Changes to Maryland domestic violence law have major implications

Changes to Maryland domestic violence law have major implications

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. With serious
domestic violence incidents dominating headlines in recent weeks, there has never been a
more opportune time for the Maryland legislature to respond to this public
health epidemic. Maryland residents should be aware of several recent
legal changes that have been implemented during this 2014 Legislative Session.

The legal changes are designed to expand protections for those who have
suffered from sexual assault and domestic violence. As of Oct. 1, a new
standard of proof will be used in courtroom proceedings in which a victim
is seeking a protective order. The previous standard, known as “clear
and convincing evidence,” has now been reduced to “preponderance
of the evidence.” This key change will help victims of domestic
violence receive protective orders even though they may not have an entirely
convincing case.

Further changes to the protective order structure include a modification
that allows second-degree assault victims to seek a permanent and final
protective order. Official reports show that the vast majority of domestic
violence allegations fall into the second-degree assault category. In
addition, judges will be given more discretion to increase penalties for
those convicted of committing domestic violence in the presence of a minor.

So, what do these changes mean for criminal defendants in Maryland? Lowering
the burden of proof for obtaining a protective order means that those
accused of domestic violence could end up with a criminal record, even
if they are never convicted. Defendants who are subject to restrictions
because of protective orders may face professional consequences and difficulty
obtaining a job, even if they were not convicted of a crime. These modifications
have significant implications for future domestic violence cases. An experienced
criminal defense attorney can explain the impact of these changes on your
pending domestic violence complaint.

Source: WBAL-TV, “3 new domestic violence laws added to Maryland books” Saliqa Khan, Oct. 01, 2014