Peace Orders

The Peace Order is a form of legal protection for anyone who is experiencing problems with an individual, including someone in a dating relationship, a neighbor, a stranger, or anyone else.  The Peace Order enables an individual (Petitioner) who wishes to be left alone to ask the Court to order another person (Respondent) to stay away and refrain from any contact with you.  The following is a step-by-step guide to help you protect yourself.

Am I eligible for relief?

By definition, you are eligible for a Peace Order if you are NOT eligible for relief under the Protective Order law (e.g., married, living together, or have a child in common).  The following link provides a complete list of persons covered by the Protective Order law: http://www.peoples-law.org/protective-orders

What acts are covered by the Peace Order law?

  • An act that causes you serious bodily harm (e.g., kicking, punching, choking, shooting, stabbing, shoving);
  • An act that places you in fear of imminent bodily harm;
  • Assault in any degree;
  • Rape or sexual offense (including attempts);
  • False imprisonment;
  • Harassment;
  • Stalking;
  • Trespassing; or
  • Malicious destruction of property.

Is there a time limit to file?

Yes.  You have thirty (30) days after the act occurs to file a petition with the Court.

Do I have to take an oath when filing for a Peace Order?

Yes.  There is a misdemeanor penalty for knowingly providing false information and, on conviction, may include a fine of up to $1000 or a jail sentence of up to ninety (90) days, or both.

Is there a filing fee?

Yes.  There is a $20 filing fee and a $30 service fee.  The Court may waive only the filing fee for indigent petitioners.

How can I get protection under the law?

There is a two or three-step process that you must follow in order to obtain a Peace Order.   Procedurally, the process is similar to that of a Protective Order, except that the District Court has sole jurisdiction to hear Peace Order cases.  While you can seek relief without a lawyer, some courthouses may have advocates on-site who can assist you with filling out the forms. 

As you begin this process, be prepared to have following:

  • Take pictures of any visible injuries.
  • Get copies of any police reports.
  • Determine whether anyone saw the act in question and ask that person to testify on your behalf.
  • If you have not already done so, talk to the police about filing criminal charges.

Step #1:  Interim Peace Order: Obtaining immediate protection when the courts are closed

When the District Court is closed, a Petitioner may file a Petition for Peace Order (Petition) with the District Court Commissioner’s office.  Commissioner offices are open and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week around the state.  A Petitioner can access a Commissioner either by going to any on-duty Commissioner’s office or by telephoning an on-call Commissioner.  Contact information for the Commissioners can be found on the District Court website.

1: Fill out the Petition at the office of the District Court Commissioner in your county.

At the Commissioner’s office, you will be asked to fill out a form, called a Petition.  On this form, you will list the reasons why you are seeking protection.  It is important to list every example of physical abuse and threats; the history of harm or harassment caused by the Respondent; any previous or pending actions between you and the Respondent; and the relief you are seeking.  If necessary, you may also write on an additional sheet of paper and attach it to the Petition.   

2: You will see a Commissioner.

After submitting the Petition, you will appear before a Commissioner to explain your reasons for seeking relief.  As the person seeking relief, you hold the burden of proof by “reasonable grounds” to establish that an act or incident occurred between you and the Respondent.  As such, it is important that you disclose any proof of abuse and/or harassment you may have, including, pictures, police reports, medical records, witnesses, etc.

3: What relief may the Commissioner order?

Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, the Commissioner may order as relief any (or all) of the following:

  • Refrain from committing or threatening to commit an act against you;
  • Refrain from contacting, attempting to contact, or harassing you;
  • Refrain from entering your residence; and
  • Remain away from your job, school, or temporary home.

4: Contents and notice requirements of an Interim Peace Order. 

The Commissioner shall forward the Interim Peace Order to law enforcement as well as the District Court.  Thereafter, a law enforcement officer will immediately serve the Respondent with a copy of the Interim Peace Order.  The Interim Peace Order will state:

  • The day, time and location of another hearing for a Temporary Peace Order; and
  • The tentative day, time and location of a final hearing for a Final Peace Order.

5:  How long will the Interim Peace Order remain in effect?

The Interim Peace Order will expire at the end of the second business day after issuance or, if the District Court is closed on that day, the next day the District Court is open.

6: Temporary Peace Order Hearing.

You must attend a Temporary Peace Order hearing to extend the length and scope of protection contained in the Interim Peace Order.  If the other side has not received a copy (i.e. been served), the court will issue a Temporary Peace Order and serve the Respondent with notice of the final hearing.  See Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-1503.

Step #2:  Temporary Peace Order: Obtaining immediate protection during court business hours

1: Go to the District Court in your county.

Normal business hours for the District Court are Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.  When you arrive at Court, tell the Clerk of the Court (Clerk) that you want to file a Petition for Peace Order (Petition).  

NOTE:  If you have an Interim Peace Order, you do not need to see the Clerk.  Instead, take a seat in the assigned courtroom and wait for your case to be called because you already have a scheduled hearing.  Skip to “3: You will see a Judge.” 

2: The Clerk will give you a Petition to complete.

On this form, you will list the reasons why you are seeking protection.  It is important to list every example of physical abuse and threats; the history of harm or harassment caused by the Respondent; any previous or pending actions between you and the Respondent; and the relief you are seeking.  If necessary, you may also write on an additional sheet of paper and attach it to the Petition. 

