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New Laws Further Protect Domestic Violence Victims

April 2014

By: and Ferrier R. Stillman

This year the General Assembly enacted a new law and revised existing laws to further protect victims of domestic violence.  A summary of each of these laws follows.

Effective Immediately:

  • The Maryland Insurance Administration is now required to create a standardized form to allow individuals to redirect insurance communications to an alternate address if the communication could endanger the individuals. This law, which received little attention but can be extremely beneficial, provides important protection to domestic violence victims who fear that an Explanations of Benefits (“EOB”) sent to their abusers might reveal medical treatment that the victims have received. This law has already gone into effect since it is considered emergency legislation.

Effective October 1, 2014:

  • Often, an individual against whom a protective order is sought also faces criminal charges arising out of the abusive act.  The existing law only required a court to issue a permanent final protective order if the abusing party actually served a term of imprisonment of at least five years for the crime that led to the issuance of the original final protective order.  This law did not include the crime of second degree assault.   Under the revisions to this law, the Court will be required to issue a permanent final protective order against an individual who is sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment of at least five years for specified crimes, and who has served at least twelve months of the sentence.  The specified crimes must have been the acts of abuse that led to the issuance of the original final protective order, and the list of crimes include:  attempted murder in the first or second degrees, first degree assault, first or second degree rape, first or second degree sexual offense, or attempted rate or sexual offense in the first or second degree. 
  • When a party files for a final peace order or mutual peace orders (stay away orders for non-related parties), as well as final protective orders and mutual protective orders, the burden of proof for that party to get the order has been changed from “clear and convincing evidence” to a lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.”  This change also applies to the extension of the term of a protective order.  This should make obtaining these orders much easier.
  • A person who commits a crime of domestic violence in the presence of a minor who is at least two (2) years old can face an additional sentence of up to five (5) years in prison.
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