Under the bail laws of the state of Maine, every defendant is automatically entitled to bail except when charged with specific offenses, including:
- Felony assault.
- Felony sexual assault charge.
- Criminal restraint involving a child under the age of eight.
- Domestic felony charges and any case involving a violation of protection from abuse order.
When any of these charges are brought, a bail hearing is held to determine whether or not the defendant is entitled to bail.
In all other instances, bail can be set as early as upon arrest by a bail commissioner. This takes place in the jail, during the charging stage, and long before the defendant is even brought to court. Otherwise, bail may be set by a judge once charges are filed against the defendant, or if the defendant is charged with more serious felonies. At any time, however, the defendant can request a review of the bail and bail conditions. In any case, a defendant cannot be held for more than 48 hours before an initial hearing is held. This 48-hour window, however, excludes weekends and holidays.
Once the amount and the conditions of bail are set, the defendant is expected to comply, otherwise he or she will remain in jail until the court trial is finished.
There are at least five ways by which a defendant granted bail may secure his release:
- Release upon personal recognizance, wherein a defendant simply promises in writing to appear in court for all upcoming proceedings, and not to commit any illegal activities in the meantime.
- A cash bond, which entails the defendant paying the full amount of bail. If the defendant is present for the rest of his court dates, this money will eventually be returned to him, less any court fees or charges, and regardless of whether he is acquitted or found guilty.
- A defendant can also be released on an unsecured bond, which is like a cross between personal recognizance and cash bond. Basically, a bail amount is set but is not required to be paid. The defendant is released on a promise to show up for his court hearings, and if he does not, then he is liable for the full amount of his bail. Bail bonds agencies offer bail bonding services for those who are in jail and want to get out.
- The defendant can also post a surety bond, where instead of cash, the defendant puts up property as security for the amount of his bail. This is most often done when the amount of the bond is high and is conditioned upon approval by a judge after a showing that the property posted as surety is located within the state, and that the value is at least equal to the amount of the bail.
- A supervision contract, while not common practice elsewhere, is commonly done in Maine. Maine Pretrial Services regularly checks on the defendant and requires him or her to adhere to the stipulations of the supervision contract, which may require the payment of a fine and the performance of community service.
In any of these cases above, should the defendant fail to appear in court, the surety or bond, when appropriate, will be forfeited on behalf of the court, and a warrant of arrest issued for the defendant, both for the original charge and for a separate felony charge of failure to appear.