Domestic violence programs, laws could affect Maryland defendants

Medical providers on the front lines of patient care are often the first people to come in contact with victims of domestic violence. Now, Maryland health care professionals are getting a boost in preventing domestic abuse with the implementation of a hospital-based domestic violence initiative. The program, supported by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, will use a portion of a $40,000 grant to assist law enforcement officers with identifying abuse and gathering evidence. The program, along with several other legal changes, could have wide-reaching effects on those who face domestic violence allegations in Maryland.

The money will be used to purchase a new device for MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, located in rural Maryland. That imaging device allows hospital personnel to quickly identify signs of physical abuse; specifically, the device may be able to confirm the presence of bruises related to choking. The purchase of this piece of equipment is just one step toward curbing domestic violence throughout the state. The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention allocates more than $600,000 annually throughout the state to fight physical abuse in Maryland homes.

News reports show that the device and program could soon be bolstered by additional legal measures, including a movement to reduce the amount of proof required to obtain a protective order. At this point, clear and convincing evidence is required to obtain such an order. The changes would allow victims to obtain restraining orders with just a “preponderance of the evidence,” a much more lenient standard.

Those facing criminal charges for domestic violence in the state of Maryland could be affected by these changes that are sweeping the state. Additional identification devices and legal improvements to seal loopholes could have sweeping effects for those in criminal court. A defense attorney in Maryland may be able to provide additional information about the impact these developments may have on currently outstanding or future domestic violence allegations.

Source:  The Bay Net, “Brown touts new violence prevention program in St. Mary’s” Marty Madden, Apr. 01, 2014