What You Need to Know About Protective Orders in Maryland

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People who fear for their safety from a current or former partner often seek a protective order. These orders in Maryland are like restraining orders. However, the state does not call them restraining orders. It’s important to know about protective orders in Maryland if you believe you are going to be served with one. Protective orders don’t carry criminal sanctions. You won’t be thrown in jail if one is served on you. You can be jailed for breaching an order. However, people who receive one often face serious consequences like the loss of their homes and restricted access to their kids.

You should talk to a Maryland criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after receiving a protective order. Please contact our Baltimore based legal team for more information.

What are Protective Orders?

In Maryland, people who claim to be victims of violence or threatened abuse obtain a protective order in the country or district court of your county. People applying for orders must show evidence of abuse of the threat of future violence. Abuse can include the following:

  • Any act that causes serious bodily harm like punching, kicking or assault with a weapon;
  • Any form of assault;
  • An act that puts the person who seeks the order in imminent fear of serious bodily harm;
  • Stalking;
  • Sexual assault and rape and attempted sexual assault and rape;
  • False imprisonment;
  • Mental injuries to a child.

Who Can Obtain a Protective Order in Maryland?

The applicant for a protective order in Maryland must have a relationship to the alleged abuser. The following people can apply, Maryland courts state:

  • Husbands and wives or people in a homosexual marriage:
  • Partners who lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days over the last 12 months;
  • People who had a sexual relationship within a year before the filing of the petition for a protective order;
  • Any parties related by marriage, blood, or adoption;
  • Parties in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship such as that of carers;
  • People in a parent-child relationship who lived together for 90 days in the last 12-month period.
  • People in a stepparent-stepchild relationship who lived together for at least 90 days during the past year;
  • Parents who have a child together.

The definitions of people who can file for a protective order is wide but not all-embracing. For example, if you were stalked by someone you went on a couple of dates with but never had a sexual relationship with or somebody you barely knew, you would have to instead file for a peace order. If you become the subject of a protective order filed by someone you never had a sexual relationship who is not a relative or in a caretaker-type relationship, you should make this case to the judge.

What Happens if You Receive a Protective Order in Maryland?

Protective orders are a civil means of protecting a party from an alleged abuser. For this reason, they are served fast without prior notice being given to the party who receives them. Many people who seek protective orders would be placed in danger if the subject of the order knew what was about to happen. 

It can be a major shock to receive a protective order. If the parties live together, the recipient will be given very little time to vacate his or her home. The order may affect custody of children.

The protective order you will initially receive is an interim order. Eligible parties file a protective order by going to the circuit or district court or filing with the Commissioner’s office if the court is closed. A judge hears a petitioner’s case within 48 hours of the application. The petitioner makes his or her case alone in front of the judge. The subject of the hearing is not aware of the application for a protective order at this stage.

A temporary protective order is usually good for only 7 days but the courts can grant an order up to 30 days and even longer. The judge often gives the petitioner for the order the benefit of the doubt in deciding whether to grant an interim order.  The fact the recipient of the order, known in legal terms as the respondent, received an interim protection order does not mean a full protection order is a foregone conclusion. However, the respondent must act fast and seek legal advice at this time.

The judge will often order you to cut off all contact with the person who made the allegation. The judge may order you to vacate a shared home, to avoid the homes of certain family members and even to avoid contact with shared children. You may be ordered to give up firearms and even a pet you share with the petitioner.

What Happens If You Violate a Protective Order in Maryland?

Violation of a protective order in Maryland is a serious matter. You can face criminal charges. It’s easier to violate an order than many people who receive them think. Merely, picking up the phone to ask a partner why he or she took out the order constitutes the violation of a no-contact clause.

If you violate the order, the petitioner can contact the police or file their own charges. The police may arrest you. The person who took out the order can file criminal charges with a commissioner. A conviction for the violation of a protection order carries a potential prison term of up to 90 days and a fine of $1,000.

If you do not understand the terms of a protective order, err on the side of caution. Seek the advice of an experienced Baltimore criminal defense lawyer.

How Should I Prepare for a Protective Order Hearing in Maryland?

A final protective order hearing can be heard as soon as a week after the interim order is granted. If you are served with an interim order, you must move fast to gather evidence that refutes allegations of abusive behavior. Many people in relationships get into arguments. People often overreact. This does not necessarily justify a protective order. Talk to.a lawyer as soon as possible about anything that might help your case.

Both sides are called to appear at the final protective order hearing in front of a judge when clear and convincing evidence must be presented to justify the granting of a protective order. The order is in force for 12 months and longer in certain cases. Occasionally, protective orders can be permanent.

Do not wait until the day before the hearing to find a lawyer. Act as soon as you are hit with a protective order. Consider the physical evidence the person seeking the order will bring to a hearing.

Questions to Ask When Preparing for a Protective Order Hearing

Consider the potential case against you. Ask yourself.

  1. Does evidence of physical abuse exist such as photographs of injuries?
  2. Can this evidence be linked to you?
  3. Do hospital or medical records of injuries exist?
  4. Does the petitioner have other physical evidence like torn clothes?
  5. Does the petitioner possess written evidence of abusive behavior such as threats on emails or text messages?
  6. Have the police ever been called to domestic disturbances between yourself and the petitioner?
  7. What evidence do you have of the positive role you play in the lives of shared children?
  8. Does the petitioner have a history of making false claims or exaggerating incidents?
  9. Does the petitioner have a history of violence against you?
  10. Do you have evidence of violent history by your spouse, ex-spouse or another party seeking a protective order?
  11. Will a protective order harm your job, such in a caretaker-type relationship.

What Can a Judge Order at the Final Protective Order Hearing in Maryland?

It’s important to know that protective orders in Maryland can be very wide-ranging. A judge can order numerous things that can impact your life. You could lose your home, your car, and contact with your kids. The order can have a major impact on the lives of both parties.

A Maryland protective order may do the following things:

  • Order an abuser to stop threatening or abusive behavior
  • Order a married spouse to leave a shared home;
  • Order a person in a non-married relationship to move out of a shared home if the petitioner’s name is on a lease or a deed, or the parties lived together for at least 90 days over the past 12-months.
  • Prevent an alleged abuser from contacting or harassing the party who took out the order;
  • Order the alleged abuser to pay money to a husband or a wife;
  • Order the subject of the order to pay child support;
  • Make temporary child custody and visitations arrangements;
  • Order the alleged abuser to give up firearms;
  • Order the alleged abuser to enroll in counseling or drug and alcohol abuse programs;
  • Give the use of a shared car to the petitioner for the duration of the order if the judge decides it’s necessary for work or childcare transportation;
  • Decide on temporary custody of shared pets;
  • Order the alleged abuser to stay away from the school of shared children, the petitioner’s place or work, or the homes of specified family members.

What Are Mutual Orders of Protection?

In some cases, a judge makes mutual orders of protection which place conditions on both parties. The judge makes these orders if both parties acted aggressively and neither party acted in self-defense.

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 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 a Criminal Defense Lawyer if you are Served With a Protective Order in Maryland

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 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.

Protective orders change lives. The process moves so quickly, it puts recipients of the orders at a disadvantage whether or not there is any merit in the claims. You have little time to react. Hire a defense lawyer as soon as possible to fight protective orders in Maryland. In many cases, you may also be facing criminal charges on the same issues. It’s prudent to be represented by an experienced defense team. At the Law Office of Randolph Rice, we have represented clients facing protective orders for years. Please contact us today at (410) 834-3845.

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.


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