Stalking, Harassment, Peace Orders, and Protective Orders (Domestic Violence) Explained

Stalking

Stalking means a malicious course of conduct that includes approaching or pursuing another. This occurs when the person (stalker) intends to place or knows or should have known their conduct would place the other person in reasonable fear of: serious bodily injury, an assault, rape or sexual assault, false imprisonment, or death. It must be likely that the third party (individual being stalked) will suffer from any of the acts listed above or that the person (the stalker) intends to cause or knows or reasonably should have known that the conduct would cause serious emotional distress to another. An individual who violates the stalking statute is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment no longer than 5 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.

The courts have further explained and defined some of the terms within the stalking statute. Malicious conduct means an intentional wrongful act done against another to cause harm and done without a legal excuse. Course of conduct is a persistent pattern of conduct, composed of a serious of act over time that shows a continuity of purpose. The court has further explained that the crime of stalking requires proof that the defendant’s malicious course of conduct must involve at least, approaching or pursuing the victim with the requisite fear of serious bodily harm to the victim or some other person. In addition, Maryland courts have determined that a malicious course of conduct requiring approaching or pursuing a victim is not limited to conduct that is done in the victims actual presence. For example leaving threatening letters for the victim to find would qualify as malicious course of conduct and approaching or pursuing a victim.

Md. Code, Criminal Law, 3-802, Stalking.

Harassment

It is prohibited for a person to follow another in or about a public place or to maliciously engage in a course of conduct that alarms or seriously annoys another: with the intent to harass, alarm, or annoy another. The conduct is only considered harassment after the offending individual has received a reasonable warning or request to stop by the individual being harassed or by someone (such as an attorney) on behalf of the harassed individual. The harassing conduct must be without a legal purpose. All of these criteria must be met for the conduct to qualify as harassment. Harassment in Maryland does not apply to peaceable activity intended to express a political view or provide information to others.

The Maryland courts have further explained and elaborated on what conduct meets the harassment statute and how each element must be met. In order to be guilty of harassment, the defendant must have: followed another person in or about a public place; without a legal purpose; with the intent to harass, alarm, or annoy the other person; and after a reasonable warning or request to cease or desist by or on behalf of the other person. A reasonable warning is one in which the defendant knows or has reason to know that his conduct is unwanted and is warned to stop. The law has been interpreted to include a reasonable person standard. This means that a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would understand or should understand that he/she is being warned to stop the conduct. The purpose of the notice requirement is so people will have the chance to modify their behavior. The criminal act of harassment does not occur until after the defendant is warned to stop his or her behavior.

Md. Code, Criminal Law, 3-803, Harassment.

Protection Order (Domestic Violence)

There are two ways to gain protection from conduct that is harmful: a protection order or a peace order. Protection orders fall under the family law statute and are typically used in domestic violence cases. To qualify for a protection order the individual eligible for relief and the respondent (abuser) can be cohabitants residing together for at least three months over the last year and have a sexual relationship; current or former spouse; vulnerable abuse; a family member; a petitioner that has a child in common with the respondent; or a petitioner who has had a sexual relationship with the respondent within one (1) year before the filing of the petition. In order to get a protective order, a petition to the court for a temporary protective order, which stays in place for seven (7) days until a hearing for a final protective order can be held. A protective order can grant of the following relief: prevent the respondent for abusing or threatening to abuse the petitioner; prevent the respondent for contacting or attempting to contact the petitioner; and/or prevent the respondent from entering the residence, work, or school of the petitioner. Final protective orders can also include additional forms of relief and be in effect for up to a year.

Md. Code, Family Law, 4-501, Family Law Definitions.

Md. Code, Family Law, 4-505, Temporary Protective Order.

Md. Code, Family Law, 4-506, Final Protective Order.

Peace Order

Peace orders are not specific to domestic violence situations and are thus, the best solution for preventing harassment and stalking in most situations. To obtain a peace order, one needs to file a petition for a hearing to determine whether the individual and their specific situation qualify for a peace order. The act that precipitates the need for a peace order must have occurred within 30 days before the filing of the petition. In order to qualify for a peace order, one of the following things must have occurred: an act that causes serious bodily harm; an act that places the petitioner in fear of imminent serious bodily harm; assault in any degree; rape or sexual offense; harassment; stalking; trespass; malicious destruction of property; ect. Please see the statute listed below for the rest of qualifying acts (Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 3-1503, Petition for a Peace Order). The big difference between the peace order and the protective order is the relationship between the petitioner (individual asking for the order) and the respondent (individual the order would be against). A peace order does not require the individuals to be living together.

If a judge finds there are reasonable ground for a peace order to be issued than a judge may issue a temporary peace order. A temporary peace order cannot exceed 30 days. The peace order can require that the respondent desist from committing or threatening to commit an act any of the acts specified in 3-1503; require the respondent not to contact, attempt to contact, or harass the petitioner; prevent the respondent from entering the residence, school, or work of the petitioner. For a full list, please visit the link to this statute listed below (Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 3-1504, Temporary Peace Order).

A final peace order hearing will be held no later than seven days after the temporary peace order is issued. If the judge finds by the preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that the respondent has committed or is likely to commit in the future an act previously listed above against the petitioner or if the respondent consents to the entry of the peace order, the court may issue a final peace order. The final peace order may order any of the same relief that the temporary peace order did and possibly a few additional forms of relief, please see the statute below for a full list (Md. Code, Family Law, 4-506, Final Protective Order). A final peace order will not be effective for longer than six (6) months.

Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 3-1503, Petition for a Peace Order.

Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 3-1504, Temporary Peace Order.

Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 3-1505, Final Peace Order.

Fredric G. Antenberg has successfully obtained both protective orders and peace order for individuals previously. Past success does not guarantee future success. Contact Fred for a free initial consultation and for further advice regarding your options to obtain a protective order or peace order by calling 410 730 4404.

Md. Code, Criminal Law, 3-802, Stalking

Md. Code, Criminal Law, 3-803, Harassment

Md. Code, Family Law, 4-501, Family Law Definitions

Md. Code, Family Law, 4-505, Temporary Protective Order

Md. Code, Family Law, 4-506, Final Protective Order

Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 3-1503, Petition for a Peace Order

Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 3-1504, Temporary Peace Order

Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 3-1505, Final Peace Order