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Standard of Evidence for Protective Order Will Change October 1, 2014

On October 1, 2014 the standard of evidence for getting a protective order will change.  The process should remain the same, but the burden of proof is changing. 

Prior to October 1st a petitioner has had to convince a judge by “clear and convincing” evidence that an abusive act had occurred before a judge could issue a protective order—as of October 1st the standard will become “preponderance of the evidence”—which is a lower standard and will make it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain protective orders to limit the abuser’s ability to have contact with their victim. 

Violations of protective orders will still carry the same criminal sanctions, but advocates of the change believe that it makes sense to provide easier access for victim’s to the relief.  Victim’s rights advocates say that the changing law, approved by the Maryland General Assembly in the legislature’s last session, will help save lives by making protective orders more accessible to victims. 

The change has drawn some criticism from the Maryland community.  Since a judge who grants a protective order must also automatically prohibit the subject of the order from possessing any firearms, some gun rights advocates argue that this makes it easier for citizens to lose their right to have guns. 

In the end, a balancing of rights is necessary to limit or eliminate domestic violence. This change to the evidentiary standard may make a difference in that regard. If you think you need representation in a protective order, or peace order please call to consult with Christopher P. WheatcroftRobert H. WolfWarren S. AlpersteinAlexander C. Steeves or Andrew I. Alperstein.