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hammer-719066_960_720-300x225Finding out there is a warrant for your arrest is a terrible feeling, but there are a number of things you can do to minimize your time in custody or better yet avoid being arrested at all.   There are two types of warrants for criminal cases in Maryland state courts, and the first step is to figure out what type of warrant you have. The most common type of warrant in Maryland is a bench warrant, which just like its namesake is issued by a district or circuit court judge of the from the bench. A large percentage of bench warrants are issued in open court after a defendant fails to appear at a mandatory court appearance. Failure to appear at any mandatory court date will likely result in a warrant regardless of the seriousness of the case. Even non-jailable offenses like civil alcohol citations for underage drinking and driving on a suspended license (section h) require the appearance of the defendant and authorize judges to issue warrants for failures to appear.

Not all failures to appear are created equal. A defendant who fails to appear for his or her trial date on a felony criminal offense will likely receive a no bail bench warrant, and any prior bail or pre-trial release will be forfeited.   A defendant who fails to appear at sentencing could be in an even worse position, as the judge or the state may rescind any prior plea offer. Upon arrest these defendants may be forced to wait in custody until their case is over or at the very least until the issuing judge modifies the no bail hold. A defendant who fails to appear at a misdemeanor criminal case or traffic case by receive a bench warrant with a preset bail or with instructions for the commissioner to set bail. These defendants can go straight to the district court commissioner’s office if they want to have the warrant lifted, but there is always the risk the commissioner will deny bail. If the commissioner denies bail the defendant will have to wait until the next business day to see a judge. Violation of probation warrants are also considered bench warrants, but many times these warrants have either preset bails or no bails. Either way, the best way to deal with bench warrant is to contact an attorney and have him or her file a motion to recall the warrant. Judges are not robots, and if you have a legitimate reason why you missed court, or if you simply forgot the judge may have enough sympathy to quash the warrant and then direct the clerk to issue a summons. While you can try to accomplish this by filing your own pro se motion it is always better to hire an attorney, as the judge will see you have made an investment in the case and are not likely to miss court again. This is also true for violation of probation warrants, as judges just want to make sure you show up for your VOP hearing before considering to recall your warrant.

The second type of warrant is an arrest warrant, and there are far too many issued in Maryland when the more practical thing to do would be to issue a summons. A true arrest warrant should only be used in cases where the commissioner or judge believes the defendant is a danger or a flight risk, but unfortunately it doesn’t work this way. On recommendation from a police officer or from the state or based on a civilian statement of charges a judge or commissioner may bypass setting a court date and issuing a summons for an arrest warrant. These warrants are more difficult to work around because they are typically sealed for 90 days and as a result you can’t just file a motion to have them recalled. Also, a person with an arrest warrant cannot simply go to the commissioner’s office to take care of it, as he or she must be booked at the police station before going to the commissioner. If the state either indicts the defendant or files an information in the circuit court, the defendant will not go to the commissioner at all. After being booked at the police station he or she will be taken directly to the county or city jail to await being bailed out or seeing a circuit court judge. In cases involving arrest warrants it is entirely possible to take care of the whole process in just a couple of hours, but knowing where to go and what time to go is key. The most basic advice if you know or think you have a warrant is not to wait too long to address it. The sooner you act the better it will look to the judge, and it’s always better to turn yourself in on your own terms then to be arrested out of the blue. If you or a loved one has a warrant feel free to contact Benjamin Herbst at 410-207-2598. Benjamin is an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer that specializes in handling bench warrants and arrest warrants.

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concertina-wire-1031773_960_720-200x300The Department of Justice recently reported that a former bail bondsman has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in a drug distribution conspiracy with Baltimore Police officers.  According the plea agreement the 51-year old defendant from the Middle River area of Baltimore County stole drugs, cash and jewelry from citizens between 2015 and 2017.  He also obtained significant quantities of narcotics from a former Baltimore Police sergeant who is currently serving a 25-year sentence for racketeering, robbery, falsification of records and public corruption.  Court documents alleged that the sergeant would repeatedly steal or confiscate narcotics during the course of his duties as a police officer.  The sergeant would then deliver the drugs to the bail bondsman, who would store them on his property until he and other co-conspirators were able to sell them.  In some instances the bail bondsman tagged along with the police sergeant during raids and searches.  All told the bail bondsman netted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the illegal drug sales, which were divided among the numerous corrupt officers that helped facilitate the scam.

