Working with the Police in Your Domestic Violence Case
Law enforcement officers are a critical link in the survival of a victim of domestic violence. All law enforcement entities in Maryland provide extensive training and guidelines on domestic violence.
When the Police Arrive
- Tell them all the details of your assault.
- Request that they write up an incident report.
- Ask for a copy of the report and the report number.
- Write down the names and badge numbers of the police officers who came to the scene so you can follow up on your case later on.
If the officers fail to take a report:
- Write down the officers' names and badge numbers.
- Make sure that they know that you want them to file a report.
- Go to the police station, and ask to file an incident report on your own. Note in your incident report the names and badge numbers of the police officers who failed to write an incident report for you at the scene.
What the Police Are Required to Do
If you are a victim of domestic violence, the police must:
- Inform you of your basic rights as a victim of a crime.
- The police or sheriff's deputies usually do this by giving you a copy of the pamphlet, Maryland Crime Victims and Witnesses: Your Rights and Services. Read the Law: Md. Code, Criminal Procedure § 11-914(9)(i)
- Protect you from harm when you call for help and go with you to your home so you can get personal clothing and personal effects that you need immediately, such as medicine. Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 4-502(a)(i-ii)
- Give you a written notice:
- The telephone number of a local domestic violence program that receives funding from the Maryland Department of Human Resources. Read the Law: Md. Code Family Law § 4-503(a)(1)
- You have a right to ask the District Court Commissioner to file a criminal charging document against the person you say abused you. When you go before the District Court Commissioner, if the police did not give you a copy of the pamphlet, the Commissioner will give you a copy of the pamphlet, “Maryland Crime Victims and Witnesses: Your Rights and Services.” Read the Law: Md. Code §4-503(a)(2)(i); Md. Crim. Pro. Code §11-914(9)(i)
- If the Commissioner refuses to file a charging document, you have the right to ask the State’s Attorney to file a criminal charging document against the person you say abused you. Read the Law: Md. Fam. L. Code §4-503(a)(2)(ii)
- If the court offices are closed, you have the right to file a petition for an interim protective order with the on-duty or on-call Commissioner. Read the Law: Md. Fam. L. Code §4-503(a)(2)(iii)
- Give you a copy of the domestic violence incident report completed by the police, if you ask for a copy. Read the Law: Md. Fam. L. Code §4-503.1(a)(2)
Police officers should also:
- Ensure the safety of all involved.
- Secure and protect the crime scene.
- Seek voluntary surrender of firearms for safekeeping purposes.
- Seize firearms subject to State, territorial, local, or tribal prohibitions.
- Identify whether an order of protection has been violated.
- Evaluate the validity and enforceability of the protective order.
- Arrest for violation of the order where required by the enforcing jurisdiction.
- Arrest for any other criminal offenses.
- Seek an arrest warrant, when required, related to the criminal conduct if the abuser is not at the scene.
- Attempt to locate and arrest the abuser.
The police officer may also:
- Address transportation and housing needs of the victim by making appropriate referrals to community services. In Maryland, there are local community resource centers listed by county and domestic violence hotlines.
- Refer the victim to the issuing jurisdiction for enforcement of economic provisions within order of protection.
- Refer the victim to an appropriate advocacy agency to obtain assistance with the economic provisions of a court order.
- Refer the victim to a Department of Human Resources Local Office.
Lethality Assessment Program
The Lethality Assessment Program helps law enforcement personnel assist victims of domestic violence who are at risk of being killed.
These factors can be helpful predictors of future violence:
- Threats of homicide/suicide
- History of domestic violence and other criminal conduct
- Depression or other mental illness
- Obsessive attachment to victim
- Separation of parties
- Drug or alcohol involvement
- Possession or access to weapons
- Abuse of pets
- Destruction of victim's property
- Access to victim and victim's family and other supporters
When the police arrive at your home, they should ask some questions to see if one or more of the above factors applies to your situation. Immediately and honestly let the police know which, if any of those factors apply to you and your situation.
Police Must Honor Your Protective Order
Regardless of which court (in any state) issued a protective order, the police must enforce the terms of the order. This is true even if the order is different from what a Maryland judge in your county might have ordered. In a final protective order, a judge may order a law enforcement officer to use all reasonable and necessary force to enforce temporary custody awarded in the order. Judges are required to order respondents to surrender any firearms in their possession and to not acquire any new firearms for the duration of the protective order.
Read the Law: U.S. Code, Title 18 § 2265
If the Abuser Violates Your Protective Order
If your abuser violates your protective order by coming to your home, school or work, contacting you or abusing you, call the police right away.
- Show them your copy of your Protective Order
- Ask the police to file an incident report
- Tell them that you want to file criminal charges
If the police officers have probable cause to believe that your abuser violated your order, they can arrest the abuser on the spot without a warrant.
Can a Police Officer Remove Firearms from an Abuser?
In Maryland, an officer may remove a firearm from the scene of an alleged act of domestic violence if the officer has probable cause to believe that the act has occurred and observes the firearm at the scene. The officer must store the firearm until the conclusion of a court proceeding on the domestic violence issue. The court may then order the abuser to surrender the firearm for the duration of the protective order. If the police remove the weapon from the scene but a court proceeding is not begun, the police can return the weapon. Also, the judge must include in the protective order a requirement that the weapon be surrendered, or the other side will be allowed to retake possession of the weapon.