Maryland Domestic Violence Lawyer
Crimes of domestic violence in Maryland are handled very seriously by the state’s judicial system, and result in either a misdemeanor or felony upon conviction. In many cases, the difference between the two lies in both the intentions of the alleged abuser and the level of harm sustained by the victim, though this would be an oversimplification of the actual laws. Even if you’re charged with a misdemeanor, the less-severe of the two charges, your life could be changed forever upon conviction, as you could be forced to serve years of jail time and pay heavy fines that may not be affordable. Conviction would also mean facing the social stigma of having a domestic violence crime on your permanent record, which could disqualify you from working in many fields and affect everything from loans to college enrollment status.
Our skilled Maryland domestic violence lawyers, with in-depth knowledge of Maryland’s abuse and assault laws, are here to help. One of our attorneys will work with you directly and carefully examine each issue inherent to your case. The goal is to create a strong, robust defense using proven legal techniques and resources. With the assistance of an experienced domestic violence attorney in Maryland, you’ll have the greatest possible chance of receiving a positive, favorable outcome at your upcoming trial.
First Degree Assault in Maryland
In Maryland, crimes of domestic violence are governed by the same laws that pertain to assault committed against individuals that are not members of your household. Maryland criminal code § 3-202 covers the laws pertaining to assault in the first degree. According to this code, first-degree assault is defined as intentionally causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another individual. Charges of first degree assault are also brought by default if the assault is committed with the use of a firearm, such as a handgun, regulated firearm, assault pistol, machine gun, rifle, shotgun or antique rifle.
For assault crimes that do not involve a firearm, serious physical injury to the victim must be proven. According to Maryland criminal code § 3-201, serious physical injury is defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or causes prolonged or permanent disfigurement, or loss of function or impairment of function in a bodily organ or appendage. According to code § 3-208, expert testimony is allowed in court to prove a serious physical injury, but it is not required. In most cases, this testimony would come from the medical professional(s) who treated the victim for his or her injuries.
The penalty for first degree assault in Maryland is a felony conviction, as well as up to 25 years in prison depending on the specific nature of the case. Even if you are ultimately convicted of first degree assault, your Maryland domestic violence lawyer will fight to have the associated penalties lowered to the greatest possible extent.
Second Degree Assault in Maryland
Less-severe forms of domestic violence are covered by Maryland criminal code § 3-203, a section devoted to assault in the second degree. According to this code, it is illegal to commit the crime of assault, defined as attempting to cause or causing bodily harm to another individual.
While second degree assault is not as serious as first degree assault, being convicted still results in up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine not to exceed $2,500, and a misdemeanor reflected on your permanent record. Our Maryland domestic violence attorneys take assault in the second degree charges just as seriously as they do first degree assault charges.
Domestic Reckless Endangerment Law in Maryland
Reckless endangerment is similar to assault, but can result from actions that are simply grossly negligent as opposed to deliberately malicious. According to code § 3-204, it is illegal to recklessly engage in any sort of behavior that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death to another individual, whether they’re a member of your household or not. In many cases, whether an action or series of actions constitutes reckless endangerment is highly subjective and open to interpretation. This is where a skilled, knowledgeable domestic violence defense attorney in Maryland can examine your case in order to create a robust, customized defense.
According to code § 3-204(b), the penalty for reckless endangerment is a misdemeanor, as well as up to 5 years imprisonment plus up to $5,000 in fines.
Child Kidnapping Law in Maryland
According to Maryland criminal code § 3-503, it is illegal to forcibly take, carry away or otherwise abduct a child under 12 years of age from his or her home, or from the control and custody of his or her parent or legal guardian. This same code makes it illegal to entice or persuade a child under 12 years of age from the same without the consent of the child’s guardian. Part (a)(2) of this code also makes it illegal to carry away, take, steal or kidnap a child under the age of 16.
