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Maryland Domestic Violence Civil and Criminal Actions

The main difference in Maryland domestic violence civil actions and criminal actions is the way each case is handled in court. All civil matters are generally non-criminal and non-punitive in terms of jail. The discretionary orders given by a judge under the circumstances are to minimize contact between the parties or order monetary sums. The judge functions as a referee in the situation. A criminal domestic violence action means a person can go to jail.

In a civil matter, the accuser asks that the person does not contact them or limit contact in such a fashion that it is only through email to a specific email address and there is a written record. If you find yourself in either of these situations, an experienced domestic violence lawyer can help you build a defense based on the type of penalties you face and the facts of your case.

Requests from the Accuser

In most Maryland domestic violence civil actions and criminal actions, requests usually come from the state and not the accuser. These requests usually include asking for a punitive penalty such as jail time. The individual may not want the person to go to jail. They may want the person to seek help, receive anger management training, or take a healthy relationship course.

However, the state’s attorney has the discretion to make their own recommendation. An individual can be called as a victim to make a recommendation. The disposition is always the judge’s. Unless a judge is bound to an agreement between the state and the defense, the judge has the right to do anything they want. If nobody is asking for jail, a judge can still impose jail when they feel it is necessary.

Dropping Criminal Charges

The State’s Attorney Office can drop charges for domestic violence civil actions and criminal actions in Maryland. When there is a civil stay away order and the petitioner wants to remove it, they can go to the court and request that the order be removed. It is up to the judge to grant that withdrawal and they could say no. Just because the individual wants something done does not mean the judge allows it. An accuser cannot drop charges in a criminal domestic violence action. Once a person makes a report and it goes to the police or directly to the state’s attorney, they make the decisions.

An accuser can be compelled to testify under any circumstance unless they are a protected party which would be a spousal privilege. If people are married, they can invoke that privilege which protects them temporarily for one time only. They can prevent anyone from compelling them to testify against their spouse. In the State of Maryland, a person can invoke privilege under spousal immunity one time only and that is it. With a subsequent offense, a person cannot invoke the spousal immunity. A judge can find the person in contempt of court if they refuse to cooperate. If the person does not show up, the judge can issue a show cause or a body attachment that can be brought in by a sheriff. They can also have the person arrested.

Importance of Limited Contact

Both parties in Maryland domestic violence civil actions and criminal actions proceeding should limit contact with each other to defuse the situation. Less contact between the parties may allow the situation to resolve itself; calmer heads can prevail which means better results in court.