like sexual assault or homicide not only stain reputations but also jeopardize freedom, financial stability, and mental well-being.

In Florida, false accusations thrust individuals into the daunting labyrinth of the legal system, where innocence must be fiercely defended against the weight of wrongful accusations.

 

Legal Safeguards in Florida

Florida’s legal framework offers critical protections for those ensnared by false accusations:

  • Presumption of Innocence: Individuals accused of crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof rests on the prosecution.
  • Right to Legal Counsel: Every accused individual in Florida has the right to legal representation. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help challenge accusations and protect the accused’s rights.
  • Due Process Rights: Florida guarantees due process rights to all accused individuals, including the right to a fair trial, confronting witnesses, and presenting evidence.
  • Defamation Laws: Florida’s defamation laws provide recourse for false accusations that harm reputation. Defamation occurs with false statements aiming to tarnish reputation, and victims can pursue civil remedies, including monetary damages.

 

Navigating False Accusations: Practical Advice

For individuals grappling with false accusations, navigating the legal landscape demands a blend of resilience and prudence:

  • Maintain Composure: Stay calm amidst false accusations to prevent escalating tensions or compromising legal strategies.
  • Document Everything: Record communications, interactions, and evidence related to false accusations to build a strong defense case.
  • Exercise Caution in Communications: Be careful in verbal and written communications, offline and online, to prevent words from being twisted and used against you in legal proceedings.

 

In Florida, false accusations pose a profound threat, demanding an understanding of legal protections. From the presumption of innocence to defamation laws, safeguards exist. Navigating this complex landscape requires composure, documentation, and caution. With experienced legal counsel like Russell A. Spatz, individuals can strive for justice amid adversity.

Russell A. Spatz of the Spatz Law Firm, PL, in Miami, Florida, has decades of experience handling serious criminal cases. To meet with lawyer Russell Spatz to discuss your criminal matter, please call the Spatz Law Firm, PL, at 305-442-0200. You may also contact the firm online.



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