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Understanding Domestic Violence Laws in Maryland

The definition of domestic violence in the state of Maryland doesn’t just cover physical altercations between spouses. The state has a range of charges, penalties and definitions for what domestic violence and abuse is, which is more broadly defined as acts by family or household members. The state of Maryland takes domestic violence very seriously and also includes emotional violence in its abuse laws.

Because domestic violence is a relatively broad category that encompasses many different types of cases, charges and penalties, it is always ideal to know your rights and the laws that govern you. Here is a breakdown of the domestic violence laws in Maryland and the penalties that are charged for each degree of abuse. 

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is the mistreatment of one family member or intimate partner by another.  The abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and psychological. Under Maryland law, the following crimes will be considered domestic violence when they occur between family or household members:

  • Assault
  • Child abuse and abuse of a vulnerable adult
  • Rape and other sex crimes
  • False imprisonment
  • Stalking 
  • Inflicting serious bodily harm or placing the victim in imminent fear of serious bodily harm

The definition of a “family and household member” includes current and former spouses, people related by blood, marriage, or adoption, people who live together, parents, stepparents, and children who live together, and people who have children together. Vulnerable adults are adults who cannot take care of themselves.

Penalties for Domestic Violence

The penalties for a domestic violence charge depend on the specific abuse that has been alleged. Because the state of Maryland charges domestic violence abuse under its umbrella of abuse laws, the penalties can be first or second degree depending on severity. 

For a domestic violence charge that is not considered an aggravated assault felony, the penalties may be charged as second-degree and include conditions of probation or agreements that the defendant attends anger management or therapy. The defendant also may be prohibited from contacting the alleged victim completely, or they may only have limited or regulated contact with them.

An act of domestic violence that results in serious injuries and is deemed first-degree assault can potentially give up to 25 years in jail. A domestic violence case involving a murder charge could carry a life sentence.

Protective Orders

A protective order, also called a restraining order, is a court order that requires the respondent to stay away from and have no contact with the petitioner. It is a crime to violate a protective order.

Family and household members may file petitions for protective orders in family court to protect themselves or minor children. In addition, the state’s attorney, the department of social services, a relative, or another adult who lives with the victim may file a petition on behalf of the child or vulnerable adult.

Temporary Protective Orders

After the initial hearing, no matter if the respondent attends or not, the court can issue a temporary protective order under reasonable grounds if they believe a family or household member has been abused.

This order can:

  • prohibit the respondent from abusing, threatening, or contacting the petitioner
  • prohibit the respondent from coming to the petitioner’s residence, workplace, school, or child care provider
  • exclude the respondent from the petitioner’s residence, including a shared home
  • award the petitioner use of a shared home
  • award temporary custody of any children
  • award temporary custody of any pets
  • prohibit the respondent from possessing any firearms and order the respondent to surrender any firearms if the respondent used or threatened to use a firearm or caused or threatened to cause serious bodily injury.

A temporary order is only in effect for seven days after the respondent is served with the copy, but can be extended for up to six months for a multitude of adequate reasons. After the temporary order is served, a hearing on a final order should be set within seven days.

Final Protective Orders

It is typical that before a final protective order is issued that the respondent has the opportunity to appear in court and be heard by the judge. However, a final order can be issued at the initial hearing if the respondent is at the hearing or has already been served with a temporary order. The respondent can also agree with the petitioner that the final order should be issued.  A final order is generally in effect for one year, but can be extended and even made permanent under certain circumstances.

A final order has the same options as a temporary order and it can also:

  • establish temporary visitation of minor children, including supervised visitation
  • order the respondent to pay financial support to the petitioner
  • award the petitioner use of a jointly owned vehicle (if needed for work or to care for children)
  • mandate counseling or domestic violence treatment for the petitioner or the respondent or both, and
  • order the respondent to pay filing fees or costs.

Interim Protective Orders

An interim protective order allows for domestic violence protective orders to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. District Court Commissioners are available at any hour of the day and can issue interim protective orders under reasonable grounds. This protective order lasts for up to 48 hours and the petitioner must seek a temporary protective order to extend the interim order.

Penalties for Violating Protective Orders

Violating a protective order is a misdemeanor and the first offense is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Second and subsequent offenses are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.Violating a temporary or final protective order is seen as contempt of court and can be punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Widder Law is Here to Help 

At Jeremy Widder Law, we specialize in protective orders and minor offenses, substance-related offenses, property crimes and non-violent felonies, as well as major offenses and violent felonies in Maryland.

Getting charged with a crime can be scary. You want someone who will listen and be your advocate. We are committed to walking with you from start to finish and giving your unique case the attention it deserves. 

Contact Jeremy Widder Law today to get the peace of mind that comes with quality legal counsel.


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