Tighter protective order rules threaten alleged offenders’ rights

Several bills that would tighten Maryland’s domestic violence rules are currently under consideration by the legislature. These changes are designed to help victims of domestic violence obtain protective orders against their abusers. Currently, Maryland is the most difficult state for alleged victims who want to seek such a protective order. The changes would make it easier to draft a permanent protective order against those abusers accused of second-degree assault. That is the most common criminal charge associated with domestic violence complaints.

Opponents of the measure argue that wording in the proposed legislation could allow a conviction that was simply based on a child’s perception of a crime. The new measure would not require the child to see or hear the abuse, according to detractors. One Anne Arundel County woman says that her deceased niece’s daughter still recounts the murder of her mother by her father, even though she was only two years old at the time of the incident. Some lawmakers think that a higher standard of proof should be used to protect alleged offenders.

Currently, those seeking protective orders must demonstrate clear and convincing proof in order to pursue such court action. This provides added protection for alleged offenders. In all 49 other states, judges are permitted to award protective orders based only on a preponderance of the evidence, which is the same standard used in most civil court proceeding.

Alleged offenders who are subject to protective orders must refrain from contacting their supposed victims. Their rights are further compromised by the fact that they must surrender all firearms after the order is given. It is no small matter, then, to be the target of an unfair order or protection. Clients who believe their rights have been violated through the application of a protective order may have some legal recourse. A Maryland criminal defense attorney may be able to help.

Source:  The Baltimore Sun, “Senators urged to strengthen state’s domestic violence laws” Michael Dresser, Jan. 28, 2014