Domestic violence is an emotive issue in Maryland. People who fear a threat from a current or former spouse, another partner or a family member can file for a protective order. This is like a restraining order but this terminology is not used in Maryland. It’s important to know what you should do if you are served with a protective order in Maryland.
Although domestic violence often leads to criminal charges, a protective order is a civil rather than a criminal sanction. It is intended to protect a party rather than punish an alleged abuser. This does not mean the alleged abuser faces no consequences. A protective order can result in the loss of your home, access to your kids, firearms, and your vehicle. Act fast if you are served with a protective order in Maryland.
Our Baltimore, Maryland protective order lawyers can advise you of your rights if you are served with a protective order.
Who Can File for a Protective Order Against You in Maryland?
The subjects of protective orders are not always sure why they received them. These are the reasons a protective order is issued, according to the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
The following parties can file for a protection order:
- A former or current spouse;
- A person you have a child in common with;
- A cohabitant – somebody you have resided with as a sexual partner for at least 90 days out of the past 12 months in a heterosexual or a homosexual relationship;
- a child, stepchild, or parent you have lived with for at least 90 days out of the past year;
- Anyone you are related to by marriage, blood, or adoption.’
Relationships outside these categories may not be the subject of a protective order but the applicant can file for a Peace Order.
Reasons for Seeking a Protective Order
People who file for protection orders are known as petitioners. They must have been victims of abuse. State law defines abuse as the following:
- An act that causes physical harm to the petitioner;
- An act that puts the person who applies for it in fear of serious bodily harm;
- Any type of assault
- Sexual assault or rape or attempted sexual assault or rape;
- False imprisonment – restraining the victim in a place against his or her will.
- Stalking or harassment
Some people seek protective orders for spurious reasons. Plenty of people in relationships get into arguments. However, the petitioner must realistically fear physical harm or be a victim of an attack to get a protective order.
How is a Protective Order Obtained in Maryland?
Eligible parties can file for a protective order by completing a petition for a protective order (CC-DC-DV-001), Maryland Courts state on its website. They can file for an order with the clerk of any circuit court or district court during the court’s business hours. If the court is closed they can file the petition with the Commissioner’s Office of the District Court. The office is open 24 hours a day. Petitioners must file with the court rather than with the Commissioner’s Office during regular court hours.
When the person seeking a protective order goes before a Commissioner, an interim order will be granted if the commissioner believes “reasonable grounds” exist to issue one. A judge will consider the interim order within 48 business hours. This is called a temporary protective order hearing. The legal process is usually slow and cumbersome. However, protective orders are fast-tracked for understandable reasons.
When the person seeking the order appears in front of a judge this is done on an ex parte basis. In other words, the person the order is being sought against is not present and does not receive notice of the hearing.
The judge decides whether to issue a temporary protective order after hearing evidence from the applicant alone. A temporary protective order can remain in force for up to 30 days. A judge will decide whether the petitioner has a relationship with the party the order is sought against, known as the respondent.
The judge will consider evidence of abuse such as witness testimonies, police reports, pictures of injuries, and medical records. The judge looks for evidence that the petitioner is in danger such as an attack, an act that puts the person in fear of an attack, a sexual assault or rape, false imprisonment, or stalking.
Most judges err on the side of caution in the granting of temporary protective orders in Maryland.
What to Do If You Are Served with a Temporary Protective Order in Maryland?
Being served with a protective order can turn your life upside down. You may be asked to immediately leave a home you share with the other party and given little time to gather your belongings.
The judge can order you to stop abusing the petitioner, cut off contact, and stay away from his or her or her place of work, child’s school, or homes of family members; The order can throw you out of your own home. The judge can give the petitioner temporary custody of any children you may have from a relationship as well as any pet.
If you are served with a protective order in Maryland you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. A final hearing typically takes place about a week after the issuing of a temporary order. This gives you little time to get your thoughts and life together, let alone your case against the issuing of the order. Both parties are present at the protective order hearing in front of a judge. The burden on the person seeking an order is tougher this time.
The petitioner must show his or her relationship to the respondent and provide proof of abusive actions. The petitioner must provide clear and convincing evidence. However, this is a civil hearing which means the burden of proof is not as high as the ‘being reasonable doubt’ standard of criminal trials. The strength of the evidence has a bearing on the length of a protective order and its scope. The respondent can bring forward evidence and witnesses to refute the claims. Given that the protective order hearing is in a trial format, it’s advisable for both parties to be represented by experienced criminal defense attorneys.
What Can a Judge Order in a Final Protective Order in Maryland?
The final protective order can have longer-term impacts than an interim order on the person who is accused of abuse. A final protective order is in place for 12-months. In extreme cases, the order can be longer or even permanent. As well as continuing provisions in the temporary order such as the exclusion of the alleged abuser from the family home, temporary custody of children, and possession of pets, the judge can order the following:
- Temporary visitation provisions with children.
- Emergency family maintenance.
- Possession and use of any jointly-titled vehicles;
- Counseling programs;
- The surrender of all firearms owned or in the possession of the respondent;
- The payment of filing fees and court costs by the alleged abuser;
- Any other forms of relief that the judge determines to be required to protect the applicant from future abuse.
Hire Experienced Maryland Protective Order Defense Lawyer Randolph Rice Today
Protective orders are a very serious matter in Maryland. There’s a lot at stake in the protective order process including custody of children and your ability to continue living in your home. People who are hit with protective orders are often caught off guard. You should not take this process lightly. A hearing to grant a protective order may consider the same evidence as a pending criminal action. Lawyers can rehearse the arguments for a forthcoming trial. It’s important for a Baltimore criminal defense lawyer to be involved in this process as soon as possible. We can also help you with questions such as whether the public can access records of a protective order case.
Often people who are the subject of protective orders also have cases pending in the family courts. It’s important to talk to a lawyer who can take a legal overview of everything that is going on in your life. We are a full-service law firm.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we have helped hundreds of people in Baltimore and elsewhere after a police officer or deputy served a protective order. We are well aware of the trauma and stress legal processes place on lives and can help you. Call our experienced Baltimore criminal defense team as soon as possible at (410) 657-5658.