Notice for Peace Order
Remember getting in trouble with your mom or even your teacher for doing something you knew or should have known you were not supposed to do. Did you ever think how were they so certain I knew what I was doing? Was it based on what you did, how you did it? Maybe it was a combination of things in that particular situation.
Well this same concept of knowledge, related to this bigger idea called notice, is part of the law. And in the case of peace orders (and even a protective order), if a court finds that you knew or should have known there was a peace order against you and you violate the peace order by making contact with the person who got the peace order, you can be charged with a crime.
So what establishes notice? The peace order statute provides that physically receiving the order (having a hard copy, the piece of paper) is a means to have actual notice. This is likely the strongest basis a court has to hold you responsible for violating the order. This method is the most reliable form of notice because the court will have a record of all essential information. The court will have the date, whether you were given the form in court, your signature, or whether a sheriff mailed it to you at your home. While having received a physical copy may be the most straightforward way for the court to find you disobeyed a judge’s instructions, it is not the only way.
Notice really comes down to 1) what you know for a fact or 2) what you can conclude from details you can trust.1 To have actual knowledge of a fact is to be able to say with certainty whether or not a fact exists. An example is if you were to see or hear something yourself. That would give you personal knowledge of an event. On the other hand, having access to information and/or sources that are trustworthy, without ever having seen or heard an event, would also give you notice.
With notice out of the way, we can discuss how in practice (how a court enforces the order) this affects you. Here is some general information regarding peace orders and protective orders:
- Both are civil matters, meaning it is not a criminal charge involving a prosecutor
- The person who gets (files for) either order is the “Petitioner”
- The individual who the order is against is the “Respondent”
Having covered the basics, it is important that you understand the difference between a peace order and a protective order. While they are similar, if you qualify for one, you cannot qualify for the other. The easiest method to figure out which order applies is by looking at the individuals’ relationship (you and the petitioner).
Cohabitation is when two people live together. This means you live (or lived) together as a couple (marriage or dating/heterosexual or same-sex). Or, the two of you resided as blood relatives or family (parent and child, stepparent and stepchild, or adoptive parent and adoptive child). If you meet the cohabitation definition and the time requirement provided in the law, you are the respondent of a protective order. In almost every other situation, you would fall under a peace order. This applies to neighbors, coworkers, ex-girlfriend and ex-boyfriends, and even strangers who experience problems are all eligible for legal help through a peace order. How does it work? After a hearing where a judge finds there are reasonable grounds to believe you will continue to engage in behavior the petitioner dislikes, the judge will grant a temporary peace order. The order can provide various types of relief including:
- No threats
- No harassment
- No contact or any attempt to contact
- Prevention from entering the petitioner’s home
- Stay away from the petitioner’s job or petitioner’s family’s home
- Requirement that you pay the cost for filing for a peace order and the hearing
The peace order, if one-sided, meaning only one person filed, restricts or limits ONLY your behavior. What does that mean? The judge does not care if the petitioner threatens or calls you. You cannot, in any situation, initiate contact while the order is in effect.
The takeaway from this article: notice is a large concept that covers everything from actual knowledge to what you should have known based on the details available to you. The law does not care if you never saw the copy of the order if you had reason to know there was an active peace order against you. Even further, the fact that the petitioner has contacted you does not excuse you if you text or call the petitioner. So better be safe than sorry! If you’re unsure, call Fredric Antenberg, an experienced attorney located in Columbia, Maryland, for a Free Initial Consultation. He can be reached at (410) 730-4404