Multiple law enforcement organizations participated in this investigation including the FBI and the Baltimore County Police Department. Investigators likely received a great deal of information about this case from co-defendants looking to receive a break from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but the case was made after the execution of a search warrant at the bail bondsman’s home yielded over 400 grams of crack, 200 grams of cocaine, 14 grams of heroin, MDMA, cash and expensive jewelry.  Luckily for the defendant no firearms were found during the execution of the warrant, as the presence of guns could have resulted in a much harsher sentence. Federal sentencing guidelines provide harsher penalties for certain gun crimes than Maryland state sentencing guidelines, and many of these offenses carry mandatory prison time.

The bail bond industry in Maryland has been hit hard by reforms mandated by the Court of Appeals and the state legislature.  Judges are no longer permitted to impose exorbitant bail amounts unless doing so would be the least restrictive means to assure the defendant’s return to court.  Bail in any amount may not be used as a means to protect the community while a defendant is pending trial, as this is now the responsibility of pre-trial services. Obviously, this case was not directly related to bail reform, but one is left to wonder whether tough financial times motivated this defendant to engage in illegal activities.

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concertina-wire-1031773_960_720-200x300The inmate population at state correctional facilities in Maryland is steadily decreasing, but sadly the reverse is occurring at Central Booking in Baltimore City.  From 2017 to 2018 the number of inmates held at the notorious jail facility jumped more than 20 percent from an average of 655 inmates per day to 856 per day. The overall crime rate has gone down and arrest numbers have decreased over the last decade, leaving bail reform as one of the only possible culprits of the inmate spike.  But before blaming bail reform, which effectively eliminated the unjust and presumably corrupt cash bail system, you must first look to the human beings who make the decisions to hold defendants without bail.

In February of 2017 Maryland’s highest court approved sweeping changes to the unjust cash bail system.  These changes became effective roughly one year ago, and almost every jurisdiction is actually abiding by Court’s mandate, when determining release, to use the least restrictive means to assure the safety of the community and to assure the defendant’s presence in court.  Baltimore City seems to be the one outlier and the one jurisdiction where pre-trial inmate numbers are skyrocketing, so you cannot simply blame the new bail system.  Rather, the blame should be focused on the individuals who are tasked with implementing the new bail system and have since failed to do so in Baltimore City.  The failure of Baltimore to adhere to the Court of Appeals’ mandate begins with the district court commissioners.  These commissioners are only required to be college graduates, have little or no formal legal training and yet they are tasked with the immense responsibility of determining whether a defendant stays in custody or goes home to face the charges.  Commissioners are also given the power to issue arrest warrants on civilian charging documents, and often do so without ever considering the charges could be untrue and motivated by spite and vengeance.  Each day dozens of innocent people are arrested on charges supported by little or no corroborating evidence, and then are rubber stamped with a no bail by commissioners.

After a court commissioner denies bail the defendant will sit until the next business day when he or she will go before a district court judge for a bail review.  In Baltimore City agents from pre-trial services will first speak to the judge.  These agents do very little background research on the defendant and absolutely no research about the pending case.  Often pre-trial will wait until an hour or so before the hearing to try to confirm the defendant’s living situation.  The result is typically pre-trial giving the same recommendation as the commissioner, which sadly again is to hold without bail.  The Assistant State’s Attorneys who conduct bail reviews at the Wabash or Patapsco Avenue district courts typically do not take a closer look into the facts surrounding the arrest either, which is a huge problem not just in Baltimore City, but the entire state.  At the very least all civilian criminal complaints should be reviewed by a trained attorney.  It is simply too easy to have someone falsely arrested in Maryland, and this absolutely needs to change.

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hammer-719066_960_720-300x225Probation sounds great when the only other alternative is jail time, but the relief felt when a judge announces a suspended sentence instead of active incarceration can be short lived.  Not everyone is built for probation, and while some may breeze through, others are in a constant battle to complete their requirements.  Many times it’s the officer who makes the probation term next to impossible to complete, but other times life simply gets in the way. Whether there’s just not enough time to comply with all the requirements or there’s an officer who’s out for blood, probation violations are so common these days that it almost seems as if they outnumber new criminal cases.  The odds are stacked against anyone facing a probation violation, so it’s best to avoid one at all cost.  While there is no secret formula to successfully completing probation, there are some relatively easy things that can be done to avoid a return trip to court to face a disappointed judge.

Any defendant placed on supervised probation in Maryland must abide by the 9 standard conditions, which include reporting as directed, refraining from illegal drug use and not incurring any new criminal or jailable traffic offenses.  The most common violations are missing appointments and catching new charges, but officers will violate a defendant for almost anything, including positive drug tests and failing to pay restitution.  The new sentencing laws place limitations on the punishment for technical violations, but unfortunately the most common violations such as failing to report are not considered technical in nature.  Again, the best way to beat a VOP is to avoid one altogether, and the best way to do this is to get off probation as soon as possible.  Most judges will strongly consider granting an early termination of probation motion provided the defendant has fulfilled his or her obligations and completed roughly half of the term.  For example a defendant who is sentenced to 3 years of supervised probation with restitution could conceivably be done with everything at around 18 months provided the fines, costs and restitution are paid, and no prior violations have occurred. If the Court requires drug treatment or anger management, get it out of the way early and file for early termination. If a motion for early termination is not granted the judge at the very least may consider converting the balance of probation to unsupervised, making life much easier and the odds of violation much lower.

