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Are You Being Threatened, Harassed, Or Worse?

There are domestic violence laws in place in Maryland designed to help those who are being abused by a spouse or other family member, or a live-in girlfriend or boyfriend. People often ask if there is a way they can get protection from people who do not fit into those categories, such as, for example, a girlfriend or boyfriend who does not live with you, the girlfriend or boyfriend of an estranged spouse, a neighbor, or some other person. This situation often arises in the context of divorces, where, for example, the girlfriend or boyfriend of your estranged spouse is harassing or threatening you, or someone who knows you are going through a divorce starts to give you some most unwelcome attention to the point that you feel threatened. Maryland peace orders are designed to offer protection again such people and all others against whom seeking a domestic violence protective order would not be appropriate under the law.

To get a peace order against someone, a person needs to file a petition for a peace order with a Maryland District Court. One or more of the following must be alleged: serious bodily harm or an action that puts a person in fear of serious bodily harm; assault; rape or other sexual offense; false imprisonment; harassment; stalking; trespass; or destruction of property. The court will hold a hearing in which only the filer of the petition appears (and not the one the peace order is sought against), and make a decision as to whether to issue a temporary peace order. The temporary peace order is then served on the person it is against by a law enforcement officer. A hearing on whether a more permanent peace order is to be issued by the court is then held after the person is served, with both that person and the filer of the petition having an opportunity to be present. Based on this hearing, the court will make a decision as to whether to issue a peace order. This peace order can last for up to six months.

In both the temporary peace order and the peace order, the court can order the person it is against to do one or more of the following: to stop harming the petitioner or threatening to harm him or her; to stop from contacting or harassing the petitioner; to stay away from the petitioner; to get counseling; or to mediate the situation with the petitioner. Violation of either form of peace order can lead to arrest, a court holding the person in contempt, criminal prosecution, and imprisonment or a fine, or both. I should also add that the petitioner should be completely honest when seeking a peace order as providing false information can lead to criminal prosecution.

If you are contemplating getting a peace order against someone, or someone is seeking a peace order against you, you should seriously consider consulting with an attorney. An attorney can advise you as to the best way to proceed, including whether seeking a peace order, a domestic violence protective order, or some other sort of remedy is best for you.

This article is general in nature and you should check with a lawyer in your community for specific legal advice once the facts of your specific situation are taken into account.


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