Maryland’s “Red Flag” Law and Extreme Risk Protective Orders

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A new law addressing gun safety went into effect on October 1, 2018 in Maryland. This law, which allows concerned parties to file for extreme risk protective orders (ERPOs), is also known as a “red flag” gun law. The law will temporarily prohibit a person’s access to guns when a judge determines he or she is a danger to him or herself, or others. The surrender of all guns and ammunition must be immediate if law enforcement serves the order. If the order is received by mail, the respondent must make immediate arrangements to have the firearms and ammunition surrendered. The respondent cannot access any guns or firearms between the surrender and the hearings, or for the time that the ERPO is in effect.

Eleven other states have enacted similar laws, especially in the wake of recent mass shootings. As a piece in the paper explains, “Red flag laws are designed to fill gaps in current laws that may allow some suicidal or dangerous people — for instance, those who haven’t been committed or convicted of a serious crime — to have guns, despite showing warning signs of violence.”

District judges can issue temporary ERPOs that prohibit people from buying or possessing guns or ammunition if they are determined to be an immediate danger to themselves or others. If the respondent fails to surrender the weapons, the guns are seized, and the respondent is charged with a misdemeanor. The respondent has a legal right to attend a hearing, where it will be determined whether or not he or she remains a danger, and if the ERPO should be extended.

Critics of red flag laws, like the lobbying group, Gun Owners of America, told CNN in a statement, “No one should lose any of their rights without due process. Otherwise, people can make a false claim to get revenge or to disarm the person they’re stalking.”

Most states with ERPO and red flag laws have enacted related legislation making it a crime to file a harassing or knowingly false petition.

Protective orders in Maryland

Maryland law does allow for people who fear they are in danger, or who are victims of domestic violence, to request protective orders or peace orders, depending on the relationship the two people have. These are temporary orders, but can be extended: a final protective order lasts 12 months, with the potential for an additional 6-month extension, and a final peace order lasts 6 months, with the potential for an additional 6-month extension.

Per the District Court of Maryland:

  • An Interim ERPO usually lasts until the Temporary ERPO hearing, but not beyond the second business day after issued unless the court is unexpectedly closed.
  • Temporary ERPO lasts until the Final ERPO hearing, but not beyond six (6) months.
  • Final ERPO may remain in effect for as long as one (1) year.  The court for good cause may extend the term of the order for an additional six (6) months after a subsequent hearing.

Once the ERPO expires, the firearms and ammunition will be returned:

  • 14 days after the expiration of an Interim or Temporary ERPO;
  • 14 days after a court terminates a Final ERPO; or
  • 48 hours after the expiration of a Final ERPO.

Maryland’s red flag laws go further to close the gaps, and as such, are among the broadest in the nation. We are one of only six states whose ERPO laws allow both family members and household members (for example, roommates) to seek protective orders, according to the Gifford Law Center. Also, as of September 2018, Maryland is the only state to allow certain mental health and other health workers to seek such orders.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, there is help available to you. Please do not wait to get the help you need. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE. The Anne Arundel County Hotline is 1-410-222-6800.

The attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC are dedicated to advocating for the safety of you and your family. If you are in immediate danger, please call the authorities immediately. To reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

Domestic Violence Protective Orders in Maryland Divorce

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Disputes between divorcing partners can get out of hand; sometimes, the reason for the divorce is to escape an abusive spouse. Either way, in Maryland, those who are being abused by their spouse or another member of their household can obtain a domestic violence protective order from the District Court or the Circuit Court in their county.

For the purpose of obtaining a protective order, domestic abuse is considered to be:

  • A violent act that causes serious bodily harm;
  • Threats of harm that cause a person to fear imminent serious bodily harm;
  • Assault;
  • Rape or attempted rape, sexual assault;
  • False imprisonment;
  • Mental injury to a minor child; or

The civil court system in Maryland offers two options when you are looking for protection from someone who has been harming you – a protective order or a peace order.

