If you need help filing or defending yourself against domestic violence charges, you should immediately contact a domestic violence lawyer. While arguments are a normal part of any relationship, they can quickly get out of control– especially as relationships deteriorate and end. If you were involved in a domestic dispute, make sure you understand your rights.
Maryland Domestic Violence Laws
Domestic violence charges can take many forms. The parties could be romantic partners or family members. And, the victim can be male or female. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might face charges for:
- Abuse of a vulnerable adult (such as an elderly or disabled family member),
- Child abuse,
- Kidnapping or restricting freedom of movement,
- Rape or attempted rape,
- Reckless endangerment,
- Sexual assault and attempted sexual assault,
- Spousal abuse, and
Under Maryland law, you might face either misdemeanor or felony charges. Most domestic violence crimes result in significant jail time and fines.
If the incident occurs on a military base or other federal property, federal law applies. This typically involves prosecution under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Despite its title, VAWA protects all domestic violence victims, regardless of their gender.
False Allegations of Domestic Violence
While many allegations of domestic violence are legitimate, others are false or greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, when law enforcement responds to a domestic violence report, it can be very difficult to assess the circumstances surrounding the incident. For this reason, many innocent people are incorrectly charged with domestic violence. If you were wrongfully charged with domestic violence, you should immediately contact an experienced domestic violence lawyer.
Personal Protection Orders
A personal protection order (PPO) provides domestic violence victims with legal protections and a sense of security. In Maryland, a PPO can:
- Prohibit you from contacting your accuser,
- Order you to stay away from certain locations (such as the area around your accuser’s residence),
- Set a temporary child custody and visitation schedule,
- Order you to surrender your firearms to the authorities and prohibit your possession of additional firearms, and
- Give your accuser temporary possession of your home or vehicle (under certain circumstances).
The violation of a PPO is a separate misdemeanor that involves jail time and fines. Under federal law, most court-ordered PPO’s are enforceable throughout the United States (not just in the issuing state).
Once someone files a petition for a PPO, the court will notify the defendant and schedule a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to award a PPO. Unlike at a criminal trial, the victim does not have to prove his or her case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, the judge will award a PPO if the majority of the evidence supports the victim’s allegations.
However, do not assume that the court will simply rubber stamp your accuser’s request for a PPO. If there is a lot of contradictory or competing evidence, you can successfully fight his or her petition. And, since a PPO can seriously limit your contact with your family and take away your housing and vehicle, you should always consult with a domestic violence lawyer before attending a PPO-related hearing.
Domestic Violence Charges Don’t Just Involve Jail Time
Frequently, domestic violence charges have a long-lasting, negative impact. If you are convicted, you will face years of jail time and financial penalties. You might also lose your right to own and possess firearms. Your criminal record can make it difficult to obtain work, housing, or a higher education.
Additionally, allegations of abuse can impact your child custody and visitation rights. When Maryland courts award child custody and visitation, they consider the best interests of the child. If there is evidence that you harmed your spouse or child, the judge can reduce, restrict, or terminate your visitation rights.
Finally, domestic violence charges can seriously damage your reputation and other relationships. Even if you are acquitted or charges are dismissed, it can be difficult to heal the emotional wounds associated with domestic violence.
The Importance of a Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you are arrested for domestic violence, you should remain silent until you consult with your lawyer. Domestic violence cases typically involve complicated fact patterns and lots of extenuating circumstances. Without the help of an experienced domestic violence lawyer, you might make serious mistakes that impact your freedom and personal safety.
Once you have hired an experienced domestic violence lawyer, he or she will:
- Investigate your case and build a comprehensive defense strategy,
- Educate you about your legal rights,
- File and respond to pre-trial motions and PPO petitions,
- Negotiate with the prosecutor– possibly getting your charges dismissed or reduced,
- Propose counseling or rehab instead of jail time (through a diversion program), and
- Present your evidence and legal defenses to the judge and jury.
Discuss Your Case with a Baltimore Domestic Violence Lawyer
Before you file or respond to domestic violence charges, you should always speak with a domestic violence lawyer. At James E. Crawford & Associates, we guide our clients through domestic violence and related legal claims (including child custody disputes and PPO-related matters). We combine over 20 years of legal experience with compassionate and tenacious legal representation. Contact us for a free and confidential consultation today.
Call us today for a free initial consultation at 443-541-5912.