Violence Against Women Act and Protective Orders

In 1994, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) directing jurisdictions to give full faith and credit to valid orders of protection issued by other jurisdictions.Read the Law: 18 U.S.C. § 2265

What does this mean for victims?

Abused persons who are granted orders of protection can now call upon law enforcement to protect them and to take all appropriate action against abusers nationwide.

What does this mean for abusers?

The abuser is bound by terms and conditions of the order of protection and may be arrested and charged with violating the order and committing other substantive crimes wherever the abuser violates a valid order.  It does not make any difference where the order was granted.  The abuser must be arrested for a violation of an order of protection if the law of jurisdiction where the violation occurred requires an arrest.

What does this mean for law enforcement?

If an order of protection is valid in the issuing jurisdiction, it must be enforced in every other jurisdiction.  Some jurisdictions grant orders:

  • to victims who might not be eligible for orders in enforcing jurisdiction
  • for periods of time longer than authorized in the enforcing jurisdiction
  • containing directives against abusers that might not be available in the enforcing jurisdiction

A responding officer MUST ENFORCE the terms and conditions of the order as written.  Officers are not required to know the laws of the issuing jurisdiction in order to enforce orders of protection.  Officers in the enforcing jurisdiction must comply with all laws, policies, and procedures of their own jurisdiction concerning violation of orders of protection, such as mandatory arrest and victim notification, if applicable. Maryland law makes a law enforcement officer who enforces an out-of-state protection order immune from civil liability. Read the Law: MD Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-610.1

What about liability for failure to enforce orders of protection?

The mandate to give full faith and credit to valid orders of protection nationwide confronts law enforcement with new challenges, including the possibility of liability for failure to enforce orders of protection from other jurisdictions.  Many jurisdictions have laws that provide officers with statutory immunity from liability when an officer takes reasonable action to protect a victim in a domestic violence case.  In Maryland, a law enforcement officer who answers a call for help from a person who claims to be a victim of domestic violence is immune from civil liability for reasonable, good faith actions taken to help the victim. Read the Law: MD Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-610

Terms used in the Violence against Women Act.

Jurisdiction - For the purposes of brevity, the term "jurisdiction" will be used to refer to a state, the District of Columbia, a commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United State, and to Indian tribes.

What is "Full Faith and Credit"?

Simply stated, full faith and credit requires that valid orders of protection must be enforced to protect victims of domestic violence wherever a violation of an order occurs, regardless of where the order was issued.

Why is Full Faith and Credit Important?

When victims of domestic violence leave, they and their children are at an increased risk of violence.  Abusers who cross jurisdictions in pursuit of victims may be engaged in stalking, which is a significant risk indicator of life-threatening violence.

Who does What Under the "Full Faith and Credit for Orders of Protection" Concept?

Issuing jurisdiction determines:

  • Whether an order of protection should be issued
  • Who is to be protected
  • Terms and conditions of the order
  • Duration of the order

Enforcing jurisdiction determines:

  • How the order is enforced
  • Arrest authority of responding officer
  • Detention and notification procedures
  • Crimes charged for violation of an order
Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2013.”