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Private process servers for protective orders?

The sheriff of a county in western Maryland and other citizens are concerned about a new legislative proposal that would allow a private party like a professional process server to serve a protective order on an alleged perpetrator of abuse.

In domestic violence cases, a victim can seek a protective order from a Maryland court. If granted, the protective order will ordinarily keep the perpetrator away from his or her victim and other family members. Also, a protective order allows law enforcement officers to confiscate a perpetrator’s guns and keep the perpetrator away from his or her victim.

Traditionally, law enforcement officers serve protective orders on perpetrators, often times relying on the element of surprise to do so. Under this new proposal, however, professional service processors could also serve a protective order, even though law enforcement would still have to remove the perpetrator’s firearms at a later time.

Some believes that this puts the private process server in danger when a perpetrator gets angry about a protective order and resorts to violence as a result.

Moreover, as a private process server has no legal authority under which he or she can physically keep a perpetrator from the domestic violence victim, it is more likely that a perpetrator who gets served with a protective order may attempt to confront his or her victim Worse, the perpetrator may resort to the very violence a protective order is designed to prevent before authorities have an opportunity to stop it.

Finally, because Maryland judges issue protective orders without a formal court hearing (but allow an accused to respond later), police and other officials can approach a perpetrator and remove his or her firearms with an element of surprise (since the suspect usually will not know that police are coming). Private process servers who deliver protective orders deprive officers of this important benefit but are unable to legally remove the firearms themselves.

Source: Cumberland Times-News “Sheriff concerned about possible legislation,” Dec. 29, 2012.

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