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What Are The Legal Elements Of Domestic Violence In Maryland?


Domestic violence exists at the intersection of family and criminal law in Maryland. Based on specific requirements, domestic violence stands apart from many other criminal offenses. There are two fundamental elements to domestic violence under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 4-501: (1) The perpetrator must commit an act of abuse; and (2) The victim must be eligible for relief.

  1. Perpetrator Commits Act of Abuse

To qualify as domestic violence in Maryland, the perpetrator must perform an act of abuse against the victim. From the standpoint of domestic violence, specifically, the term abuse can refer to:

  • Any act that causes serious physical harm;
  • Any act that places a person in reasonable fear of imminent and serious physical harm;
  • Assault in any degree;
  • Rape or attempted rape;
  • Sexual offense or attempted sexual offense;
  • False imprisonment;
  • Stalking;
  • Revenge porn;
  • Child abuse, if the victim is a child; or
  • Abuse of a vulnerable adult, if the victim is a vulnerable adult.

It is vital to note that Section 4-501 does enable parents and stepparents to perform reasonable punishment on their children. But any such punishment must be reasonable in light of the child’s age and condition.

  1. Victim is Eligible for Relief

Section 4-501 restricts eligibility for domestic violence relief to certain victims. In order to qualify as domestic violence, the victim must be:

  • Presently or formerly married to the alleged abuser;
  • Currently cohabitating with the alleged abuser;
  • Related to the alleged abuser by blood, marriage, or adoption;
  • Parent or child of either party who lived with the victim or alleged abuser for at least 90 days in the past year;
  • Stepparent or stepchild of either party who lived with the victim or alleged abuser for at least 90 days in the past year;
  • The other parent of a child in common with the alleged abuser;
  • A romantic partner of the alleged abuser within the past year;
  • A person who also claims to be the victim of a sex crime at the hands of the alleged abuser in the past six months; or
  • A vulnerable adult.

Typically, only the individuals listed above may petition for relief from domestic violence. But in cases of abuse of a vulnerable adult or child, the following individuals may petition the Maryland courts for relief:

  • Any adult who resides in the same home;
  • Any person related to child or vulnerable adult by blood, marriage, or adoption;
  • The State’s Attorney for the county where the child or vulnerable lives or where the abuse allegedly occurred; or
  • The department of social services in the county where the child or vulnerable lives or where the abuse allegedly occurred.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal assistance with a Maryland case of domestic violence, it can be incredibly valuable to contact an experienced Bel Air domestic violence attorney. The attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including domestic violence. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.



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