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Surveying 3 Versions of Domestic Violence in Maryland


In the State of Maryland, domestic violence involves abuse at the hands of a family or household member. Typically, this means that the perpetrator and victim are related by blood, marriage, or adoption. Though roommates, romantic partners, and other close associations also qualify for domestic violence protection in Maryland.

In addition to widely recognized forms of abuse — such as assault, sex crimes, and other violent acts — domestic violence in Maryland also includes offenses such as false imprisonment, stalking, and revenge porn.

  1. False Imprisonment

Maryland adheres to the common law definition of false imprisonment. At common law, false imprisonment occurs when the:

  • Perpetrator knowingly or willfully detains the victim;
  • Victim does not consent to the detainment; and
  • Perpetrator lacks legal authorization or justification.

Under Maryland law, false imprisonment can be a civil violation or a criminal offense. If charged as a criminal offense, false imprisonment is a misdemeanor with a variable punishment structure. In other words, the Maryland courts have latitude to apply any reasonable sentence, so long as it does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

  1. Stalking

Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-802 defines stalking. Under this section, it is illegal to maliciously pursue a victim without consent. Stalking requires the offender to know, or have a reason to know, that their actions will place a victim in reasonable fear of:

  • Physical harm, death, or the commission of a violent crime;
  • Severe emotional distress or harm; or
  • Injury or harm to a third person.

Any person who commits stalking in violation of Section 3-802 is guilty of a misdemeanor offense in Maryland. Upon conviction, the offender can face a maximum of $5,000 in criminal fines and 60 months in prison.

On a related note, stalking under Maryland law is separate and distinct from any other violations that are part of the same course of conduct. If a person commits stalking and assault at the same time, for example, then they will likely face criminal punishment for both offenses.

  1. Revenge Porn

Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-809 defines revenge porn. Under this section, it is unlawful to distribute private and sexual visual depictions of a victim without consent. In order to qualify as revenge porn, the offender must also demonstrate:

  • Intent to coerce, harass, harm, intimidate, or threaten the victim;
  • Knowledge that there was a lack of consent from the victim concerning the distribution; or
  • Reckless disregard as to whether the victim consented to the distribution.

Any person who commits revenge porn in violation of Section 3-809 is guilty of a misdemeanor offense in Maryland. Upon conviction, the offender can face a maximum of $5,000 in criminal fines and 24 months in prison.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about domestic violence in Maryland, it can be vastly helpful to contact an established family law attorney. The Bel Air domestic violence attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered are prepared to assist you today. Reach out to us for help.


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