Unfortunately, during the course of my practice I have seen many sad incidents where criminal law collides with family law in an oftentimes violent way.
Here at Andalman & Flynn, we see many cases regarding this serious issue. The numbers vary, but according to the American Bar Association, and a study by the US Dept of Justice, “3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.” More frighteningly, another US Dept of Justice study indicated that “In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner.” There are both criminal and non criminal methods to control and stop domestic violence.
Criminal penalties may result if the victim chooses to file an Application for Statement of Charges. In Maryland, the Judge or Commissioner then reviews the Application to decide if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. Thereafter, a warrant may be issued for the arrest of the alleged perpetrator. The least serious charge of Assault, Second Degree Assault, carries a max penalty of 10 years in jail and/or $2,500, and obviously, crimes committed in a domestic disturbance can be much more serious than simple assault.
The Maryland courts handle these types of cases another way when the victim pursues a civil remedy. This is done by filing a Request for a Protective Order or a Peace Order. The first Protective Order may be either Temporary or on an Interim basis, depending on who ordered it, but either way, that Order to stay away lasts only as long as it takes to have a Final Order Hearing. The Final Order Hearing is vitally important because of its impact on a potential divorce or criminal case that also may be pending. I recommend that all parties be represented by counsel at this hearing because the stakes can be so high.
Next, assuming a Final Order is put in place at the end of the hearing, criminal penalties then attach to that Order should that Order ever be violated. Orders are violated in many ways, including but not limited to, further abuse of the petitioner, threatening the petitioner, contacting the petitioner, going to their work, etc. Should one be found guilty of violating the Final Order, for a first offense the max penalty is 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine, and for a second or subsequent offense the max penalty is one year in jail and/or $2,500 fine.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Final Orders typically last between 6 months and 1 year. There is a recently enacted Maryland law which enables Judges to make a Final Protective Order permanent. This is permitted if the Defendant in the Final Protective Order served 5 years stemming from the incident that was the subject of the Final Protective Order. This type of relief is reserved for the most egregious offenses and it was put in place to protect against subsequent abuse that sometimes occurs after the Order expires.
For more information about domestic violence, protective orders and peace orders, see the article at http://www.andalmanflynn.com/library/Peace_Orders_and_Protective_Order.pdf.