Protective orders are issued in cases of domestic violence when your abuser is related to you or lives in your household. The alleged abuser would be:

  • Your current or former spouse;
  • A current or former intimate partner for at least 90 days in the past year;
  • Related to you by blood, adoption or marriage;
  • Your child or your parent, step-child or step-parent, and you have lived with them for at least 90 days in the past year;
  • Someone who has been a caretaker for you or you have been a caretaker for them;
  • Someone with whom you have a child together; and
  • Someone with whom you have had a sexual relationship within one year of filing the petition.

What will a protective order accomplish for me?

If you are awarded a protective order, the following relief is possible:

  • The alleged abuser is ordered to cease contact with you completely;
  • The alleged abuser is ordered to stay away from you, your home, your work, school, your child’s school and possibly your family members’ homes;
  • The abuser is ordered to leave the home that you shared;
  • Temporary custody of the children that you have with the abuser can be awarded to you;
  • Emergency family maintenance to support yourself and your children can be awarded;
  • Temporary use and possession of jointly owned vehicles can be awarded;
  • The alleged abuser can be ordered into counseling; and
  • Temporary possession of a family pet can be awarded.

A peace order gives you legal protection from someone who is not a member of your household. A peace order can be sought if the following acts are being committed against you:

  • An act that causes serious bodily harm;
  • An act that places you in fear of imminent serious bodily harm;
  • Assault;
  • Rape or sexual offense;
  • False imprisonment;
  • Harassment;
  • Stalking;
  • Trespass; or
  • Malicious destruction of property.

A peace order, if awarded, can be in effect for a period of six months. The nature of your relationship with the person who has been abusing you is not an issue with a peace order. The following relief is available if a peace order is awarded:

  • The alleged abuser is ordered to refrain from committing the acts listed hereinabove against you;
  • The alleged abuser is ordered to refrain from contacting, attempting to contact or harassing you;
  • The alleged abuser is ordered not to enter your home;
  • The alleged abuser is ordered to stay away from your work, school or temporary residence; and
  • The alleged abuser can be ordered to participate in counseling.

Your Maryland divorce attorney can help you file the paperwork for a protective or peace order so that you and your children can feel safe in your own home. An interim order is awarded if you appear before a commissioner, and a temporary hearing will be scheduled usually within 24-48 hours. A temporary order will be awarded if you first appear before a judge, and if successful, a final hearing will be scheduled for the following week. A final protective order can remain in effect for up to a year, and the order can be made permanent under certain conditions. You can also go to court at some date in the future if you desire to have the protective order lifted. A peace order can remain in effect for up to six months.

Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you are considering a divorce and you need protection from an abusive spouse or family member, we can help. Please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time to discuss your case.

Ravens Star Ray Rice Charged with Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is an issue that we, as family lawyers in Annapolis, Maryland, see all too frequently.    It is all too upsetting and disappointing that Ray Rice, a star of our Baltimore Ravens,  was charged criminally for hitting his girlfriend and knocking her unconscious.  Strong, professional athletes can inflict serious damage on their “loved ones” just by virtue of their brute strength.

Over the years, we have, unfortunately, dealt with violence and had clients who were killed or seriously injured by their spouses or mates.  On occasion, children have been the victims of violence.  We sadly had one client who was in a coma for a week from her injuries.

Before Sharon Grosfeld started working for this law firm, she was an advocate at the house of Ruth.  As a member of the House of Delegates and Maryland Senate, she advanced protection from domestic violence and was seen as a leader in this field by the other members of the Legislature.

The Maryland law that provides for protection gives the victim the opportunity to have the abuser removed from the house.  The victim can obtain relief at either the Circuit Court or the District Court.  Once a petition is filed, the petitioner is taken to a judge for the judge to determine whether a temporary order should be granted.  If the order is granted, the parties are required to come back to court to see if the order should be extended.  The court also has the discretion to order anger management and other remedies in an attempt to protect the victims and preserve the family.  Commissioners are available after hours and the issues do not have to wait for court…In addition to granting the initial orders, the court has serious penalties for the violation of a protective order.

There are also occasions when people are wrongfully charged with domestic violence, sometimes in an attempt to gain some leverage in upcoming litigation.  The remedy of a protective order is a serious event.  Both sides to the conflict have an opportunity to be heard in court and tell or their part of the story.  The outcome of a protective order hearing could have an impact on some of the issues in a final divorce so this should be treated very seriously by both parties.