A judge’s decision to set bail at $250 for a man who is charged with trying to outrun police on the Maine Turnpike was met with outrage Tuesday.

Timothy J. Williams, 39, of South Portland was charged Friday with eluding police, after a high-speed chase that ended when he crashed into a car in which a Portland family was returning home from a Thanksgiving gathering.

Nobody was seriously hurt.

Williams’ bail was set initially at $5,000, but District Court Judge Michael Cantara, former Commissioner of Public Safety, lowered it to $250 on Monday during Williams’ initial appearance in Springvale District Court.

The bail was part of an agreement between the prosecutor and defense attorney. Williams’ attorney, Amy Fairfield, said that the assistant district attorney had proposed bail of $500 but agreed to her proposal of $250. She said the police report had no evidence that WIlliams was driving drunk and did not include his Massachusetts criminal record or any evidence that he had failed to show up for court.

Attorneys who were present for the video arraignment said that Cantara seemed momentarily puzzled by the bail, saying “this is by agreement?”

Many people were furious at the low bail, including Melissa Luetje, who was in the car that Williams hit, along with her husband and two young children.

“It seems to me, given his history, that just $250 is laughable,” Luetje said.

She said Williams should be kept off the street, where he might do the same thing to someone else. “We’re fine, but if anybody saw the car, you would never know how anyone walked away from that,” she said.

The Portland Press Herald and Kittery police received calls Tuesday from many people who were upset about the bail set for Williams, who has an extensive criminal history in Massachusetts and a conviction for drug trafficking in Maine. His Maine identification card – his license was taken away – listed the Cumberland County Jail’s address as his home, though police said he lives on Main Street in South Portland.

Court officials said Tuesday that bail is not intended as a punishment related to a particular crime. Instead, it is intended to ensure that a defendant appears in court and does not endanger the public.

“What are the least restrictive conditions that will ensure the defendant’s appearance and the safety of the community?” said Timothy Zerillo, past president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Zerillo was unfamiliar with Williams’ case, but said that bail should be based on the individual circumstances of a defendant, and that media scrutiny can sometimes lead to unfairly high bail.

It’s not clear whether Williams’ criminal record in Massachusetts, including assault and carrying a dangerous weapon, was given to the judge for consideration. And even though Kittery police say they plan to seek charges of aggravated drunken driving and criminal speeding, Williams was charged only with eluding an officer when bail was set.

York County Jail officials said Williams remained in the jail Tuesday in lieu of $250 bail, and might not get out even if he gets the money.

Williams is on probation from convictions in Massachusetts, and jail officials were waiting to hear from authorities there about whether he should be held without bail for a probation violation.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]