Domestic violence and false allegations of domestic violence can destroy lives, relationships, families, and communities. Thankfully, the state of Maryland has established multiple safeguards to fight abuse and protect victims. One of the most important of these safeguards is the protective order, which can vary in scope and specificity depending on your specific situation. At Zirkin & Schmerling Law, we’ve put together this guide to explain the different types of protective orders in Maryland and help victims of domestic abuse seek the legal protections they need.
Understanding Protective Orders In Maryland
A protective order is a kind of restraining order. Whenever one seeks to have a Judge court order someone to stay away from you or a place, we commonly think of these as restraining orders. Maryland has two kinds of restraining orders: Peace Orders and Protective Orders. They have very similar functions but you would use one or the other depending on your relationship to the person you are seeking to have no more contact with you. The basic difference is Protective Orders are used when there is some type of domestic relationship between the Petitioner seeking the Order. A Peace Order would be what you would seek if you did not have the qualifying domestic relationship. Below we discuss more specifically what type of relationship is required to necessitate a Protective Order over a Peace Order.
A Protective Order in Maryland is a civil protective order. Technically, if you are ordered to stay away from someone pursuant to a Protective Order, this is NOT a criminal action. This is not to say that there cannot be criminal or other serious consequences associated with Protective Orders. If a Protective Order is ordered against someone and they do not abide by it, they face 90 days in jail for the first violation of that order, and then 1 year for every subsequent violation of that Protective Order. Those that are not American citizens should have major concerns when someone seeks to have a Protective Order against them because they can have significant effects on one’s ability to remain in this country.
In Maryland, there is a process to obtain a Protective Order against someone else. When you go to the courthouse to file for a Protective Order, if granted, a Judge will issue you a Temporary Protective Order. A Temporary Protective Order remains in effect until a Final Protective Order Hearing, which is typically 7 days after you are given a Temporary Protective Order. If you apply for a protective order after normal court hours, you will be awarded an Interim Protective Order with instructions to return to court the next day for an Interim Protective Order Hearing. Ultimately, there will be a Final Protective Order Hearing Date where both the person who applied for the Protective Order, called the Petitioner, and the person who it is against, called the Respondent, will both appear before a judge. On that date, the Court will inquire if there is an agreement between the Petitioner and Respondent as to how to proceed that day. If there is not, the Court will hold a Hearing to decide if a Protective Order should be granted. If a Final Protective Order is granted, it can last for up to one year, and in certain cases, can be extended for up to the rest of your life.
A final protective order offers the most protection for victims of domestic abuse as the orders require the abuser to stay away. At the minimum, it usually requires the recipient not to abuse (or threaten to abuse) certain protected individuals. Final protective orders can also forbid the recipient from visiting certain locations, set up visitation schedules, and arrange mandatory counseling.
Am I Eligible For A Protective Order?
To receive a protective order, you must meet a few basic requirements. First and foremost, you must be an eligible person. By definition, you are initially eligible if you are a “Person eligible for relief.” You are a person eligible for relief if you can say yes to one of these questions:
- Are you the current or former spouse of the Respondent?
- Are you the Cohabitant of the Respondent?
- Are you a family member to the Respondent by blood, marriage, or adoption?
- Are you the parent, stepparent, child, or stepchild of the Respondent or another person eligible for relief who resides or resided with the Respondent or person eligible for relief for at least 90 days within 1 year before filing the petition?
- Are you a vulnerable adult?
- Are you an individual who has a child in common with the Respondent?
- Are you an individual who has had a sexual relationship with the Respondent within 1 year before the filing of the petition?
If you can say yes to any of the questions above, then you qualify for a Protective Order if there is also an allegation that there had been some kind of Abuse. When seeking a Protective Order, Abuse is defined as
- An act that causes serious bodily harm;
- An act that places a person eligible for relief in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
- Assault in any degree
- Rape or Sexual Offense or attempted rape or victim of sexual assault
- False Imprisonment; or
An experienced domestic violence attorney can explain these qualifications more fully and help you determine whether a protective order is possible in your situation.
Contact Our Team
Protective orders are a valuable tool for victims to protect themselves and their families. But when used improperly, then can also be destructive. In order to successfully obtain or defend against Protective Orders in Maryland, you will need to carefully evaluate your situation, fill out a variety of forms, and attend a formal court hearing. This process is complex, so it is critical that you have experienced counsel to guide you through this emotional and challenging process. The attorneys at Zirkin & Schmerling Law have years of experience with the laws that involve domestic violence. Call us at 410-753-4611 for assistance in matters related to protective orders in Maryland today.