Filing for Protective Orders in the State of Maryland

I would like to discuss protective orders in Maryland. There’s a new law on protective orders in Maryland where Maryland simplifies the rules for domestic violence victims who are seeking issuance of a protective order. Basically, the process is easier.

The State Has Simplified the Process for Domestic Violence Victims

It will be easier for a person claiming to be a victim of domestic violence to obtain a protective order in Maryland. Currently a person must prove by clear and convincing evidence that a particular incident has occurred in order to make them eligible to seek relief. Starting October first of 2014, those seeking the orders of protection will only have to show a preponderance of evidence. Instead of the current status which is clear and convincing evidence.

Preponderance of Evidence versus Clear and Convincing Evidence

Currently, it’s extremely hard because there are three different standards. One is for criminal cases beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s hard because it’s almost ninety-nine percent that it happened so you can’t have any reasonable doubt. That’s hard and that’s why criminal cases are hard to prove.

In Maryland, protective order standards were determined by clear and convincing evidence. Now the standard has been reduced to only a preponderance of evidence. A preponderance of evidence is fifty-one percent. It’s just saying that the particular fact is more likely true than not true, it likely happened. It only takes a little bit of evidence to tip the scale that is most likely that this person committed this offense.

Interviewer: Who makes that determination that the evidence criteria are met?

Anitha Johnson: The judge.

Interviewer: How long would it take that determination to make as far as a hearing? Would a hearing occur? What sort of evidence?

A Temporary Order of Protection May Be Issues within a Few Days and Only One Party Needs to Attend the Hearing

Anitha Johnson: A hearing can be twenty minutes, thirty minutes, two days, two weeks; it just depends on the extent of the case.

These hearings are set very quickly. First, there’s a temporary protective order hearing set within a few days after the person files it. After the temporary hearing, if the person gets a temporary order, the final protective order hearing is set only seven days after that hearing. These hearings can happen within almost a week where a final protective order could be issued.

Both Parties Must Attend the Final Hearing for Protective Orders

It’s the same in D.C. A temporary protective order is issued almost immediately and in ex parte, meaning just the party is there. This means just the party who is filing the complaint is there. That’s why they’re likely granted at the temporary protective order stage, but at the final protective order stage is more evidence needed, both parties will be there, and they present whatever evidence concerning the particular crime.

The final protective order is the last step. The temporary protective order is just an emergency order entered until the final hearing has occurred and determined what actually has happened. Most courts will grant the temporary protective order and then when it comes time to the final protective order that’s when you actually have to put in evidence.

Interviewer: What do you think the sort of evidence that a judge is going to be looking at in order to make that determination for the final protective order?

Anitha Johnson: That’s just like asking what evidence the court looks at to determine a crime.  It really just depends on the case and what the person is alleging. People can allege a lot of things. They can allege telephone abuse, they can allege assault, they can allege harassment, they can allege sexual abuse, and they can allege stalking, threats. It really just depends on what they’re alleging.

The Temporary Order Is Issued Quickly on an Emergency Basis

Interviewer: I see. With that in mind, the temporary protective order, how difficult is that to obtain, and how quick does that happen?

Anitha Johnson: It’s a temporary hearing on an emergency basis issued immediately. That’s easy to get because, again, the other side is not available and you’re just making allegations. As long as the party is making allegations meets the standard then they’ll get a protective order. If they just make the allegation then they get it.

A Temporary Order Will Not Be Issued to Prohibit Behavior That Is Not Protected, Such as Name Calling

The only time they do not get a protective order is if they make an allegation of conduct that is not protected. If you make an allegation that the person called you a name they’re not going to give you a protective order. But for a temporary protective order, as long as you make an allegation that someone is violating some protective right then the protective order is typically issued. The other party is not there to defend it.

Terminology: Restraining Order, No-Contact Order, Peace Order, Protective Orders Are the Names These Orders Are Known as

Interviewer: What’s the difference between a protective order and a restraining order? Are those the same things essentially?

Anitha Johnson: Yes, it’s the same thing. People call it restraining order before. Maybe it’s called a restraining order in some states, but in Maryland it’s a protective order. It’s also a [inaudible 00:16:24] order, depends on the relationship.

It’s a protective order that was a relationship by blood or by a dating relationship. It’s a peace order if it’s a relationship between two parties that are not family members and never had a dating relationship. A peace order would be for friends or neighbors or a girlfriend and, say, if a husband is cheating, a mistress and a wife.

Interviewer: What about no contact orders? Are those the same?

Orders Can Contain Specific Requirements and Can Be Modified

Anitha Johnson: It is because it is protection. That’s what protective orders can seek. Again, you have no contact with that person. For instance, if a woman wants a protective order against a child’s father but realizes that she still has to be in contact with him for the sake of the kids then it can be no harmful or harassing contact.

The order contains the specification. You can change it from a no contact order, from no harassment or no physical harm; no threaten to harm, or any harmful conduct.

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