Maryland Domestic Violence Hearings During Covid-19

Update as of April 1, 2020

There are now new rules that apply to protective orders and criminal cases during the COVID-19 situation in Maryland. Learn more here.

Table of Contents

What is a restraining order?

A restraining order is a type of court order in Maryland which stops someone from stalking you, hurting you, harassing you, or otherwise contacting you. There are two types of restraining orders: Protective Orders and Peace Orders.

What is the difference between a Protective Order and a Peace Order?

Peace Orders are a type of restraining order that requires a person who is not related to or living with someone to stay away from the person filing with the court. These people could be friends, acquaintances, neighbors or complete strangers. The party seeking an order is known as the “petitioner” and the party receiving an order is known as the “respondent”. Peace orders are regulated under Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Section 3-1501.

Protective Orders are a similar type of restraining order; but these restraining orders are issued to people who are relatives of, or who live with, the petitioner. Protective Orders are also used when the matter concerns married people or those involved in other types of romantic relationships or related by blood or adoption  Protective Orders are found in Maryland Family Article Section 4-501

What is an Emergency Peace Order?

It’s a term some people use to refer to Peace Orders. There are no emergency Peace Orders in Maryland, and all Peace Orders are obtained the same way and issued on an emergency basis.

You may also hear terms such as “motion for a Peace Order,” or “Court Peace Order” – these are all the same thing.

What are the reasons for which a court will issue a Peace Order?

A court will issue a Peace Order if any of the following has occurred: an act that causes serious bodily harm, an act that places you in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, assault, rape or sexual offense, false imprisonment, harassment, stalking, trespass, malicious destruction of property and the recently added grounds of Misuse of Telephone Facilities and Equipment, Misuse of Electronic Communications or interactive Computer Service, Revenge Pornography, and Unlawful Visual Surveillance.

Where do I file a Peace Order?

You should file for your Peace Order in the District Court in the county where the act occurred which caused you to seek the Peace Order.

How do I get a Peace Order?

To get a Peace Order, a petitioner can go to a District Court and provide a few minutes of testimony to a judge or a commissioner. This judge or commissioner will decide whether or not an order should be issued. When you testify, make sure that you provide the judge with the specific facts about happened to you. To get a Peace Order, you must file the Petition within 30 days of the offending acts.

Can I look at a sample Peace Order?

Each Peace Order is different and depends on the facts of your situation. You can get the form for a Peace Order here from the State of Maryland’s site.

What information or documents do I need to bring with me when I apply for a Peace Order?

The only documentation that is required to apply for a Peace Order is your identification. Other documentation may be helpful but is not required. Consider bringing to Court any relevant police reports, medical reports, photographs, copies of harassing texts or emails, or other evidence you think may be helpful to your case.

What is an Interim Peace Order?

This a peace order which is issued during non-court/business hours by a District Court Commissioner. An interim order is issued when the person applying for the Peace Order files it when the courthouse is closed. This usually occurs on weekends, holidays, or after 4:30 pm on weekdays.

What is a Temporary Peace Order?

When you first file for a Peace Order, if your petition is granted, you will get a Temporary Peace Order. This Order becomes effective once it is served on the respondent (opposing party) and is valid until the final hearing is held (usually within 7 days).

What is a Final Peace Order?

A final hearing will be scheduled about seven days from the issuance of the Temporary Peace Order. Both parties have a right to be present at the final hearing, and they also may bring attorneys with them. If the judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent committed an assault or harassment or other grounds against the petitioner, then he or she will issue a final order.

How long will the Peace Order be effective?

Once the temporary order is issued, the court gives it to local law enforcement to be served on the respondent. The order becomes effective once it is served, and it prohibits the respondent from contacting the petitioner. A final Peace Order generally lasts up to six months from the date of the final Peace Order hearing  An Order can also be extended for good cause.

What constitutes harassment?

Maryland Criminal Law Article 3-803 defines “Harassment” as following another in or about a public place or maliciously engaging a “course of conduct” that

  1. alarms or seriously annoys the other, with intent to harass, alarm or annoy
  2. after receiving a reasonable warning or request to stop by or on behalf of the other;
  3. Without a legal purpose.

