Peace orders are a type of restraining order. They are taken out against non-family members to protect someone who claims harassment or other forms of intimidation. You can appeal a peace order in Maryland. It’s important to understand the peace order process to help your appeal. This is not a criminal process but you may also be facing charges for the same matter. A peace order can harm your reputation and disrupt your life.

People who are served with peace orders seldom know what’s going on until a police officer or a sheriff’s deputy appears at their door. You must act quickly. Contact an experienced Maryland peace order lawyer as soon as possible.

Who Can Be Served With a Peace Order in Maryland?

Peace orders can be taken out by people who are not eligible to apply for a domestic violence protective order. Peace orders are sought by parties that are not in these types of relationships. They are often sought against online stalkers, neighbors, people who met on dates, work colleagues, or even total strangers.

Protective orders are meant to protect people in domestic relationships or carer-type relationships. Current and former spouses are eligible along with people who lived together for at least 90 days in the previous year and people who had sexual relations within a year before the filing of the petition. Protective orders can be taken out against a person you have a child with or by vulnerable adults in carer-type relationships.

Any victim of abuse who cannot seek a protective order can file for a peace order.

What Acts Lead to a Peace Order in Maryland

The applicant for a peace order, known as the petitioner, must show the following occurred to be granted relief, which means legal help.

  • An act that caused serious bodily harm
  • Any type of assault
  • Behavior that led the petitioner to fear bodily harm
  • Sexual assault or rape as defined by Maryland code Md. Code CR §§ 3-303 through 3-308.
  • Stalking as detailed in Md. Code CR § 3-802.
  • Trespassing
  • Revenge porn;
  • Misuse of online communications under Md. Code CR § 3-805.
  • Visual surveillance.

What Must Be Proved to Obtain a Peace Order in Maryland?

The peace order process includes a series of specific steps, states Maryland courts.  The petitioner must file a petition with the district court or a district court commissioner out of normal court hours.

The audience with the commissioner is called an interim peace order hearing.  An interim order gives the petitioner 24/7 protection. A temporary peace order hearing takes place no later than the second day after the interim order is issued. The commissioner will grant the order if he or she believes there are “reasonable grounds” that the subject of the order committed abusive acts within 30 days of the application for the order and is likely to do so in the future.

If the filing is made to the court directly, no interim peace order hearing takes place. The next stage of the process is a temporary peace order hearing which is held as soon as possible on the day of the court filing.

How Long Does a Temporary Peace Order Last?

A temporary peace order usually lasts for 7 days after it is served. A judge can extend it up to a total of 30 days. A hearing for a final peace order must take place within 7 days of the serving of the temporary order unless an extension is granted.

Can an Interim or a Temporary Peace Order Be Contested?

Typically, these hearings are ex parte meaning the commissioner or the judge will meet with the petitioner alone. This means the subject of the order, known as the respondent, cannot contest it at this stage. Temporary peace orders and protective orders are short-term emergency measures.  The subject of a peace order is unlikely to know about the hearing. Although notice is normally given under Maryland law to all parties to an ex parte order, an exception is made for peace orders.

The temporary peace order can force the respondent to have no contact with the petitioner and to stay away from his or her home, school or place of work.

Can a Final Peace Order be Contested in Maryland?

The respondent in a peace order hearing has a right to appear at a hearing before a judge who is deciding whether to issue a final peace order. At the stage, you should make your strongest case against the issuing of an order. The judge will decide on the “preponderance of the evidence” whether the subject of the order committed one of the acts that trigger a peace order such as harassment, stalking, threats or physical violence.

A final peace order lasts six months. As well as ordering the respondent to stay away from the petitioner’s home, school, and place of work and have no contact, the judge can direct either or both parties to mediation or counseling.

Can a Judge Issue Peace Orders Against Both Parties?

Yes. In cases where both parties committed acts like harassment or abuse against each other, the judge can issue final peace orders against both parties, directing then to stay away from each other.

What is the Process to Appeal a Peace Order in Maryland?

You can appeal the issuing of a peace order in Maryland. An applicant can also appeal the decision or a judge not to grant a peace order. Either party can appeal the decision of a district court judge to the circuit court.

The appeal is heard as if it’s a new case. It’s highly advisable to hire a Maryland attorney to handle your appeal. If you were unsuccessful in your hearing before a district court, the lawyer can consider what you may have missed and how your case can be strengthened.

The district court order remains in effect unless it’s overridden by an appeal decision in the circuit court.

Can Records of Maryland Peace Orders be Concealed?

A peace order on your record looks bad to a prospective employer, a landlord, or a school. Actions like stalking, online harassment, violent conduct and threats are a red flag even if they did not result in a criminal conviction. You can apply to have a record shielded if the application for the order was denied or dismissed. The process is called a request to shield records. The respondent must also file a general release and waiver if less than three years elapsed since the issuing of the order.

The court will usually shield the order if it was denied or dismissed, the courts issued no previous peace order or protective order, and no interim order is pending. If criminal charges were brought over the acts detailed in the order, the respondent must have been found not guilty for the order to be concealed. The court can deny shielding if the other party objects.

Should I Consult a Maryland Lawyer over a Peace Order?

It makes sense to consult an experienced Maryland peace order lawyer, whether you have received a peace order or want to take one out. At the Law Office of Randolph Rice, our legal team of Baltimore criminal defense lawyers has decades of experience in helping people navigate the complex legal system in Maryland. Peace orders and protective orders are serious emergency provisions. Not all attorneys deal in this area of the law. Contact a lawyer who is familiar with them as soon as possible.