Maryland Domestic Violence Laws

Attention: If you or a loved one is the victim of domestic violence, you should know that you have options. You can call the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence at 1-800-MD-HELPS during normal business hours or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24-7 for immediate, confidential assistance.

Domestic violence is a very serious crime involving acts or threats of violence against one's spouse, children, or other individuals sharing a domicile. Maryland criminal code doesn’t include specific laws for domestic violence between current or former spouses and other family members. However, the protection order laws in the Maryland Family Law Code define domestic abuse as an assault, rape, stalking, and other such offenses that occur between family or household members.

Therefore, if a person were to assault, rape, or commit any other crime against his or her current or former romantic partner, the crime charged and potential penalty assessed could be the same as if the crime were committed against a stranger. However, additional charges would be filed if child abuse or violations of a protective order occurred as well.

Maryland Domestic Violence Laws at a Glance

Statute
  • Maryland Code, Family Law § 4-501, et seq.
Statutory Definition of Abuse

Abuse means any of the following acts:

  1. An act that causes serious bodily harm;
  2. An act that places a person eligible for relief in fear of imminent serious bodily harm;
  3. Assault in any degree;
  4. Rape or sexual offense, or attempted rape or sexual offense in any degree;
  5. False imprisonment; or
  6. Stalking.
Penalties and Sentencing
  • Assault – intentionally causing physical injury to another is punished by up to 25 years in prison
  • Rape or Sexual Offense – forced and other non-consensual sexual intercourse or other sexual acts can be punished by up to life imprisonment
  • False Imprisonment – holding someone against their will is a common law misdemeanor in Maryland (i.e. there’s no statute describing a maximum sentences)
  • Stalking – Pursuing someone and placing them in reasonable fear of assault, rape, false imprisonment, or death is a misdemeanor crime with up to 5 years in prison or a $5,000 fine
How to File for a Protective Order
  1. Complete a Petition for Protective Order (CC-DC/DV1)
  2. File at the right location
    • You can file for a protective order with the clerk in any District Court or Circuit Court during court business hours.
    • If the court is closed, file the petition with the Commissioner’s Office of the District Court, which is open 24 hours a day. During court business hours, you must file with the court and not one of the Commissioners.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
  • Wrong suspect
  • Deliberately false allegations
  • Self-defense
  • Consent
  • Lack of proof

Note: State laws may change either through the passage of new legislation, the issuance of appellate court decisions, or through other means. Make sure you contact a criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Protective Orders in Maryland

Victims of domestic violence can seek a protection order from the court requiring the abuser to stay away from them. If a victim isn’t eligible for a protection order because he or she isn’t in the legally specified form of marriage, dating, or family relationship required for one, the victim can request a “peace order.”

Police officers can arrest a person without a warrant if the officer believes the person is violating a protection order. If the abuser violates this protection order or peace order, there can be criminal consequences, including imprisonment or a fine. For example, failure to comply with a protection order can be punished by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense or up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500 for a second or subsequent offense.

Related Resources

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If you are the victim of domestic violence, you should know that you have legal options. If you have been charged with a crime related to domestic violence, whether it's assault or something else entirely, you will want legal representation. Get started today with a free legal evaluation of your case by a Maryland criminal defense attorney.

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