Civil Rights FAQ
Law enforcement officers in Maine are trained to identify and report to the Office of the Attorney General all potential civil rights cases. Most police agencies have one or more trained Civil Rights Officers. Most of the enforcement actions brought under the Maine Civil Rights Act begin with a referral from a police agency.
All people living, working, or visiting in the State of Maine are protected. The Maine Civil Rights Act prohibits bias based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation.
To bring an action under the Maine Civil Rights Act we must have evidence of prohibited conduct and we must be able to show that the prohibited conduct was motivated in whole or part by bias based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation.
If there is evidence to prove that the Maine Civil Rights Act has been violated, the Attorney General files an action in court for a restraining order. Restraining orders are also called injunctions. Injunctions are orders from the court that limit the defendant's conduct and restrict the defendant's movement. Most injunctions have no end date and are in effect as long as the defendant is in the State of Maine. The Attorney General can also seek civil penalty under the Maine Civil Rights Act. The civil penalty can be as much as $5,000 per violation.
Once a restraining order [the injunction] is in place, violation of the terms of the order is a crime, which is prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General and is punishable by up to one year in jail.
The perception of the victim or witness that the person, or the person's property, was selected because of the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation:
- Written or spoken comments indicating a bias
- Where and when the incident happened
- Differences (e.g. racial, ethnic, etc…) between the victim and the perpetrator
- Involvement by an organized hate group
While the Attorney General brings actions under the Maine Civil Rights Act, the District Attorney can prosecute any criminal violations motivated by bias under the Maine Criminal Code. The same conduct can be acted upon by the Attorney General under the Maine Civil Rights Act and by the District Attorney under the Maine Criminal Code.
Criminal Prosecution of a Hate Crime
Most criminal conduct in Maine is prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office.
A hate crime is criminal conduct motivated by bias.
When the person, or the property affected by the crime, is chosen because of RACE * COLOR * RELIGION * ANCESTRY * NATIONAL ORIGIN * GENDER * PHYSICAL OR MENTAL DISABILITY * SEXUAL ORIENTATION it can be considered a sentencing factor under the General Sentencing provisions 17-A § 1151 (8) (B) of the Maine Criminal Code.
Maine Human Rights Act
Discrimination is an unfair treatment or practice. In the State of Maine, the law prohibiting discrimination is the Maine Human Rights Act. The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation and credit based on race, color, sex, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry, or national origin.