Domestic Violence Charges: What It Means, What Might Happen, and How to Protect Yourself

When you or someone close to you is accused of domestic violence, the natural reaction is to immediately protest that it can’t be true.

However, when dealing with domestic violence cases, the best thing to do is take a moment to let it sink in, and then immediately contact your lawyer. They can help explain what domestic violence really means in Maryland, what might happen next, and how to insulate yourself and your family from further harm.

What is Considered Domestic Violence in Maryland?

In Maryland, “domestic violence” is more of a term that describes the context in which a criminal act occurred, not necessarily a specific crime in and of itself.

Basically, domestic violence occurs when an attack or abuse of some kind happens against another member of the household or family member.

It’s a bit like the difference between punching a stranger in a barroom brawl, and one partner hitting their lover in a bedroom argument.

There’s an intimacy factor involved that elevates the crime from random violence to a more sinister outlook.

While Maryland’s laws don’t specifically label “domestic violence” in its statutes, Maryland’s protective order laws do try to outline certain types of domestic abuse.

So, we can take our cue of what domestic violence is from those rules.

Protective order law outlines four main categories of possible domestic abuse.

  1.   Physical Abuse
    Any time someone intentionally physically harm their partner or family member, that is possible physical domestic abuse. The category includes striking, biting, scratching, or any (intentional) physical harm that falls upon the victim caused by their partner or household member.
  2.   Emotional Abuse
    Emotional abuse is harder to pinpoint, but it includes stalking, manipulating, intimidating, or emotionally controlling a loved one
    Something as “innocent” as monitoring calls and texts, or constantly accusing one party of cheating, may be considered emotional abuse.
    While it may be out of love, it can get someone charged with domestic abuse.
  3.   Sexual Abuse
    Sexual abuse is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, from rape to sexual assault to child predation. In Maryland, unwanted sex – even if you are married! – is still legally considered rape. Sexual abuse can also include stalking and harassment.
  4.   Economic or Financial Abuse
     Economic dependence can quickly turn into economic abuse in the wrong circumstances. For example, forbidding someone to go school or work, jeopardizing their employment, or withholding access to money is absolutely considered economic abuse.

What Are Possible Domestic Violence Related Charges?

All of the acts listed above would be crimes on their own, even if the people involved were not in a relationship or related in some way:

  • Forced sexual relations is criminal, whether it’s between strangers or family members.
  • Hitting anyone, known or not, can result in assault charges.
  • Impacting and monitoring someone’s accounts or otherwise interfering with their work might cause financial-related charges such as embezzlement to be filed.
  • Stalking is illegal, be it a crazy fan or a former lover.

However, domestic violence elevates the “common” charge and severity of the possible sentence.

Because human relationships involve trust, most victims of domestic violence open themselves to exploitation and harm more than the average strangers on the street.

Therefore, Maryland law and prosecutors tend to come down much more harshly on those charged with these criminal acts within a setting of possible domestic violence.

That being said, in the state of Maryland, if your partner is able to prove abuse, they will win automatic custody of your children.

In addition, the abuser will often use fear and intimidation against those who they are abusing, and even threaten self-harm if the abused tries to leave.

Being accused of abuse should be taken seriously. If you immediately take action and show you meant no harm by showing how much the person and their feelings mean to you, it will not be the end of the world.

What Else Happens Due to Domestic Violence Related Charges?

Those accused of domestic abuse or domestic violence can very quickly find themselves in some very deep, very hot legal water.

  • Courts may award custody of any children involved to the accuser and forbid visitation for their safety, while requiring interim child support or alimony payments while the legal case makes its way through the system.
  • If an emergency protective order is approved due to domestic violence allegations, then the accused may find themselves without a home, vehicle, or even their pets.
  • Companies may immediately fire at-will employees when they hear about possible charges, and background checks may pick up these charges if not later expunged.
  • If convicted, “regular” criminal charges may have their sentences “upgraded” with increased prison time and fines, due to the nature of the crime.

If at any point someone thinks they may be accused of a domestic violence-related crime – or finds themselves getting served for a protective order hearing the following week – then it’s time to call in the big guns.

JC Law offers free initial consultations for those facing down domestic violence-related charges.

We can help walk you through how your charges may have come about, what will happen in the short term, and how to mitigate long-term damage to yourself, your family, and your reputation.

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