“Harassment” serves as a ground for an order ONLY in peace order cases and not in protective order cases.

“Course of conduct” means a persistent pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over time that shows a continuity of purpose.

What happens if the person accused of abuse is under the age of 18? Can I still get a Protective or Peace Order?

If the respondent is a minor, then the law requires the offended party to file the case in the Juvenile Court in the county where the abuse occurred. Juvenile Peace Orders are found in 3-8A-19.1, Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article.

If I own firearms, will I be required to surrender them as soon as I am served with a protective order?

You must surrender your firearms if a final Protective Order is entered against you. A judge may, but is not required, to order that you surrender your firearms at the Temporary Protective Order stage if the judge finds that a firearm was used in connection with an act of abuse.

How do I rescind or withdraw a Peace Order or Protective Order?

If you have won a Peace or Protective Order case, you may ask the judge who entered the order in your face to rescind that order. The filing and the decision of the court must take place before the underlying order expires. Family Law Article in Maryland does not specify which grounds or reasons must exist before the court rescinds, but generally, the courts apply a “good cause” standard.

How do I appeal a Peace Order or Protective Order?

If you are not successful in winning your case in the District Court, you may file an appeal within 30 days of the denial to have your matter heard in the Circuit Court.  Your appeal will be heard as a new or “de novo” case. This means that the judge will not be bound by the decision of the lower court and that the side which won will be required again to present all of their evidence including any new evidence in the Circuit Court.

How do I get a Peace Order or Protective Order expunged?

You can get your order expunged. Under some instances, you may seek Shielding by the court. Shielding is the removal of the order from the Maryland Judiciary Case search, the public court database. Shielding will also remove the court file from public inspection.  

If you contest the peace order or protective order and are not successful, then in most cases you will not be eligible to get the order shielded.

For additional information, please read, “Little Known Fact about Peace and Protective Orders”, Emdenlaw.

You can make appointments by contacting us online or by calling our main office at (301)762-7007. Our office is located in Rockville, Maryland near the Rockville District and Circuit Courts and is convenient to Metro. Appointments can usually be scheduled within the week.

Can I be forced by a restraining order to leave my home even if I am paying my mortgage?

Yes. If your family member or romantic partner has lived in the same house as you for at least 90 days within a one year period before the Petition for protective order is filed, a court can order you to leave your own house.

Can I have a restraining order against me even if i didn’t make any physical threats towards the person?

Yes. A court can issue a protective order based on several non-violent grounds, like mental injury to a child, stalking and false imprisonment.

Can I buy a firearm if temporary restraining order has been entered against me?

Once the court issues final protective order against you, you may not possess a firearm. If the court has only issued a temporary protective order against you, the judge sometimes (but not always) will order you to surrender all firearms to law enforcement.

Peace orders do not forbid the possession of firearms.

Do peace orders or protective orders go on “ your record”?

Both of these orders appear on the Maryland Judiciary Case search which is a public database of the Maryland court system. In some cases, you may shield them from public view. However, law enforcement and federal authorities would still have access to this information.

If the court issues a final peace or protective order, how long does it stay on your record?

If you contest either one and lose, the record of the entry of order stays forever.

What can happen to me if I fail to show up for a peace order or protective order hearing?

If you are the filer (petitioner) not showing up will result in the dismissal of your case. If you are the respondent and fail to show up, an order could be granted against you. Either way, you cannot go to jail just for failing to show up for the hearing.

If a protective order has been entered against me, and I give something to the other side, would I violate the order?

Yes. All contact direct and indirect with the Petitioner is prohibited for the time the order lasts.

Does the entry of either a peace or protective order against me mean that I now have a criminal record?

No. These are both civil orders not criminal. However, a violation of either order constitutes a crime in Maryland.

The Judge wrote, “this order is denied because there is no statutory basis for relief “. What does this mean?

It means that the facts contained the Petition are not covered by the law or that the Petitioner has failed to prove his or her case.

What happens to a restraining order after the restraining order has expired?

The order no longer is enforceable.

Quick Tip

There are many situations in which you can create a private agreement between yourself and the petitioner. These agreements can help you avoid the many risks that come about from the public disclosure of your peace or protective order matter.

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