Maryland law provides for protective orders and peace orders to shield victims of abuse from potential harm. Protective orders are used in domestic relationships, while peace orders apply to any other situation, such as a dating partner (with whom the victim does not live), a neighbor, co-worker or even a stranger.
Requirements for Protective Orders
Maryland statute provides that persons in the following relationships with their alleged abusers or with the following characteristics may file for protective orders:
- Spouses and ex-spouses
- Cohabitants and certain former cohabitants
- Persons related by marriage, blood or adoption
- Parents and stepparents, children and stepchildren
- Vulnerable adults
- Persons having children in common with their abusers
If none of the above situations apply, a peace order filing is appropriate.
What Constitutes Abuse?
Maryland statute also defines abuse for the purposes of protective orders, and includes:
- Acts causing “serious bodily harm”
- Acts causing “fear of imminent serious bodily harm”
- Assault in any degree
- Rape and attempted rape, and certain other sexual offenses
- False imprisonment
In addition to the above, peace orders can be issued upon showing the court evidence of criminal harassment, stalking, trespassing and malicious destruction of property.
What Protective Orders Can Do
Maryland peace and protective orders may order the alleged abuser to:
- Stay away from the victim
- Stop contact, harm and threats
- Move out if the abuser and victim share a home
- Support the victim with monetary payment
- Attend counseling
- Award custody of children and pets
- Award the use of a home or car
Types of Protective Orders
Three types of Maryland protective orders are available:
- An interim protective order is a short-term emergency order issued by a District Court commissioner when the court is closed. The alleged abuser need not be present when the order issued and it goes into effect when a law enforcement officer serves the respondent the order.
- A temporary protective order is a court order that typically lasts one week from the date of issue. Under some circumstances a judge can extend a temporary order past the seven days. Again, the alleged abuser need not be present when the order is issued.
- A final protective order is a court order issued after a full hearing at which both parties have the right to be present and argue their case. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may order the final protective order to last up to one year. After another hearing a judge may extend this order for up to six months. If a petitioner is abused during the period the protective order is in place (or within one year of its expiration), a judge may extend or grant another two-year order.
Violation of a peace order or protective order is a crime with potentially serious repercussions for the alleged abuser. Potential penalties for a violation of a protective order include a finding of contempt of court, arrest, criminal prosecution, imprisonment, or fine.
Of course, whether or not a protective order is in place, acts of domestic violence themselves can constitute many serious crimes under Maryland state law. Peace and protective orders are not a criminal proceeding, however, and do not lead to criminal prosecution to the person against whom the order is issued.
No one would deny the tragedy of domestic violence, but everyone deserves a strong defense when accused of being a perpetrator. Mitigating factors may be present like mental illness, self-defense or defense of another person. Those falsely accused of domestic abuse face serious consequences both short and long-term and require experienced help to prove their innocence.
If you or a loved one is accused of domestic violence, contact a criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and mount a full defense.