Legal Issues in the Coronavirus Pandemic

First and foremost, we at Gilbert & Greif, P.A. want you to stay safe and healthy during these times. Federal, state and local authorities are issuing guidelines and bulletins daily, and there will be more to come. Business at every level is affected, and families and individuals face uncertainty regarding what lies ahead, both medically and financially.

Like everyone else, we have been impacted by these events, but the good news is that we are open and available to assist our clients with their legal questions and problems. Some may arise specifically out of the coronavirus situation, and others are part of everyday life, as unusual as things are at the moment. For the safety of all, we are restricting personal visits to the office, but we can still cover a lot of ground through phone, video and email. The law has faced previous pandemics so there is precedent to be drawn on. Although there has been some emergency legislation passed at both the federal and state levels, most of what we deal with and have dealt with for years remains in place. Because of court shutdowns, there will be delays in certain cases, but that is nothing new. We resolve to remain calm and carry on. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Collateral Consequences

In criminal law, “collateral consequences” are consequences of a criminal conviction in addition to the actual sentence. It is widely known that being a convicted felon carries with it a number of “collateral consequences.” However, many are surprised to learn that a misdemeanor Domestic Violence Assault (“DV Assault”) conviction carries similar penalties and “collateral consequences.”
               Misdemeanor DV Assault occurs when a “person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury or offensive physical contact” to a family or household member. (17-A M.R.S. § 207(1) (A)(2012); see also 17-A M.R.S. § 207-A (1) (A) (2012).) The definition of “assault” here is broad enough to encompass acts that do not result in injury. One can be charges with DV Assault for shoving a family or household member, as the State asserts that such actions are “offensive physical contact,” even if there is no injury to the other person. Also broadly defined is “family or household member”:
 spouses or domestic partners or former spouses or former domestic partners,individuals presently or formerly living together as spouses, natural parents of the same child, adult household members related by consanguinity or affinity or minor children of a household member when the defendant is an adult household member, and...individuals presently or formerly living together and individuals who are or were sexual partners. (19-A M.R.S. § 4002(4)(2012))
Many are particularly astonished to find out that the law applies to former partners. If you get into a physical fight with an ex, you could be charged with DV Assault even though you do not currently live together and have not seen each other in years.
               The breadth of the law is even more significant in light of the collateral consequences that result from a conviction.  Important to many is the consequence highlighted above, barring someone from owning, using, or possessing a firearm - permanently.  Obviously, this could end the career of anyone in the military and end the hobby of any hunter.  Possession of ammunition is also prohibited.
               Though the loss of the right to use, own, or possess a firearm is perhaps the most famous consequence of a DV Assault conviction, it is not the only consequence.  Though some employers are forgiving about certain misdemeanor crimes on one's record, many employers do not accept employees with Domestic Violence Assault convictions.  A conviction can also prevent individuals from obtaining state licenses associated with certain professions, such as a real estate license.
                For those concerned about family law issues, DV Assault convictions are very damaging.  A DV Assault conviction can be a “slam dunk” for a victim who wants to seek a Protection from Abuse order.  These orders typically last for two years and can be renewed thereafter.   DV Assault convictions can also negatively impact parental rights, child custody, and visitation with children.  There may be other consequences in divorce proceedings as well.
                This list is not exhaustive, as there are also many consequences to having any misdemeanor on one’s record.  For instance, a DV Assault conviction, like other misdemeanors, may limit one’s access to travel abroad, including Canada.  
                 Almost everyone has gotten angry with family or household members, but domestic violence is never the answer.  The consequences of this crime are particularly damaging, with some of them lasting a lifetime.