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Domestic Violence:
You Can Live Without It

The Maryland State Bar Association’s Public Awareness Committee has prepared this information. It is intended to inform the public and not serve as legal advice.

Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten in a domestic dispute somewhere in the United States, according to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. Domestic violence, abuse, assault and battery are all crimes that should not be treated lightly. If your spouse or partner is battering you, you may seek legal protection, even prosecution, whether you are married to your abuser or not.

Criminal Charges

  • As soon as the violence occurs, call the police. If they respond, but do not make an arrest, get the police report number and go to the District Court commissioner in your area to press criminal charges. The commissioner will either issue a summons for your abuser to appear in court or an arrest warrant.

  • If the police see a physical injury as the result of domestic violence, they may arrest the abuser on the spot. If the police do not make an arrest, you should go to the District Court commissioner. Often, the commissioner will have a list of organizations that assist families in crisis.

  • Many abusers try to pressure victims to drop the charges before the trial. Once the charges are brought, only the prosecuting attorney may drop the charges. Often at the time of the trial, the abuser and prosecutor agree on a guilty plea. If this happens, you will not be asked to testify. However, be prepared to testify in case an agreement is not reached. If you need support and assistance in going to court, call your local domestic violence program for accompaniment.

  • On the day of the trial, the assistant state’s attorney assigned to your case and courtroom will prepare you for the trial and prosecute the case. You do not need to hire your own lawyer to bring a criminal case against your abuser. You must cooperate fully with the assistant state’s attorney to get the help you need. Some jurisdictions in Maryland have domestic violence units within the State’s Attorney’s Office, which also will assist you.

  • The judge may choose many sentencing options, including jail time, probation, and/or counseling. In many cases, alcoholism or drug abuse may contribute to the abusive behavior, and the judge may order necessary treatment to help the abuser overcome his or her addiction.

Civil Protection Orders

  1. A Petition for relief from domestic violence may be filed in either the District or Circuit Court to protect you from an abusive family member. The judge may issue an Order of Protection from Domestic Violence, which may include the following relief: order the abuser to refrain from abusing or threatening to abuse you; order the abuser to refrain from contacting you or harassing you; order the abuser to refrain from entering your house; award temporary custody of children that you and the abuser have in common; award emergency financial support; award temporary use and possession of a vehicle owned jointly by you and the abuser; order the abuser to surrender to law enforcement authorities any firearms in the abuser’s possession for the duration of the protective order and direct the abuser or any persons eligible for relief to a counseling program.

    To qualify for this order, you must be a "person eligible for relief." This includes being a former or current spouse of the abuser; a person who has had a sexual relationship and lived with the abuser for at least 90 days during the year; a person related to the abuser by blood, marriage, or adoption; a parent, step-parent, child or step-child of the abuser or the person eligible for relief who resides or resided with the abuser or the person eligible for relief at least 90 days within one year before the filing of the petition; a vulnerable adult; or an individual who has a child in common with the abuser.

    You should file for a protection order as soon as possible after the abuse occurs. The civil court clerk’s office will have the proper forms for you to fill out. To get an Order of Protection, you must file the petition for relief and appear before a judge. The judge may grant you a temporary order, called the Temporary Protective Order, which may order the abuser out of the home for up to 7 days, order the abuser from contacting you or harassing you at home or on the job, award temporary custody of children and set a date for the hearing when you, the abuser, and all concerned parties can be present, called the Final Protective Order hearing. The Temporary Protective Order expires on the day of the hearing when a new order may be granted.  If you cannot go to the courthouse during normal business hours, you may go to the District Court Commissioner to obtain temporary relief, called the Interim Protective Order.  This grants similar relief to the Temporary Protective Order and sets a date for both the Temporary Protective Order and Final Protective Order hearings.

  2. On the day of the Final Protective Order hearing you should be prepared to tell the judge what happened so that he or she may grant a continued order of protection. After the court hears from all parties present, the court may fashion an order that contains all or some of the relief listed in paragraph one of this section. The abuser will not have criminal record from these proceedings, however if the abuser fails to obey the court order, you may be able to file criminal charges against him or her.  Final Protective Orders can also be enforced, modified, or extended through the same court that issued the order.

  3. Although it is not necessary to have an attorney represent you in the petition before the court, you may want to consult a lawyer to find out what options are available to you. A lawyer can tell you what choices are available to you and help you decide what is best for you.  A list of domestic violence centers providing legal assistance may be found at

  4. If you must leave your home quickly to protect yourself from abuse you may call the police to escort you back to your home to pick up clothing, medicine or other necessities.

Don’t Become a Statistic

If a spouse or partner is abusing you, contact the Maryland Commission for Women or one of the local domestic violence programs listed at


Domestic Violence Resources in Maryland

The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence
Statewide Helpline: 1-800-MD-HELP

Allegany County, Family Crisis Resource Center, Inc.
(301) 759-9244 (24 hr. hotline)

Anne Arundel County Domestic Violence Program
(410) 757-8300 or (410) 974-0084 (Baltimore line)

Baltimore County, Family Crisis Center
(410) 285-7496 (Shelter and 24 hr. hotline)

Battered Spouse Program-Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland
(410) 828-6390 (24 hr. hotline)

Calvert County, Abused Persons Program
(410) 535-1121 (24 hr. hotline) or (301) 855-1353 (DC line and 24 hr. hotline)

Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s & Talbot Counties-Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence, Inc.
(800) 927-HOPE (24 hr. hotline)

Carroll County, Battered Spouse Program, Family & Children’s Services of Central Maryland
(410) 857-0077 (24 hr. hotline)

Cecil County, Domestic Violence Program, Cecil County Department of Social Services
(410) 996-0444

Charles County, Center for Abused Persons
(301) 645-3336 (24 hr. hotline) or (301) 843-1110 (DC line)

Frederick County, Heartly House, Inc.
(301) 662-8800 (Office and 24 hr. hotline)

Garrett County, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Resource, Inc.
(301) 334-9000

Family Crisis Resource Center, Inc.
(301) 759-9244 (24 hr. hotline)

Harford County, Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource, Inc.
(410) 879-3486 or (410) 836-8430 (24 hr. hotlines)

Howard County, CASA of Howard County
(410) 997-2272 (24 hr. hotline)

Montgomery County, Abused Persons Program, Montgomery County Department of Addiction, Victim and Mental Health Services
(301) 654-1881 (24 hr. hotline)

Prince George’s County, Family Crisis Center, Inc.
(301) 864-9101 (24 hr. hotline) or (301) 864-0282 (TTY)

St. Mary’s County, Walden Sierra, Inc.
(301) 863-6661 (24 hr. hotline)

Somerset, Wicomico & Worcester Counties, Life Crisis Center, Inc.
(410) 749-HELP or (410) 641-HELP or (800) 422-0009 (24 hr. hotlines)

Washington Counties, CASA, Inc.
(301) 739-8975 (24 hr. hotline and TDD)

The Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center
(410) 828-6390 (24 hr. hotline)

The Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Inc. (410-321-8761)
   - Baltimore City – 410-783-0377
   - Baltimore County – 410-887-3162
   - Carroll County – 410-386-2440

Domestic Violence: You Can Live Without It © 1986, MSBA, Inc., Revised 1998, Revised 2014
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the Maryland State Bar Association.

Publication : Brochures

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