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Peace v. Protective Order in Maryland


Anyone who has watched a TV legal drama has likely heard reference to a “restraining order” and understands generally that it is a legal mechanism that can be used if you want someone to stay away from you and generally leave you alone.  We often have clients come to us seeking assistance in either obtaining or defending against a Maryland restraining order. What most people don’t know is, in Maryland, a restraining order is an umbrella term that covers two possible orders that may offer protection to individuals, both of which have their own distinct eligibility requirements and applications.  

The two types of Maryland restraining orders are Peace Orders and Protective Orders.  This article will explain the difference between the two and outline which might apply in your specific circumstances.  

Who can file for a Maryland restraining order?

Maryland Protective Order cases are domestic violence proceedings, meaning the Petitioner (or the person requesting that the order be put in place) is seeking protection from someone who they are either related to or have had romantic relations with (referred to as the Respondent).  A Maryland Protective Order Petitioner must demonstrate, as a threshold matter, that the Respondent falls into one of the following related categories: 

  • A person they engaged in sexual relations with within 1 year before filing for the order; 
  • A current or former spouse; 
  • A person they share a child with; 
  • A blood relative;
  • A relative by marriage or adoption; or
  • A stepchild or stepparent if the parties lived together for a minimum of 90 days

Maryland Peace Orders, on the other hand, are used by persons who are not eligible for relief under the Protective Order statute.  What that means is that a person who petitions the court for a Peace Order will have their petition dismissed if they fall into any one of the categories outlined above. 

What does a Petitioner have to prove to get a Maryland restraining order?

Standard of Proof

Both Protective and Peace Orders involve civil proceedings, which means that the allegations of abuse need not be proven to the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.  Instead, the allegations must be proven by a “preponderance of the evidence.”  In general terms, the court must be satisfied that it is more likely than not that the alleged abusive conduct took place.  

What constitutes abuse? 

Peace and Protective Orders have similar definitions of abuse, with several notable distinctions.  A Petitioner who can prove any of the following acts may be eligible for either a Peace or Protective Order: 

  • An act that causes serious bodily harm OR that caused them to have reasonable fear of such imminent harm; 
  • Assault of any degree, including any degree of sexual assault; 
  • Stalking; and/or 
  • False Imprisonment 

Conduct specific to Protective Orders 

Abuse under the Protective Order statute also provides relief for persons who can prove that a respondent engaged in conduct that qualifies as “revenge porn.”  Revenge porn generally involves intentionally posting, texting, or otherwise sharing sexually explicit photos, videos or recordings of a person with the intent to cause serious emotional distress to another without their consent.  

Conduct Specific to Peace Orders 

Peace Orders may additionally provide protection for persons alleging conduct that amounts to harassment or trespass on private property.  

How much time after the alleged abuse does a Petitioner have to file a Peace or Protective Order? 

The Maryland Protective Order statute does not place any time restrictions on persons eligible for relief when it comes to filing for protection.  Generally, a person can request a protective order at any time after the alleged abuse occurred so long as the respondent falls into one of the categories outlined in the beginning of this article.  

The Maryland Peace Order statute is much less lenient and can be time-barred.  The alleged abusive conduct must have occurred within the 30 days before filing a petition.  This means that Peace Order petitions seeking protection on the basis of abusive acts alleged to have occurred more than 30 days prior to filing a petition will be dismissed as a matter of law, without consideration of the allegations themselves.  

Should you hire an attorney for your Maryland restraining order case? 

Absolutely.  Many people make the mistake of not hiring a lawyer in these cases without understanding the important intricacies of the law, the proceedings and the rights that may be affected throughout the case.  The attorneys at Krum, Gergely & Oates are well-versed in the areas of civil, criminal and family law, which gives us a deep understanding of the ways in which they are intertwined. Our attorneys will take a comprehensive look at your unique circumstances and aggressively fight for you to ensure the best outcome possible.