When you file a request for a peace or protective order (“Petitioner”), or get one filed against you (“Respondent”), the matter is handled as a civil proceeding (vs. Criminal). However, violating a peace or protective order is a criminal offense, and the respondent, now a “defendant,” faces jail time and fines in criminal court.
Whether you’re a petitioner or respondent, there are a few things that you must understand about the peace and protective order process. Specifically, a) who can file for a peace or protective order? b) what is “abuse?” c) what are the stages of peace and protective order proceedings?
The way the law is set up, there are limited criteria for whether or not you can file for a protective order. If you do not meet any one of the conditions, you are disqualified from filing for a protective order, and alternatively, must request a peace order.
Accordingly, we must first assess who can file for a protective order. You are eligible for a Protective Order if you have been the victim of abuse by:
A current or former spouse of the petitioner;
Any person you are (or were) related to by blood, marriage, or adoption;
Any person with whom you have had a sexual relationship with AND lived together with, for at least 90 days within the past year;
A parent, stepparent, child or stepchild of the petitioner, who currently lives with or used to live with the petitioner for at least 90 days within 1 year prior to the filing for the protective order;
Any person with whom the petitioner has a child; or
Children and “vulnerable” adults are also eligible for protection if they are the victims of abuse. An adult guardian may have to file on behalf of the child or vulnerable adult.
If you meet any criterion above, you are eligible to request a protective order. If you are not eligible for a Final Protective Order, but you have been the victim of abuse (see “abuse” defined below), whether by a dating partner with whom you have never resided, a neighbor, co-worker, acquaintance, or even a stranger—then you may be eligible to file for a Peace Order.
When approaching peace or protective order cases, it is imperative to break down the legal meaning of the word “abuse” within each subsection.
Protective Order—Abuse: Maryland law defines “abuse” as the occurrence of one or more of the following:
Assault (in any degree);
An act that places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm;
An act that causes serious bodily harm;
Rape or sexual offense;
Attempted rape or sexual offense;
False imprisonment, such as interference with freedom, physically keeping you from leaving your home or kidnapping you.
Ref. MD. Code §4-501
A petitioner may seek relief by filing with the court a petition that alleges the commission of any of the following acts against the petitioner, if the act occurred within 30 days before the filing of the petition:
An act that causes serious bodily harm;
An act that places the petitioner in fear of imminent serious bodily harm;
Assault in any degree;
Rape or sexual offense under §§ 3-303 through 3-308 of the Criminal Law Article or attempted rape or sexual offense in any degree;
Harassment under § 3-803 of the Criminal Law Article;
Stalking under § 3-802 of the Criminal Law Article;
Trespass under Title 6, Subtitle 4 of the Criminal Law Article; or
Malicious destruction of property under § 6-301 of the Criminal Law Article.
Ref. MD. Code §3–1503
There are 3 different stages when it comes to peace and protective order proceedings. A court can permit petitioners and respondents, if the parties agree, to consolidate some of the steps. However, it is important to understand each of the 3 stages.
Interim order hearing: If you are in immediate danger of abuse and the courts are closed, you may get an interim order by going to the nearest District Court commissioner. An interim order goes into effect immediately and lasts until a judge holds a temporary order hearing, which occurs within 48 hours of the court opening.
Temporary (ex parte) order hearing: When you go to court to file a peace or protective order, you are generally given a Temporary order. This can be done without a full court hearing and without your abuser (“Respondent”) present. The Respondent is notified via service that you have an order against him/her as soon as a Temporary order is issued. The Temporary order is in effect until the final peace or protective order hearing, which usually occurs 7 days after the temporary peace or protective order hearing. The judge may extend the temporary order as needed, but not more than 30 days.
Final order hearing: A final peace or protective order can be issued only after a full court hearing, where you and the Respondent both tell your sides of the story to a judge (unless the Respondent fails to appear or consents to the order). You must attend that hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order may expire and you will have to start the process over. A final protective order will last up to one year, whereas a final peace order generally lasts up to six months, unless otherwise stated. Final orders can be renewed.
Violence, domestic or otherwise, is a very serious matter. If you ever feel that you are in an emergency and need help, call 911 immediately.
In the event you have questions regarding peace and protective orders, whether as Petitioner or Respondent, do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney at Mohammadi and Humayun, LLC for your free consultation via our online contact form.