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Know the Laws: Maryland

UPDATED February 1, 2017

Domestic Violence Protective Orders

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A domestic violence protective order is a civil order that protects: a victim of domestic abuse from harm by someone with whom s/he has a specific relationship; a vulnerable adult from abuse by any person regardless of their relationship; or a child who is sexually abused (by anyone) or physically or mentally injured by a parent/caretaker. 

After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some ideas for things that you may want to do when leaving court – you will have to decide which ones work for you:

  • Make several copies of the protective order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the protective order.  If they have not, you may want to ask if you can deliver a copy to them.
  • Take steps to safety plan, including possibly changing your locks and your phone number.

Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not.  It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  For more information please visit the Staying Safe page.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.

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back to topI was not granted a protective order. How can I stay safe?

If you are not granted protective order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe.  It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice. They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Staying Safe page. To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit our MD State and Local Programs page.

Even without a protective order, if you have been the victim of abuse and you believe that you are in danger of immediate harm, you can request the help of local law enforcement to accompany you to the "family home" to remove the following items (regardless of who paid for the items):

  • the personal clothing of you and of any child in your care; and
  • the personal belongings, including medicine or medical devices, of you and of any child in your care.*

If you were not granted protective order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify, you may be able to seek protection through a peace order.  You may also be able to reapply for a protective order if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to someone at a domestic violence organization or a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. See our Filing Appeals page for general info on appeals. 

* MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-502(a)(2)

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

You can call the police and/or file a petition for contempt in court even if you think it is a minor violation.  It could be a crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order.*  A judge can punish someone for being in contempt of court.  In addition, the police can arrest him/her depending on the violation.  If the police witnessed the violation or have probable cause to believe the violation occurred, the police are supposed to arrest him/her.**  If the police are not involved or do not arrest him/her or file a criminal complaint against him/her, you still may be able to file a contempt complaint against him/her in court.***

If the police do respond to your call, it might be a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case.

* See MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-508
** MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-509
*** MD Rule 15-206(b)(2)

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back to topHow do I change or extend my protective order?

Extending your order
You may apply to the court to have your order extended and the judge could grant this after the abuser is given notice and after a hearing in front of a judge.  The hearing must take place within 30 days after you file the motion.  If the hearing is scheduled after the original expiration date of the final protective order, the order will be extended until the hearing.*  A judge can extend the protective order (without any new incidents of abuse) for 6 months beyond the time it is supposed to end if you can show "good cause" (a good reason) why it should be extended.*1  The order can be extended for up to 2 years if you can prove that during the term of your protective order, the abuser committed a new act of abuse against you or if the abuser consents to the extension.*2  To determine how long this extension based on new abuse should be, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • what the new abusive act was and how severe (serious) it was;
  • the history and severity of abuse in the relationship between the abuser and you (or anyone named in your order);
  • the type of any pending criminal charges against the respondent; and
  • the nature and seriousness of any injury or risk of injury caused by the respondent.*2

Lastly, you can petition for a new final protective order with no end date (lasts forever) if:

  • you had a final protective order against the abuser; and
  • s/he was convicted and sentenced to serve at least 5 years in prison (and actually served at least 12 months of that sentence) for an incident of abuse against you that was the basis for that prior final protective order or for conspiracy or solicitation to commit murder.*3  For example, let's say you get an ex parte and then a final protective order in 2013.  A few months later, the abuser is convicted of aggravated assault based on the same incident that you included in your protective order petition and s/he serves 3 years in prison of a 5-year sentence.  When the abuser is being released from prison, you may decide to apply for this final protective order with no end date at that point.

Changing your order
You can file to change or withdraw your order.  The judge could grant this after the abuser is given notice and after a hearing in front of a judge.*4

* MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-507(a)(2),(a)(4)
*1 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-507(a)(2)
*2 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-507(a)(3)
*3 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-506(k)(1),(3)
*4 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-507(a)(1)

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back to topWhat happens to my protective order if I move?

If you move within Maryland, your order will still be valid (good).  Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protective order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.*  See our Moving to Another State with a Protective Order page for more information.

You may want to consider whether you want to give your new address to the court in case the court needs to contact you for any reason.  

* 18 USC § 2265

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