The penalty for child kidnapping is a felony, as well as up to 20 or even 30 years imprisonment, depending on the specifics and severity of the crime. If the kidnapping ultimately leads to a rape or other sexual offense, the penalty is up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Child Abuse Law in Maryland
The Maryland judicial system takes crimes of child abuse very seriously, and divides these crimes into first degree and second degree charges, according to code § 3-601. This code defines first degree child abuse as a permanent or temporary caregiver of a child abusing him or her in such a way that results in death or severe physical injury. According to code § 3-601(a)(5), severe physical injury can include starvation, a brain injury, or any injury that fits the description of a serious physical injury as defined by Maryland’s first degree assault laws. An individual found guilty of child abuse in the first degree is subject to a felony, as well as imprisonment for up to 25 years. However, if the abuse results in the child’s death, the penalty is elevated to a maximum of 30 years. The penalties are the same for repeat offenders.
Part (d) of this same code defines second degree child abuse as a permanent or temporary caregiver of a child, or any family member of household member of that child’s dwelling, inflicting any type of abuse. The penalty for child abuse in the second degree is a felony, as well as up to 15 years in prison. Further, an additional sentence may be imposed for the crime used to establish proof of child abuse.
Vulnerable Adult Abuse Law in Maryland
According to Maryland criminal code § 3-604, it is illegal for a family member, household member, parent, caregiver or other individual responsible for the care of a vulnerable adult to cause neglect or abuse to that vulnerable adult that results in sexual abuse, serious physical injury or death. Within this code, a vulnerable adult is defined as an adult lacking the mental and/or physical capability to care for his or her own daily needs. Further, this code defines neglect as intentionally failing to provide supervision, shelter, essential medical treatment, toileting, clothing, food or other needs to the vulnerable adult.
The penalty for abusing a vulnerable adult in Maryland is a felony, as well as up to 10 years in prison and no more than $10,000 in fines. The sentence imposed for the crime of abusing a vulnerable adult in the first degree may run consecutive with any other sentences handed down for any specific crimes constituting the neglect.
Further, Maryland criminal code § 3-605 covers abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the second degree. According to this code, it is illegal for any person responsible for the temporary or permanent care of a vulnerable adult to cause any type of neglect or abuse. In such cases where the abuse or neglect does not result in serious physical injury, sexual abuse or death, the appropriate charge is second degree abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult.
The penalty for second degree abuse of a vulnerable adult is a misdemeanor, plus up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. As with first degree vulnerable adult abuse, this incarceration sentence can run consecutive to any sentences imposed for the crimes constituting abuse. For example, a separate sentence could be imposed for assault if assault was the crime comprising the abuse. An experienced domestic violence defense attorney in Maryland can lend great clarity to circumstances such as these.
Maryland Domestic Violence Statistics
The number of domestic violence crimes committed each year in Maryland has been steadily declining since 2004, when 23,013 crimes were committed. In 2010, a total of 17,931 crimes of domestic violence were committed. This represents a nearly 18.5% reduction in domestic violence since 2006. Homicides related to domestic violence also declined by 31% between 2006 and 2010. The areas of Maryland with the highest levels of domestic violence include Baltimore City, Worcester County, St. Mary’s County, Baltimore County and Wicomico County.
According to the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, a total of 75% of domestic violence victims in Maryland are female. Further, 59% of domestic violence victims range in age from 25 to 44, and the racial makeup is divided roughly equally between blacks and whites. Female cohabitants are the most common victims of domestic violence at 45.6%, followed by wives (26.5%), male cohabitants (14%) and husbands (11.9%). About 80% of all victims of domestic violence live with their abusers.
The vast majority of circumstances (61.8%) surrounding domestic violence in Maryland are unknown, while another 24% are classified as “other.” However, the most common circumstance surrounding cases of domestic violence in which the cause is known is infidelity (9.2%), followed by children (5.3%), money (4.4%), property (3.7%), alcohol (3.0%) and separation (2.7%). Twenty-nine percent of domestic violence incidents in Maryland involve drugs and/or alcohol.
Our Maryland domestic violence lawyers are experienced in handling domestic violence cases of all types, regardless of the specific circumstances. With one of our skilled domestic violence attorneys in Maryland by your side, you can feel confident in knowing that you’ll have the best possible chance of receiving a positive outcome at your trial.