Legal Information: Maryland

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
November 27, 2023

What are the legal definitions of domestic abuse, sexual assault, abuse of a child, and abuse of a vulnerable adult in Maryland?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a domestic violence protective order (“DVPO”).

Maryland law defines domestic abuse as when someone with whom you have a specific relationship commits one of the following against you:

  1. assault in the 1st degree or 2nd degree;
  2. an act that places you in fear of immediate serious bodily harm or actually causes you serious bodily harm;
  3. rape in the 1st degree or 2nd degree;
  4. attempted rape in any degree;
  5. sexual offense in the 3rd degree or 4th degree;
  6. attempted sexual offense in any degree;
  7. stalking, which includes the use of a tracking device or electronic communication as defined by law;
  8. false imprisonment; or
  9. revenge porn.1

You can also file against anyone, regardless of your relationship, who committed or attempted to commit rape in the 1st degree or 2nd degree rape or a sexual offense in the 3rd degree or 4th degree against you within six months before filing the petition.2

If the abused person is a child, s/he can also get a domestic violence protective order based on “abuse of a child,” which is defined as:

  1. sexual abuse of a child by anyone; or
  2. the physical or mental injury of a child under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed by:
    • a parent;
    • a household member or family member;
    • a person who has permanent or temporary care or custody of the child;
    • a person who has responsibility for supervision of the child; or
    • a person who, because of the person’s position or occupation, has authority over the child.3

If the abused person is a vulnerable adult, which is someone who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for his/her daily needs, s/he can get an order based on “abuse of a vulnerable adult,” which is defined as physical injury caused by any person regardless of the relationship to the victim. The physical injury can happen as the result of cruel or inhumane treatment or as the result of a malicious act.4

1 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-501(b)(1)
2 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-501(m)(8)
3 MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-501(b)(2); 5-701(b)
4 MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-501(b)(3); 14-101(b), (q)

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