The different police agencies within Cumberland County initiate investigations, which is the basis for criminal charges. Individuals may be issued Uniform Summons and Complaints to appear in court, they may be arrested and bailed to appear in court, or they may receive notification from the court to appear in cases where the police agency has requested a review of the case prior to acting on an investigation. Misdemeanors are set forth on “complaints” or “information.” The Cumberland County Grand Jury hears evidence and will issue charges as part of an “Indictment” if there is probable cause to support the charge(s).
District Attorney's Role
The District Attorney's Office however is the only agency responsible for deciding whether or not a person or entity should be prosecuted and what crimes will be charged. Because we base our charging decision upon the information gathered by the police agencies, we will occasionally have to send the case back to that police agency for further information or investigation. Any person/entity that has been bailed to court must appear in court on the date given on their bail bond or else face the possibility of being arrested. The goal of the District Attorney’s Office is to always act in the interests of justice when it comes to the decision to file charges or possibly not file charges.
Once we determine that a referral from a police agency warrants prosecution, we then file the charging document with the appropriate court. Generally, if the alleged crime is a misdemeanor, then it is filed in one of three courts depending on where the offense occurred: Bridgton District Court, West Bath District Court or Cumberland County Unified Court.
All alleged crimes that are felonies are filed in the Cumberland County Unified Court (formerly the Superior Court) in Portland. We may file a charging document for a felony or we may present it to the Grand Jury, who then decides if there is probable cause to support the felony charge.
It is also within the District Attorney’s discretion to decline to charge a case (known as a “no complaint”) or to take “no further action” on a charge if we view that even though probable cause existed for law enforcement to press charges, the arrest itself may have had the public safety and/or victim safety effect necessary and that it is in the interests of justice to not proceed further.
A Grand Jury is a group of approximately twenty-three citizens that meet once a month over a period of a few days to review our evidence in criminal cases and determine whether or not probable cause exists to proceed with prosecution. If the Grand Jury determines that there is not have enough evidence or probable cause, they vote no on our request to indict, issue a "No Bill" and the case is closed. If the Grand Jury determines that there is enough evidence and vote yes to our request, an indictment will be filed against the defendant.
In the event that a person/entity is bailed to a date preceding a seating of the Grand Jury, we will file a complaint with the court and the defendant will have an initial appearance on the charges. At the initial appearance, the court will assign a return to court date to check on the Grand Jury status of the case.
The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office views the role of the Grand Jury as the “consciousness of the community,” meaning that they are a guide on how to proceed on a particular case.