Maryland tightens domestic violence, protective order laws

Maryland tightens domestic violence, protective order laws

Maryland has expanded legal benefits that make it easier for victims of
alleged assault to obtain permanent protective orders. The expansion of existing
domestic violence laws was approved on Feb. 13, according to local news sources. State lawmakers
voted to approve a measure that adds second-degree assault to the official
list of crimes that can be used to seek a protective order.

Criminal defendants may be affected because it will now be easier for alleged
victims to receive permanent protective orders. These orders are public
record. Victims can seek lifetime protection under the new laws, so that
the defendant is permanently prevented from contacting them. More criminal
defendants are likely to be targeted under the new laws, as second-degree
assault is the most common allegation levied in domestic violence complaints.
Prosecutors are required to prove that the victim was physically injured
in the altercation.

Additional expansions to the rule allow for larger populations of criminal
defendants to be subject to long-term protective orders. Currently, defendants
must serve five years in custody in order to be eligible for a permanent
order; the new law lowers that requirement to a simple sentence of five
years. The offender must serve at least one year behind bars to be eligible,
however. Penalties were also increased for those people who repeatedly
violate protective orders.

Other changes to the law could also increase penalties associated with
physical abuse that occurs in the presence of a child. Certain types of
online communication about rape could also be criminalized. Maryland legislators
are attempting to tighten regulations in the only state that requires
strict “clear and convincing” proof that abuse has occurred.
All other jurisdictions accept a less-demanding standard known as “preponderance
of the evidence.”

These new restrictions could result in additional penalties for those who
have been accused of domestic violence in the state of Maryland. Offenders
who want to learn more about the impact of these new laws on their own
criminal cases may benefit from discussing their situations with a Maryland
attorney. These professionals can help explain the details of the new
laws for those who are facing domestic violence allegations.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Senate passes domestic violence bill” Michael Dresser, Feb. 13, 2014