If you have been charged with domestic violence, you must take the charges very seriously, hiring a qualified Maryland criminal defense attorney immediately. Even in cases where your income qualifies you for a court-appointed attorney, in almost all instances, you will receive a more competent, aggressive defense if you hire your own highly experienced criminal defense attorney. You need a highly experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney with a broad background in domestic violence cases if you want to ensure that your future is not compromised. While domestic violence is a very serious issue, and many of the cases filed have merit, there are also a significant number of domestic violence charges falsely made against a person out of revenge or anger.
Whether you have been falsely accused of domestic violence or simply had a relatively benign argument that escalated into raised voices, you are probably aware that once the government enters into your life, your future could be damaged. It is extremely important that you contact an attorney who has experience defending those accused of domestic abuse. Once the legal wheels are set into motion, they can rarely be slowed, even if the accuser recants. A criminal defense attorney such as Scott MacMullan will have a solid understanding of the process and can fully explain your options while fighting to have the charges dismissed.
How Do Domestic Violence Charges Usually Occur in Maryland?
Typically, a domestic violence charge usually begins when one party contacts law enforcement to report an act of violence by another person in their home. Parties who can allege domestic violence under Maryland law include:
- Current or former spouses;
- Parents of a child together;
- Those who are in a parent-child relationship or a stepparent-stepchild relationship who have lived together for at least 90 days during the past year;
- Those living together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year;
- Those related by marriage, blood, or adoption;
- Those in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship, or
- Persons who have had a sexual relationship within one year prior to the filing of the petition.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence?
The legal definition of domestic violence has grown over the past decade to include non-physical forms of abuse such as emotional or psychological abuse in the form of credible threats, as well as physical forms of abuse. Emotional abuse is often used to control, humiliate or punish a spouse, partner, or child, and while there are no bruises to display, the end result is the same—one person becomes fearful of the other. While a physical abuser uses fists or other weapons to threaten and control, an emotional abuser is more subtle, isolating a person from their friends and family, discouraging independent activities, falsely accusing the person of unfaithfulness, etc.
There is another side to the issue of domestic abuse, which lies in false allegations or a simple spousal argument that escalates yet in which both parties were equally culpable. Unfortunately, in many instances, allegations of abuse are made—and believed by the courts—as a method of gaining an advantage in a divorce or custody proceeding. Because of the broad definitions which now exist for domestic abuse, these methods are often successful. Since allegations of domestic violence can have not only civil but criminal consequences, false allegations can destroy a person’s reputation and impact their future in a very negative manner. The person falsely accused of domestic violence may suffer incarceration, fines, and may have a “no contact” order entered against them which mandates they leave the family home and have no contact with their children or spouse.
What Types of Crimes Generally Fall Under Domestic Violence?
While there are a number of crimes that fall under the umbrella of domestic violence, some of those include:
- Any act which causes serious bodily harm;
- Sexual assault;
- An act which places a person in fear of imminent bodily harm;
- Rape, or
- False imprisonment.
When Will a Protective Order Come into Play?
A protective order could be a temporary or interim protective order or a final protective order. In an interim or temporary protective order, a judge may order the defendant to:
- Stop abusing the plaintiff;
- Stay away from the plaintiff;
- Refrain from contacting the plaintiff, whether at home, at work, or anywhere the plaintiff is staying;
- Stay away from the plaintiff’s home;
- Leave the home where the defendant and plaintiff reside;
- Award temporary custody to the plaintiff, and
- Award temporary custody of a pet to the plaintiff.
A final protective order can additionally:
- Establish temporary visitation with children;
- Order counseling for the defendant;
- Award the use and possession of a jointly titled vehicle;
- Award emergency family maintenance;
- Require the defendant to surrender all firearms;
- Require the defendant to pay filing fees and court costs; and
- Order any other relief the judge deems necessary to protect the plaintiff from abuse.
How are Domestic Charges Proven in Maryland?
The prosecutor in a Maryland domestic violence case must show the crime was a domestic matter, then must prove an offense took place, that the offense was not committed by accident, and that the “offense” was not self-defense. The prosecutor can find it challenging to prove domestic abuse when the defendant has a compelling story, is believable, and his or her story seems to make sense. The prosecutor in the case must assess the written or spoken statements of the individuals involved as well as observations made by law enforcement, photographs, and reports to make a determination of whether the case is viable. The judge will then decide if the case has merit and should be pursued.
What are the Consequences of a Maryland Conviction for Domestic Violence?
If you are convicted of domestic violence, you will be subject to a wide variety of legal consequences, as well as a number of collateral consequences. You could be legally “evicted” from your home, could lose custody of your children, could lose your job, could be unable to find employment, could be unable to rent a place to live, and could be unable to obtain a government student loan or obtain a professional license. You could be legally evicted from your home, be assessed heavy fines and may even lose custody of your own children, not to mention the possibility of jail time (which brings its own set of consequences).
Once you have a criminal conviction, you may find yourself unable to so much as rent a home, obtain most types of professional licenses, secure a student loan or any other type of government assistance, and you may suffer the inability to secure gainful employment. In other words, a conviction for domestic violence can follow you for the remainder of your life. The criminal consequences for a Maryland conviction of domestic violence will depend on the exact charge. The most common form of domestic violence occurs when someone assaults another person. In a case like this, the maximum penalty for a conviction is ten years in jail. If the assault was severe enough to significantly injure another person, you could be charged with felony assault in the first degree and could potentially receive 25 years in prison.
What are some of the Most Common Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges?
Of course, your defense to domestic violence charges will depend on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, but the two primary defenses to charges of domestic violence are actual innocence and self-defense. If you are innocent of the charges, your attorney may attempt to impeach the credibility of the accuser, or question the accuser to determine whether there is any actual documentation of the alleged domestic violence or to determine whether the accuser stands to benefit in a divorce or custody case. If you acted in self-defense, to protect yourself from assault, your attorney would put those facts before the court.
How Can an Experienced Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
If you have been charged with domestic violence in the state of Maryland, you are facing serious charges with serious consequences. Attorney Scott MacMullan will fight tirelessly for your rights, protecting you against a justice system that does not always dispense true justice. Scott is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of those charged with a crime who are facing an often-confusing legal system. Scott prides himself on answering all his calls from clients within one business day in most cases; he is responsive to the needs of his clients and readily available. Call or text Scott MacMullan Law, LLC today at (443) 494-9775.