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Legal Information: Maryland

Restraining Orders

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November 10, 2020

What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Maryland?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a protective order (also known as a “domestic violence protective order,” or “DVPO”).

Maryland law defines “abuse” as when someone with whom you have a specific relationship commits one of the following against you:

  • assault in the 1st degree or 2nd degree;
  • an act that places you in fear of immediate serious bodily harm or actually causes you serious bodily harm;
  • rape in the 1st degree or 2nd degree;
  • attempted rape (in any degree);
  • sexual offense in the 3rd degree or 4th degree;
  • attempted sexual offense (in any degree);
  • stalking;
  • false imprisonment (such as holding you somewhere against your will); or
  • revenge porn.1

If the abused person is a child, s/he can also get a domestic violence protective order based on “abuse of a child,” which is defined as:

  1. sexual abuse of a child (by anyone), whether physical injuries are sustained or not; or
  2. the physical or mental injury of a child under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed by:
    • a parent;
    • a household member or family member;
    • a person who has permanent or temporary care or custody of the child;
    • a person who has responsibility for supervision of the child; or
    • a person who, because of the person’s position or occupation, has authority over the child.2

If the abused person is a vulnerable adult (someone who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for his/her daily needs), s/he can also get a domestic violence protective order based on “abuse of a vulnerable adult,” which is defined as:

  • physical injury caused by any person (regardless of their relationship). The physical injury can happen as the result of cruel or inhumane treatment or as the result of a malicious act.3

1 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-501(b)(1)
2 MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-501(b)(2); 5-701(b)
3 MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-501(b)(3); 14-101(b), (q)