As soon as the police are called in a domestic dispute, the incident is no longer a private affair for you and your family to resolve. A disagreement with your spouse can turn into a whole different battle once the authorities arrive on your doorstep.
After all, Maryland law enforcement’s mission is to collect facts, protect the vulnerable, and inform both parties of their most basic rights – not to sit everyone down at the kitchen table to hash the issue out.
Of course, don’t hesitate to call the authorities if you fear for yourself or another. However, you should know what happens when police are called for domestic violence-related situations in Maryland.
- Maryland law enforcement errs on the side of caution. If they believe someone will get hurt if they don’t intervene, then they may make arrests or ask if one of the parties wishes to file domestic assault charges or for an emergency protective order.
- It’s extremely difficult to reverse course on filed domestic assault charges, even at the victim’s request.
- Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation or play into law enforcement’s potential biases. Once the dust settles, consider contacting a lawyer to deal with any potential fallout for you or your family.
What Happens When Police First Respond to Domestic Violence Calls
When a dispute with your partner takes a turn for the worse, someone may call the police.
While law enforcement may not know exactly what to expect, they are still prepared to make an arrest.
When police arrive, they:
- Take in all the details of the circumstances leading to the phone call to the police, including possible alleged assault; and
- Write up an incident report.
In turn, you should plan to:
- Ask for a copy of the report and the report number; and
- Ask for all the names and badge numbers of the officers involved.
If the police determine that the incident was large enough and that physical harm occurred – especially to children – then they may make an arrest.
Frankly, domestic situations can get pretty tricky for cops, and they tend to err on the side of caution. They really can’t risk just leaving for a victim to be injured or even killed after their departure – even if the involved parties think that’s a dramatic and unlikely possibility.
In many situations, the safest thing law enforcement can do is make certain the involved parties are separated, if only until cooler heads prevail. And, sometimes the only way to absolutely ensure separation is to make an arrest.
Pursuing Domestic Assault Charges After House Calls
In responding to a domestic dispute, a police’s report of what occurred and what they observed responding to the call can become evidence in a state case against an individual for assault. The perceived victim may be asked if they wish to file charges, either at the time or shortly afterward.
Typically, domestic violence or abuse charges are not automatically pressed against the person arrested, but only after one of the involved parties requests for charges to be filed.
Be careful of making accusations and decisions in the heat of the moment. Know that once a party files for domestic assault, it is extremely difficult to reverse the charges and drop the case – especially without a lawyer.
Part of the reason for the difficulty is that when domestic violence charges are filed, it’s usually the state prosecutor’s office which pursues the charges.
Again, Maryland is not going to drop the case without cause –even if the victim calls and asks them to.
Remember: The safety of its citizens is Maryland’s top priority. The prosecutor’s office may be worried about false recanting of charges that later put the victim at risk.
Victims may also wish to file for an emergency protective order – basically Maryland’s version of a restraining order against family members, partners, or other household members.
If the order is later violated, then the police arrest the offending party. And, that arrest can be used as evidence to either secure a final protective order or as leverage for other legal matters such as divorces or custody hearings.
After a Domestic Violence House Call: What to Do Next
From the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, the police will be heavily scrutinizing the scene for any indications of possible ongoing violence. Any aggression or aggravation shown towards them or other involved parties will only be used against you.
And, even if the law requires fair and equal treatment of all persons – regardless of race, gender, or religion – realize that unconscious personal bias may still taint the perceptions of even the most earnest of law enforcement.
Don’t give them any ammunition that they can use to make you or your family’s situation worse.
Instead, ask for your lawyer – and then follow their instructions to the letter. Domestic violence lawyers can help protect you and your family from further harm, either against false domestic violence allegations or by seeking emergency protective orders.