So you think you’re going to get a protective order served on you. It’s an upsetting process. Let us give you an idea of what to expect. You’ll be home and the sheriffs will come to your house. You’ll be given a few minutes to gather your personal items and leave. So hopefully you’re listening to this before that happens. Think about what you want to take. Make sure you take your laptop or your tablet. Make sure you take your cell phone and make sure you take anything that you don’t want your spouse or accuser to see, such as any kind of evidence that might not play in your favor. Make sure you take that along with your clothes. That’s the most important thing.
Understand What You Cannot Do When You Are Served With a Protective Order
And then, of course, you’re going to cooperate with the sheriffs. They’re going to explain to you that you cannot contact the accuser. You cannot go near the accuser and you should not. Understanding what contact means is really important. You can’t call them, you can’t text them. You can’t email them and you can’t ask somebody else to do that for you. All of these are the same thing as contacting them, so just don’t do it. Sit back and realize that’s what you should not do.
The reason you should not do any of these things is because it’s a crime. It’s what worse than what you’re accused of in the protective order. And the consequences for the crime of contact can be worse than the consequences that you’re looking at from the protective order. It can land you in jail and the Maryland courts take violations of protective orders very seriously. It’s a very risky chance and so you need to play by the rules for this one.
What you need to do is get an experienced lawyer fast. And the reason I’m saying fast is because the process is fast.
The Protective Order Process – From Initial Filing to the Final Hearing
Let me tell you a little bit about the process. It starts with the accuser going to make allegations of abuse. It’s not necessarily physical abuse, but that’s almost always with the courts are looking for. It can be other types of abuse including punching, rape, kicking, pushing or some other kind of violence. So the accuser goes to court and fills out a petition and lays out what they’re saying against the perpetrator. The petition is then scurried through the court and it is put in front of a judge and a very fast hearing is conducted. If the accuser just verbally makes out enough that it meets the definition of abuse, an order is issued, and it will be served on you by the sheriff. They will then come to your house and remove you from the house.
Assuming you’re living together, usually the accuser is not present. If you’re living separate and apart, you will not be removed from your house, and you don’t need to worry about being removed from home. So within week, usually seven days after that initial order is issued, a hearing is conducted in court in front of a different judge. That is what you need to be prepared for. You only have a week to get a lawyer.
Consent or Contest? – A Big Decision
The first thing you’re going to have to do is make a decision. Am I going to consent to an order being entered? Or am I going to contest the order? There are reasons you may want to consent. First of all, if the abuse happened, like for instance, if this person has a black eye and a broken arm, you definitely want to consent if you’re the one who did it. If they can prove the abuse or if it’s likely that it happened, or if there are witnesses, don’t contest it, consent to it.
The benefits of consenting are that there is no finding in a judgement. A judge doesn’t say, “okay, you’re consenting. I find you responsible for the acts alleged in this petition”. No such finding is reached. Also, consenting is not equal to an admission, but rather it’s simply saying you agree not to go near this person and that you are absolutely willing to stay away. So that’s the benefits of consenting.
There are consequences to consenting. A protective order is a very serious order. That order, if you violate it, puts you in harm’s way of criminal allegations and criminal prosecution, as well as incarceration. Again, violations of protective orders are taken very, very seriously. So you’ll have an order in place where you’ve agreed to not telephone, speak with, text, or email, and to stay away from the person. All the person has to do is accuse you of doing that. Maybe they see you in the same place where they are, and you didn’t leave. The next thing you know, you have a criminal violation and you’re defending yourself against a crime in court. So it’s a powerful order. That’s probably the biggest consequence.
It also can result in you paying maintenance to the person. It may result in the other person getting custody if you have children in common, so it’s taken very seriously. The order is still an order with as much strength as a contested order.
You can test the domestic violence. If it’s unreasonable or if it’s not true and you fight it, you need to prepare for it. It’s basically a mini-trial. Very often, the trials can be long, and as prepared as you are, that’s going to determine the outcome. You may need witnesses.
A protective order is usually given for a year. It’s a long time to stay away. Another thing that you should know about a protective order is that it’s a public record. In fact, once that petition is filed, the petition is a public record. So if you have a security clearance or somebody does a background check on you, they’re going to find out.
Protective orders are serious and traumatic…they are stressful.
At Paré & Associates (formerly Law Office of Alice Paré), we have been helping clients in Germantown, Boys, and throughout Montgomery County for more than thirty (30) years. We know what the court will consider and what actions you can take and are here to help you through this difficult time. Our attorneys are available to meet with you in person, over the phone, or online – however, you prefer.
If you are have been served with a Protective Order and need help – contact us here, go online to schedule an appointment, or call us at (301)515-1190 to set up an initial consultation.