Disputes among family members and loved ones can sometimes spiral out of control, such as a misunderstanding between a husband and wife, or an argument with teenaged children. If you have been accused of domestic violence, you have a lot at stake including the respect of your family and community, your current and future job prospects, and even your freedom.
Domestic violence charges can carry serious penalties in Maryland. Courts have become increasingly more receptive to allegations of abusive behavior by a spouse and others involved in intimate relationships with their alleged attackers. While this level of concern is good, it also means that some people who are not guilty of breaking the law find themselves in legal jeopardy.
At Jonathan Fellner, Attorney at Law, we treat the defense of these cases with the seriousness it deserves. When you’ve been accused of threatening or harming someone close to you, you should have access to the most experienced and qualified defense possible.
Maryland’s Domestic Violence Laws
Maryland’s domestic violence laws are covered under the state’s criminal law code Title 3, Subtitle 2, which is the same state code that deals with first and second-degree assault. These charges could result in either a misdemeanor or a felony, but a misdemeanor conviction doesn’t mean you will get off lightly.
In Maryland, penalties associated with a misdemeanor can include heavy fines, probation, community service, house arrest, restraining orders, and jail time. Convictions for a felony are much harsher with higher fines and the likelihood of more time in jail, including a mandatory minimum sentence.
According to Maryland law, certain crimes are categorized as domestic violence when they occur between household members or family. These include:
- Rape and other sex crimes
- Child abuse or abuse of a vulnerable adult
- False imprisonment
- Causing serious bodily harm or fear of imminent serious bodily harm
Maryland defines household and family members as a current and former spouse, anyone related by blood, adoption, or marriage, parents, stepparents, children living together, and other people who live together.
Arrests for Domestic Abuse in Maryland
A law enforcement officer in Maryland might, under certain circumstances, arrest a person without a warrant that is suspected of domestic violence. There must be evidence of injury to a victim, and the incident should have been reported within 48 hours.
The officer must believe that the victim was hurt by the defendant and that the defendant is likely to cause additional injury, destroy or damage evidence, or evade arrest unless they are detained immediately. An officer can also make an immediate arrest, without a warrant, if they have a reasonable belief that the person involved has violated a protective order.
Household and family members can also file criminal charges directly with law enforcement or through an attorney. Once this is done, a prosecuting attorney that represents the state of Maryland will pursue the case against the defendant. These are different from any protective orders that you might have received or filed. When dealing with protective orders, it also makes sense to have a qualified domestic violence lawyer in your corner.
A protective order, also referred to as a restraining order, is an order from the court that prohibits one party from contacting or coming within a certain distance of another. Violating a protective order is a crime in Maryland.
Following a domestic violence arrest, one of the conditions of pre-trial release is usually that the accused not have any contact with the victim. This often means that a defendant will not be able to return to their home until a case is concluded.
Victims of domestic violence can also file for a protective or peace order separately in the courts. Unlike temporary protective orders, these are more permanent (lasting for one year). An experienced defense attorney can argue against any motion for a permanent protective order, which could prevent you from returning home or seeing your children if approved.
Other Possible Implications of a Domestic Violence Case
While a domestic violence conviction can have harsh penalties, there are other ways that one of these cases can impact your life.
- Divorce. A protective order might be the first step in filing a domestic abuse case. If your marriage isn’t going well and this involves your spouse, take note. Allegations of physical abuse can be used as grounds for divorce in the state of Maryland. Having an experienced domestic abuse lawyer on your side can ensure that these proceedings are handled in a way that safeguards your interests.
- Children and Property. Abuse allegations can have a severe impact on your relationship with children and other pending family legal matters. Your attorney will make sure that any decision by the courts is just and reflects the best interests of all involved.
- Your Future. A domestic abuse conviction can severely impact your future. There is a particular stigma attached to domestic abuse charges, and having this mark on your record can prevent you from getting a job, qualifying for certain professional licenses, and even finding a place to live.
Defending Domestic Violence Cases in Maryland
When there are allegations of domestic violence, the prosecution must be able to prove their case with evidence. Your defense attorney will work with you on a strategy related to your defense, which will include an independent examination of the state’s evidence as well as a collection of other items and testimony to prove your innocence.
Sometimes contentious divorces or other volatile relationships can lead to one party making false accusations against another. Our legal team can subpoena records to get access to favorable witness testimony as well as get other evidence dismissed that might hurt your case.
Speak with an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney
Being convicted of domestic violence in Maryland will undoubtedly be life-changing. A reputable and experienced domestic violence attorney will protect your rights, help you fight unjust charges, and work to give you back your life. Every case is unique, and Jonathan Fellner, Attorney at Law, believes that each client is entitled to a vigorous and personalized defense. Contact our Rockville office now at (301) 265-3557 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case strategy. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.