Under Maryland Law, a Petition for a Protective Order, as well as the granting of a Temporary or Final Order, are part of civil procedure.  In a protective order case, the Petitioner files for protection from the Respondent, and at the hearing the police and the Office of the States Attorney are not involved in this process.  At the hearing for a Final Order, each party has an opportunity to tell the Court his or her side of the story, but no one is facing jail time, probation, or a fine.

However, Courts and even some attorneys often do not explain, in detail, what could happen to you – the collateral consequences – once you are served with a Temporary Protective Order and, more importantly, once a Final Protective Order is entered against you.  In fact, the entry of a Final Protective Order against you exposes you to a number of personal and professional risks.

Although it is a civil matter, a protective order implies that the Respondent either has committed acts of violence or has caused the Petitioner to have a reasonable fear of being the victim of abuse or other illegal behavior at the hands of the Respondent.  The mere entry of an Order can pose many risks to Respondents, including the following:

  1. Criminal charges may be filed against you, if the Petitioner claims you have violated the temporary or final protective order. A conviction for a violation of the order renders you vulnerable to a possible jail sentence, probation, and a criminal record.
  1. Loss of your firearms for up to one year.
  1. Loss of employment if you are required to possess a firearm as part of your job.
  1. Loss of the ability to accompany your child on field trips as schools often run background checks on chaperons.
  1. The existence of a final protective order can appear in county court or state court record searches undertaken by prospective employers.
  1. Potential loss of employment, especially if you possess a security clearance for your job.
  1. A search of Court records may display active and expired orders in the individual’s past.
  1. Some lenders may include a consumer report in addition to just your credit score number when evaluating your creditworthiness for a loan. Consumer reports may list your criminal history and may include matters like protective orders.
  1. Damage to your personal or professional reputation.
  1. If you are currently on probation or parole, the entry of a Final Protective Order could result in your being violated on your probation or parole, which could lead to re-incarceration for the unserved part of the sentence for which you are on probation or parole.

While this list is not exhaustive, it points to some of the immediate negative consequences that you may face if a Final Protective Order is entered against you.  Although prosecutors and police are not involved, the person on the receiving end is often seen by many as being “criminal-ish” and may be treated as if the person had committed a crime.

Protective Orders are part of civil law but are still very serious cases.  If you are ever served with a Protective Order, it is important that you understand not only what the Court may order you to do and not do with a Final Order, but also to recognize that Respondents in Final Protective Orders face many of the harmful consequences that are commonly experienced by those convicted of a crime.