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Bill would improve Maryland domestic violence protection orders

A recent article in the Baltimore Sun discussed the need for greater domestic violence protections. The article cites a case where a Hagerstown resident was abused, and then murdered, by her ex-boyfriend. After the initial abuse, she had written an appeal asking for a protective order from the court. Unfortunately, that protection was denied because she was not married and did not live with her abuser.

This is exactly the kind of situation that a bill introduced by Senator Christopher B. Shank addresses. The bill would allow victims of domestic abuse to be eligible for Maryland protective orders even if they are not related to, or living with, their abusers.

Instead, the requirement would be much broader, covering those involved in "an intimate dating relationship characterized by the expectation of affectionate involvement." Judges would have greater discretion to determine whether someone was in an abusive relationship that required a protective order.

What protective orders are available to domestic violence victims?

Maryland has two types of civil orders for domestic violence cases: peace orders and protective orders.

Protective orders apply to someone who:

  • Is married to the abuser; or
  • Has lived in an intimate relationship with the abuser for at least 90 days out of the past year; or
  • Is the parent, stepparent, child or stepchild of the abuser who has lived with the abuser for 90 days during the past year; or
  • Has a child with the abuser

Peace orders apply to anyone who is not eligible for a protective order.

Both protective orders and peace orders can order the abuser to stop the abuse, stay away from the victim's home, work or school, and have no contact with the victim. However, protective orders go further. They also allow judges to award temporary use and possession of the home to the victim, award temporary child custody to the victim, award temporary financial support to the victim and require the abuser to surrender his or her firearms for the duration of the Order.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "More protection for victims of abusive relationships," Feb. 20, 2012.

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