Maryland Domestic Violence
Committing domestic violence, also called domestic abuse, against a family or household member is a crime in Maryland, as is violating a domestic violence protective order. If you have been arrested for domestic violence or served with a petition for a protective order in Maryland, do not hesitate to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney. A domestic violence protective order or a criminal conviction can have serious consequences that can follow you for the rest of your life, and hiring an experienced domestic violence defense attorney is the best way to protect your rights, even if you have not yet been formally charged with a crime.
Maryland Domestic Violence Law
The Maryland criminal code does not include specific statutes that set forth the definitions of and appropriate criminal penalties for acts of domestic violence. Instead, the family law provisions of the Maryland Code include a definition of domestic abuse for the purposes of obtaining a domestic violence protective order, or restraining order. According to MD Fam L Code § 4-501, the crime of domestic abuse occurs when a person commits any of the following criminal offenses against someone with whom they have a specific relationship:
- Rape or a sexual offense
- An act that causes serious bodily harm
- An act that places the alleged victim in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
- Attempted rape or an attempted sexual offense
- False imprisonment
- Revenge porn
People with a Specific Relationship
In order for alleged victims of domestic abuse to qualify for a domestic violence restraining order in Maryland, they must have a specific relationship with the accused offender. This includes people who currently are or previously were married, people related by blood, marriage or adoption, people who live together, people who have a sexual relationship, and people who have a child in common. Maryland law also includes a definition for “abuse of a child,” which includes sexual abuse of a child, whether or not the abuse results in physical injuries, or physical or mental harm suffered by a child under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is at substantial risk of being harmed by a family or household member. If the alleged abuse victim is a vulnerable adult, any physical injury suffered by the alleged victim may be considered “abuse of a vulnerable adult.”
Penalties for Domestic Abuse in Maryland
The punishment associated with an act of domestic violence in Maryland depends on the nature of the underlying crime and the extent of the alleged victim’s injuries, among other factors. Because there are no special criminal statutes relating to crimes of domestic violence in Maryland, defendants accused of assault, rape or any other criminal offense involving an intimate partner or family or household member face the same charges and penalties as if the crime were committed against a stranger. The following are some examples of penalties you could face for domestic violence-related crimes in Maryland.
Felony Assault in the First Degree
If the criminal charge is felony assault in the first degree (Maryland Code, Criminal Law § 3-202), which involves intentionally causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another person, you could face a possible penalty of up to 25 years in prison.
If the charge is misdemeanor stalking (Maryland Code, Criminal Law § 3-802), which involves pursuing or approaching someone and putting that person in reasonable fear of assault, rape, false imprisonment or death, you could face a possibly penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Maryland Domestic Violence Protective Orders
The state of Maryland takes acts of domestic violence very seriously and when it comes to alleged victims pursuing a domestic violence restraining order for protection against domestic abuse, they have three main options:
- Interim protective order – An interim order goes into effect once the alleged abuser (the respondent) is served by a law enforcement officer, and lasts until a judge holds a temporary hearing, usually within a couple of days.
- Temporary protective order – A temporary protective order can be issued the same day, even without the respondent present and without a full court hearing. The order is in effect for seven days after the respondent is served, at which point a full court hearing will be held for a final protective order.
- Final protective order – A final protective order can be issued only after both parties have had the opportunity to present their testimony and evidence at a full court hearing. The order will generally last for up to one year, but it could last for up to two years under certain circumstances. Final protective orders can be extended, and in some cases, the court may grant a permanent protective order, which lasts forever.
If you are accused of violating a domestic violence protective order, you could face additional criminal charges for a misdemeanor offense, possibly including imprisonment, a fine, or both. As a first offense, violation of a protective order is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For a second or subsequent offense, the possible penalty for violating a protective order in Maryland increases to up to one year in jail and/or up to $2,500 in fines (MD Fam L Code § 4-509).
Consult a Maryland Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
Domestic violence is a serious crime involving violent, abusive acts or threats of violence against one’s spouse, children or other family or household members. In Maryland, the police are permitted to arrest a person suspected of committing domestic violence even if they don’t have a warrant, so long as the following elements exist: the officer has reasonable cause to believe that the accused committed an act of domestic abuse, there is evidence that the alleged victim is injured, and the officer believes that the accused may cause further injury, evade arrest, damage property or dispose of evidence. The police can also make an arrest without a warrant if they believe that a person has violated a protective order. If you are facing criminal charges in Maryland for committing domestic abuse or violating a protective order, it is imperative that you enlist the help of a domestic violence defense attorney to protect your rights and safeguard your future.