Making Sense of Amber’s Law: Maryland’s New Approach to Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is not always as straightforward as it appears in movies. Not all offenses involve a brutal assault. In Maryland, a person can be charged with domestic violence even for the smallest physical altercation with a member of one’s household. For those who are charged with domestic abuse, it can be devastating. Maryland lawmakers added yet one more layer of protection for abuse victims – GPS tracking for offenders. To understand this better, here are some key points to understand about “Amber’s Law.”

What Qualifies as Domestic Abuse in Maryland?

Under the Maryland Family Law Code, Section 4-501, there are six basic categories of conduct that qualify as “abuse.” In general, they are:

  • Any act that can cause “serious bodily harm”
  • Any act that puts the victim in fear of “serious bodily harm”
  • Any type of assault
  • Sexual assault or rape
  • False imprisonment (holding someone against their will)
  • Stalking

As should be fairly clear from this list, it doesn’t take much to qualify as domestic abuse. Theoretically, something as small as a shove or locking someone in a bedroom could be construed as abuse and subject a person to Amber’s Law. Hence the need for legal representation from the very start.

How Does Amber’s Law Work?

HB1163 (nicknamed Amber’s Law) was signed into law last year and became effective on October 1, 2017. This law allows domestic abuse victims to ask a judge to order the suspected abuser to wear a GPS-monitored tracking device (ankle bracelet) at all times, pending trial. The victim must prove to a judge that there is probable cause for the issuance of such an order, but it is not necessary that the suspected offender actually be convicted of the crime.

This means, if a victim can provide sufficient evidence to convince a judge that a person is a serious threat, the suspected offender could be subjected to this highly intrusive monitoring device that alerts the police if he comes too close to the victim.

What Proof is Required?

The law is pretty broad when it comes to potential evidence. Judges get a lot of deference in making these determinations, but ultimately the question is whether the person seeking the order can present enough evidence of domestic abuse to warrant this extreme measure. While there is a potential for government overreach, support for the program is overwhelming.

Defending Domestic Violence Charges

If you’ve been accused of domestic abuse in Maryland, you need aggressive and skilled legal representation from an experienced domestic violence lawyer. Your career, financial stability, and personal freedom are all at stake. Sadly, although Amber’s Law was passed with bipartisan support and has the potential to save a lot of lives, there are also those people who would make false or exaggerated claims to use Amber’s Law as a weapon in a divorce or custody case or as a form of revenge in a break-up.

If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, remember that the accuser must still prove probable cause to get an order for GPS monitoring. You have a right to due process, notice, and the opportunity to present evidence at a hearing. Contact the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. today to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case. Do not take on your accuser and the prosecutor by yourself.


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