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Houlton senator introduces bill to change criminal code

HOULTON, Maine — Those who are seriously injured in a crime often suffer emotional trauma as a result.

Currently, however, the criminal code does not recognize such trauma in all situations.

Sen. Michael Carpenter, D-Houlton, is seeking to change that.

On Friday, March 22, Carpenter presented his bill, LD 1023, “An Act Regarding the Definition of ‘Serious Bodily Injury’ in the Maine Criminal Code, to the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

He said the bill expands the definition of serious bodily injury to include a broader definition of substantial impairment with a mental health aspect.

“It’s important that we recognize criminal cases where the victim experiences serious bodily injury that this also refers to mental scars, not just physical ones,” he said. “This bill would allow victims who have suffered severe mental health effects from a crime committed against them to get justice.”

Carpenter said the bill was actually the idea of Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins.

“If someone suffers an assault, they could sustain a long time emotional injury,” the senator said. “The Maine Prosecutors Association was the driving force behind this.”

Carpenter said he has heard of some resistance from defense attorneys, but it is too early to tell just how much push back there will be.

As it stands, the criminal code for serious bodily injury only applies to physical impairments related to any bodily member or organ where function is affected.

The bill faces further action in the committee and votes before the Maine House and Senate.

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