Researching Domestic Violence Law
Domestic violence law is governed primarily by criminal and family law statutes. In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR, Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides links to Maryland's domestic violence statutes in a free web database. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful because it provides summaries of and citations to cases that interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give case summaries.
Citations to selected Maryland Family law statutes:
- MD Code Fam. Law Title 4: Spouses
- MD Code Fam. Law Title 5: Children
- MD Code Fam. Law Title 14: Adult Protective Services
- MD Code Crim. Law Title 3: Other Crimes against the Person (Includes Subtitle 8: Stalking and Harassment; Subtitle 2: Assault, Reckless Endangerment, and Related Crimes; and Subtitle 3: Sexual Crimes)
Court Information and Forms
The Maryland Judiciary provides informational forms on petitioning for protection from domestic violence on its home page. See Petition for Protection from Domestic Violence. The page includes a glossary of legal terms and a brochure describing the petitioning process.
Petitions for protection can be filed in either Circuit or District Court. You may therefore find it helpful to review the court rules for the court you will be filing in:
- Maryland Rules, Title 2. Civil Procedure - Circuit Court
- Maryland Rules, Title 3. Civil Procedure - District Court
The print version of the court rules, like the print version of the statutes, has the advantage of providing summaries of cases that interpret the rules. You may, therefore, wish to visit a library to do your rules research in print, instead of relying on the web version.
There is also a good book on handling domestic violence cases in court, written by the House of Ruth Domestic Violence Legal Clinic: Domestic Violence Cases : Handling Them Effectively in Maryland District and Circuit Courts. 2003 ed. Baltimore, Md.: Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers, 2003. Check your local library for availability.
The State of Maryland provides several assistance programs that could be helpful to victims of domestic violence. The legal rules governing the operation of these programs are called regulations.
The Maryland agency that manages programs for victims of domestic violence is the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence within the Department of Human Resources. Programs that might be helpful to victims of domestic violence include the Domestic Violence Program, the Adult Protective Services, Rape Crisis, Displaced Homemaker, and Homeless Women Crisis Shelter programs. Regulations are published officially in Title 7, Subtitle 1 of COMAR (the Code of Maryland Regulations). The print version of which is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries (SAILOR).
There are several ways to begin research into domestic violence case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books explaining Maryland family law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a big subject index to Maryland case law. The Maryland Digest arranges summaries of published cases by legal issue using something called the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination that represents your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you should find a list of summaries of cases that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case. The topic and key numbers that are most likely to lead to cases about protection from domestic violence are “Breach of the Peace” k. 15 through 21.