I represent many clients who are involved in domestic incidents, domestic violence or otherwise, and in what feels like a blink, they find themselves having to defend against accusations of abuse in a protective order hearing, facing a criminal charge of second degree assault or even needing a quality defense for both types of cases. Many times, people choose to represent themselves in the protective order hearing and only seek an experienced attorney for the criminal case. Whether it is because they feel they are not facing jail or incarceration in a protective order and they see it as less serious or because of the short window of time they have to get a lawyer before the hearing, I cannot say; but, it is generally a mistake. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hiring an attorney to represent you in each case.
These are two totally separate types of court cases, but each can greatly influence the outcome of the other. While both cases might involve the same parties, same witnesses and same evidence and might be based on the same set of facts and allegations, they are different areas of law. A protective order is a civil case. The petitioner (person eligible for relief) must show by clear and convincing evidence to the judge that you have committed an act of "abuse." Abuse is defined in Maryland as: 1) an act that causes serious bodily harm; 2) an act that places a person eligible for relief in fear of imminent serious bodily harm; 3) ASSAULT in any degree (as defined by criminal statutes); 4) rape or sexual offense or attempt; or 5) false imprisonment. The allegations MUST fall into one of these categories in order for the petitioner to prevail. You have an absolute right to a trial to defend yourself against the allegations in this type of case.
The consequences of the judge granting a protective order against you do not include jail or probation, but they can be very significant depending on the petitioner's request. You could lose your right to possess a firearm, lose temporary custody of a child, be ordered to pay emergency family maintenance (support) or be ordered to immediately vacate your family home and all of your possessions. Also, anything you say in the civil hearing can be used against you in any other case, such as a later criminal prosecution for second degree assault. So, the outcome of the civil case can potentially affect any other civil or criminal case against you. The prosecutor will likely investigate the earlier hearing while preparing the criminal case against you. Proceeding in this type of hearing without consulting an attorney could be detrimental to your criminal defense.
When the State of Maryland charges you with a second-degree assault offense, it is a criminal case. The basis for the charge might be the same set of facts as alleged in the civil protective order, but a criminal case has much different and significant consequences. Once a charge is filed, it is forwarded to the Office of the State's attorney for prosecution. The State prosecutor will determine if the case has merit and the one who filed it will likely become a witness for the State. In a criminal case, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements of the charge to a judge or jury, before you could be found guilty of a second-degree assault. Again, you have a right to a judge or jury trial and to aggressively defend the charge against you. A second-degree assault criminal charge in the state of Maryland carries the possibility of 10 years in jail and/or a $2,500 fine or more, depending on the allegations. Proceeding without counsel could be a big mistake and can be detrimental to you, your family, your freedom and your future.
If you need a top quality defense lawyer to defend you from second degree assault allegations or from false accusations of abuse in a protective order case, you must speak with a defense lawyer from The Law Office of John R. Discavage. We have the experience you need to assure the best possible result in your case.
If you would like a consultation to discuss your case at no charge, please contact us now.