Maryland tightens domestic violence, protective order laws

Maryland has expanded legal benefits that make it easier for victims of alleged assault to obtain permanent protective orders. The expansion of existing domestic violence laws was approved on Feb. 13, according to local news sources. State lawmakers voted to approve a measure that adds second-degree assault to the official list of crimes that can be used to seek a protective order.

Criminal defendants may be affected because it will now be easier for alleged victims to receive permanent protective orders. These orders are public record. Victims can seek lifetime protection under the new laws, so that the defendant is permanently prevented from contacting them. More criminal defendants are likely to be targeted under the new laws, as second-degree assault is the most common allegation levied in domestic violence complaints. Prosecutors are required to prove that the victim was physically injured in the altercation.

Additional expansions to the rule allow for larger populations of criminal defendants to be subject to long-term protective orders. Currently, defendants must serve five years in custody in order to be eligible for a permanent order; the new law lowers that requirement to a simple sentence of five years. The offender must serve at least one year behind bars to be eligible, however. Penalties were also increased for those people who repeatedly violate protective orders.

Other changes to the law could also increase penalties associated with physical abuse that occurs in the presence of a child. Certain types of online communication about rape could also be criminalized. Maryland legislators are attempting to tighten regulations in the only state that requires strict “clear and convincing” proof that abuse has occurred. All other jurisdictions accept a less-demanding standard known as “preponderance of the evidence.”

These new restrictions could result in additional penalties for those who have been accused of domestic violence in the state of Maryland. Offenders who want to learn more about the impact of these new laws on their own criminal cases may benefit from discussing their situations with a Maryland attorney. These professionals can help explain the details of the new laws for those who are facing domestic violence allegations.

Source:  The Baltimore Sun, “Senate passes domestic violence bill” Michael Dresser, Feb. 13, 2014