Howard County Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you have been arrested for, or accused of, domestic violence in Howard County, you should hire an experienced domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible. With so much recent media attention on these crimes, without a seasoned lawyer, you run the risk of being overwhelmed by the legal system, even if you’re innocent.
Domestic violence can apply to any of the following situations:
- Assault (both felony and misdemeanor)
- Child abuse
- Domestic rape and other sex crimes
- And other possible crimes.
Victims of domestic violence can include:
- Spouses (current and former)
- Those who are related to the suspect by blood, marriage, or adoption,
- People who cohabitate: which can include parents, stepparents, children and unmarried “significant others.”
- Vulnerable adults: adults who are incapable of taking care of themselves and must have another adult care for them.
[Maryland Annotated Family Code Sections 4-501, 14–101]
Law enforcement plays a critical part in determining the validity of domestic violence. They may arrest a suspect without a warrant only 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
- And the officer is reasonably convinced that the defendant may evade arrest, cause further injury to the victim, damage property, tamper with (or destroy) evidence.
- If the officer reasonably believes the suspect violated a protective order.
If accused of domestic violence, before you know it, you can be served with a Protective (“No-contact”) Order. This means that your domestic situation will be assigned to Family Court and you must immediately move from your home. Protective orders can also prohibit you from seeing your minor children, even via supervised visitation, until Family Court permits you to do so. Violation of a protective order means you will be arrested and may face imprisonment or fine or both – it is a contemptible offense to violate the order – these are civil orders with consequences of contempt only because they are not criminal: [M.A.F.C. Section 4-508].
After being served with a protective order for domestic assault, you have seven days to retain an attorney before your must appear at a Final Protective Order hearing. At times like these, an attorney can become extremely valuable to you because after notifying the court that you have legal representation, your lawyer can immediately move to delay this Final hearing in order to conduct a full investigation.
Sometimes, domestic violence charges involve underlying circumstances in the bigger picture of domestic discord between family members, which can involve:
- The “victim” is trying to take advantage in a divorce proceeding, custody, or visitation dispute;
- The victim is looking for revenge or punishment for some disagreement, and domestic violence charges could be part of that plan.
By creating the time to conduct a thorough investigation of your charges and the motivating forces and disputes that gave rise to them, your defense attorney may discover defense options that were not previously known before the investigation was conducted.
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Maryland
Maryland courts generally use discretion when deciding how much time a domestic abuse defendant should serve; depending on the facts of the case. But if the suspect is charged with any form of domestic assault, it is prosecuted under Section 3-201(b). Depending on the severity of injury to the victim, the assault charge can be a felony (first degree): [Section 3-202(a)(1), or misdemeanor (second degree): [Section 3-203]. Conviction of either charge will have a tremendous impact on the disposition of your family court case.
Violating a protective order is first; contempt of court. So there’s a fine and a bit of jail time for starters. Then, if you add a first offense for violating a protective order; that’s 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.
Domestic violence charges can also lead to many unwanted consequences, including the following punishments if you are convicted:
- A protective order/restraining order can be taken out against you
- Jail time
- Restitution to victim
- Loss of child visitation, custody or court-supervised visitation
The Need for an Experienced Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
Domestic violence assault cases can take up to six months (or longer) to resolve, depending on the seriousness of the accusations. While most matters can be resolved in the District Courts, there are some instances where the alleged assault included a weapon, carrying felony assault charges and these matters may be removed to the Circuit Court either before or at a preliminary hearing in the District Court, extending the timeline of your case. It is not uncommon that defendants can be given unreasonably high bail amounts. If you can’t pay it, then you must wait in jail until your trial date. But one of the more serious matters that arise from domestic assault is that once the charges have been filed, even if the victim wants to drop the case later, Maryland law places that decision at the discretion of the prosecutor. And as we’ve already said, domestic violence is a “hot button” as far as the legal system. So there is no guarantee that the victim 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 Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as you are served or charged. Restraining orders are very time-sensitive. So it is important to take action quickly.