3: You will see a Judge. 

Whether you received an Interim Peace Order or submitting a Petition for the first time, you will appear before a Judge to explain your reasons for seeking relief.  As the person seeking relief, you hold the burden of proof by “reasonable grounds” to establish that an act or incident occurred between you and the Respondent.  As such, it is important that you disclose any proof of abuse or harassment you may have, including, pictures, police reports, medical records, witnesses, etc.  Unlike a Protective Order, the Judge must also find it likely that the Respondent will commit a similar act in the future.

NOTE:  If you filed an Interim Peace Order, the Commissioner’s decision to grant or deny any relief is not binding on the Judge who will hear your case for a Temporary Peace Order.

4: What relief may the Judge order?

Depending on your specific circumstances, the Judge may order any (or all) of the following:

  • Refrain from committing or threatening to commit an act against you;
  • Refrain from contacting, attempting to contact, or harassing you;
  • Refrain from entering your residence; and
  • Remain away from your job, school, or temporary home.

5: What happens if the Respondent appears in court for the Temporary Peace Order hearing after having been served with an Interim Peace Order?

The Court may proceed with a Final Peace Order hearing provided that the Court has personal jurisdiction over the Respondent and the parties expressly consent to waive the Temporary Peace Order hearing.  See Step #3: Final Peace Order: Obtaining long-term protection.”

6: Contents and notice requirements of a Temporary Peace Order. 

The Court shall immediately forward the Temporary Peace Order to law enforcement to locate and serve the Respondent with a copy of the order.  The Temporary Peace Order will state the day, time and location of a final hearing for a Final Peace Order.

7: How long will the Temporary Peace Order remain in effect?

The Temporary Peace Order shall remain in effective for not more than seven (7) days after law enforcement has given the Respondent a copy of the order (i.e. service).  If the court is closed on the day the order is due to expire, the order shall remain in effect until the second day on which the Court is open.  The Judge may extend the order, as needed, up to thirty (30) days to serve the Respondent or for good cause.

8: Final Peace Order hearing.

You must attend a Final Peace Order hearing to extend the length and scope of protection contained in the Temporary Peace Order.  The Judge will schedule another hearing that will be held in one (1) week.  Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-1504.

Step #3:  Final Peace Order – obtaining long-term protection

1: Final Peace Order hearing.

At the Final Peace Order hearing, if the Respondent has been served with a copy of the Temporary Peace Order but fails to appear for the hearing, you should ask the Judge to enter a Peace Order against the Respondent – this is called a Default Order.

If the Respondent is present at the hearing, the Respondent may or may not be represented by a lawyer.  When the case is called, both you and the Respondent will have a chance to tell the Judge what happened which led you to file the Petition.  This is a formal hearing and the rules of evidence apply.  As the person seeking relief, you hold the burden of proof by “clear and convincing evidence.”  Please note that the Judge who hears the case may not be the same Judge that presided over the Temporary Peace Order hearing, so it is important that you repeat all the reasons why you are seeking relief, this includes submitting into evidence any documentation of the act or incident (police report, hospital records, photographs, etc.) and calling witnesses on your behalf.  Be aware that the Respondent or the lawyer will ask you questions in cross-examination and will have an opportunity to disprove your case.  Do not be surprised or upset if the Respondent lies about what happened.  At the conclusion of the hearing, the Judge will decide whether an act occurred AND whether it is likely that the Respondent will commit a similar act in the future.

2: What the Judge Can Order.

If the Judge finds in your favor, the Judge may order one (or all) of the following:

  • Refrain from committing or threatening to commit an act against you;
  • Refrain from contacting, attempting to contact, or harassing you;
  • Refrain from entering your residence;
  • Remain away from your job, school, or temporary home;
  • Direct the Respondent to participate in a counseling program and, if the parties are amendable, mediation; and
  • Order either party to pay the filing fee and costs associated with the proceeding.

You and the Respondent will each receive a copy of the Peace Order at the time of the hearing.  If the Respondent fails to appear, the court will mail him/her a copy of the Peace Order via first-class mail.  You should keep a copy of the order with you at all times. 

3: How long will the Final Peace Order remain in effect?

The Final Peace Order shall be effective for the period stated in the order, not to exceed six (6) months.  Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-1505.

4: Mutual Peace Orders.

The Judge may issue a mutual Final Peace Order if both parties filed a Petition for Peace Order and the Judge makes a detailed finding of fact, by clear and convincing evidence, that:

  • Both parties committed an act; and
  • It both parties are likely to commit an act of abuse in the future as described by the statute.

5: Extending a Peace Order.

After a hearing and good cause shown, the Court may extend the length of a Peace Order by six (6) months.  The form you use to make this request is available at the Clerk’s office where you originally obtained the Protective Order.  Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-1506.

6: If the Peace Order is Violated.

If the Respondent continues to harass or contact you, you should call the police immediately!  If the Respondent does not follow the Peace Order, the Respondent may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and be subjected to a fine of up to $500 or a jail sentence of up to ninety (90) days.  The penalties are increased for a second and subsequent offense of violating the Peace Order.   Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §§ 3-1507, 3-1508.

 

 

Source: 

Edited by www.peoples-law.org/contributors

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