Frederick County Domestic Violence Lawyer
Domestic violence charges can be complex matters that involve multiple areas of law, including criminal and family law. An experienced Frederick County domestic violence lawyer can work with you to protect your rights and mitigate the impact of the charges on you and your family.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Frederick County, Maryland?
Domestic violence in Frederick County encompasses many charges that can include assault (felony or misdemeanor), child abuse, spousal rape or other sex crimes, and stalking, among others.
According to Maryland’s Annotated Family Code Section 4-501(m), victims of domestic violence can involve:
- Spouses (current and former)
- Blood, marriage, or adopted relatives
- Any cohabitants, such as parents, stepparents, children and unmarried “significant others.”
- Vulnerable adults who cannot care for themselves and must have another person care for them
The Role of Frederick Domestic Violence Lawyers After an Arrest
Almost immediately after being arrested for a domestic violence crime, suspects can be served with a protective (“no-contact”) order (Section 3-1503.1). The case is assigned to family court (and possibly criminal court in cases of serious assault). Most often, this means that the alleged offender must immediately leave home and find another place to live. Protective orders can also prohibit the suspect from seeing their young children until family court permits it. Violation of a standing protective order means you can be arrested (Section 4-508).
After being served with a protective order for domestic assault, suspects should consult with an attorney, because they have seven days to appear at a preliminary family court hearing. A lawyer is invaluable because, once retained, they can immediately move to delay this preliminary hearing, where a further protective order could be served on the defendant (Section 3-1504). During this delay, the domestic violence attorney can then conduct a full investigation and prepare a defense to civil and criminal charges (if the latter apply).
There are also times when domestic violence allegations involve underlying circumstances that may apply to the truthful nature of the relationship between the victim and the alleged perpetrator:
- Sometimes victims try to take advantage in a divorce proceeding or custody or visitation dispute when accusing someone of domestic assault.
- Other times, victims might seek revenge against the alleged suspect for some disagreement, and they view domestic violence charges as a means to this end.
This is one reason why law enforcement can play a critical part in getting to the bottom of some allegations of domestic violence. But they may also arrest a suspect without a warrant if:
- The incident is reported within 48 hours.
- There is clear evidence of injury to the victim.
- The officer reasonably believes the defendant battered the victim.
- The officer is reasonably convinced that the defendant may evade arrest, cause further injury to the victim, damage property, or tamper with (or destroy) evidence.
- The officer reasonably believes the suspect violated a protective order.
What Are The Penalties for Domestic Violence in Frederick County?
Maryland courts try to use discretion when deciding how much jail time a domestic abuse defendant should serve. But if the suspect is charged with any form of domestic assault, it is criminally prosecuted under Maryland Annotated Code Section 3-201(b). Depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries, first-degree assault can be a felony (Section 3-202(a)(1)), while second-degree assault is a misdemeanor (Section 3-203). Conviction of either charge will have a very detrimental effect on the suspect’s standing in family court.
Violating a protective order involves both a fine and jail time. A first conviction is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. All subsequent offenses call for up to a year in jail and fine of up to $2,500 (Section 3-1508). And many times, stalking charges can be filed against one who has received a protective order if the defendant is in fear of harm. Conviction can bring a jail or prison sentence of up to five years and/or a fine of $5,000, depending on whether there are previous convictions (Section 3-802). And harassment charges (Section 3-803) against those with a protective order are not unusual.
A Frederick Domestic Violence Lawyer Can Help
Domestic violence assault cases can take up to six months to resolve in criminal court. But one of the more serious matters that arise from criminal domestic assault is that once the charges have been filed, even if the victim wants to drop the case later, the decision is left to the prosecutor. So, there is no guarantee that the victim’s family member’s wishes to drop the case will be honored.
If you’ve been charged with domestic violence or are served with a petition for a protective order, you should contact a Frederick County domestic violence lawyer at your earliest opportunity.