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Understanding more about domestic violence charges in Maryland

When the police are called to a home in response to a report of domestic violence, there is a good chance that one of the people involved will end up wearing handcuffs and being taken down to the local station for processing. Indeed, this can happen even when the purportedly aggrieved party declines to press charges, chalks the matter up to a simple misunderstanding or is not being entirely honest about what happened.

This is significant, of course, as a potential conviction on domestic violence charges can result in imprisonment and a host of collateral consequences, including limited job prospects, limited housing options and limited educational opportunities.

In light of this reality, it's important for anyone facing domestic violence charges to have a comprehensive understanding of what lies ahead. To that end, today's post, the first in a series, will start examining how Maryland defines domestic violence and what the courts may do to protect victims from their alleged abusers.

In general, Maryland law defines domestic violence as any one of a list of enumerated criminal acts committed against "family or household members," including assault, stalking, acts causing serious bodily harm and acts causing fear of imminent bodily harm.

Two of the primary avenues of relief for domestic violence victims are protective orders and peace orders. Here, the former is essentially a civil order issued by a judge that expressly prohibits an alleged abuser from engaging in certain types of conduct concerning the alleged victim.  

Protective orders are typically issued against those parties with whom the alleged victim has an existing personal relationship, including current/former spouses, relatives (blood, marriage, adoption), those who have lived together in a relationship for at least 90 days over the preceding year, and those who have a child together, to name only a few.

We'll continue examining this important topic in future posts, including taking a closer look at how protective orders are issued and the circumstances in which peace orders are typically sought. 

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