Other simple tips include keeping in touch with the probation officer regardless of how annoying it becomes.  If you’re running 15 minutes late or can’t make an appointment call ahead and take a screen shot of the call.  If you’re falling behind on restitution make any type of payment you can afford.  Even if it’s 10 or 20 bucks and you owe hundreds, the Court will at least see effort is being made.  Probation officers will rarely go out of their way to make sure you are not slipping up and they are often difficult to get in touch with.  In order to avoid a violation you have to be proactive and you have to put up with the BS until it’s over.  For the most part probation officers enjoy their power, and may let some minor issues slide if you’re just nice to them.  In sum, probation can be annoying and in some cases painful, but the alternative is worse.  If you need help having your supervision terminated, or would like to try to convert to unsupervised probation contact attorney Benjamin Herbst at 410-207-2598. Benjamin specializes in Maryland violation of probation representation, and offers free consultations and payment plans. If you have a bench warrant for a violation of probation, Benjamin may be able to have it converted to a summons, and he will appear in court for you when the time comes.

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handcuffs-2102488__480-300x169Conducting prostitution stings was once a practice limited to a few select police departments, but in the last few years numerous Maryland law enforcement agencies have joined the fray after the internet has made prostitution more accessible to the average person.  Traditional prostitution stings consist of an undercover female police officer hanging around in areas known to be hotbeds for this illegal activity.  Undercover officers are always flanked by a team of officers in unmarked cars close by, who arrive in seconds once a “take down” signal is relayed.  These operations were once common in urban areas such as Baltimore City but they are tedious and possibly dangerous endeavors for police.  Assigning undercover officers to walk the streets of high-crime areas creates an environment that is far from controlled.  On top of that vice teams could spend hours searching for Johns without any takers, as high prostitution areas are virtually nonexistent after being replaced by online the marketplace.  Rather than spend an entire day in the street searching for solicitors police departments developed plans to have the Johns come to them, and in turn arrest numbers have increased.

Anne Arundel County was one of the first departments to aggressively combat online prostitution after fielding numerous complaints from hotels in the BWI region.  These hotels began to notice activity that was consistent with sex commerce, and in response police began to set up fake online profiles for escorts in online classified websites such Backpages.  The fake profiles aimed to mimic real profiles with seductive pictures and slang phrases.  Like real profiles the fake ones never actually said specifically what was for sale or how much it would cost, as the vague language was used to dispel any fears that cops were on the prowl.  After posting the fake ads police set up shop in the same hotels where the complaints originated, and waited by the phone for calls or texts.  Police didn’t end up waiting long as Johns showed up at pre-determined rooms where an undercover female officer was waiting to negotiate a deal if one had not already been reached via text.  In some cases the female officer would wait until money was produced before giving the take down signal to a group of officers stationed in an adjacent room, but other times the undercover would send the cavalry in earlier. Either way, the result was the same, as the support team basically arrested anyone who showed up at the room regardless of whether a deal was verbalized.

Anne Arundel County Police made hundreds of arrests at area hotels using fake Backpages profiles, and they continue to conduct these stings.  In the last few years other Maryland police agencies such as Prince George’s County police and Howard County police have started to conduct the same stings and these departments have showed no sign of discontinuing this effort.    A person that shows up in response to a fake Backpages at can expect charges for solicitation and assignation, and often police include multiple counts of each. The multiple counts represent each time police perceive that an offer and acceptance for sex takes place, but the state will typically only prosecute one of these counts.  Howard County police have been known to charge Johns with disorderly conduct as well, though this charge is definitely a long shot in the courtroom.  There are also instances where Johns have touched the undercover and been charged with 4thdegree sexual offense.  Fourth degree sexual offense is a misdemeanor with the same maximum penalty as solicitation, but it is a far more serious offense with potential consequences including registering as a sex offender.  While it would be difficult to prove this charge in a solicitation case it nonetheless raises the stakes, and makes it all the more important to hire an experienced and skilled lawyer.

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play-593207__480-300x199In 2010 Maryland’s first casino opened in Cecil County, a location picked due to its proximity to gambling establishments in nearby Delaware and New Jersey. Lawmakers and citizens were growing tired of losing out on millions of dollars in tax revenue and thousands of jobs to neighboring states, and the response was legalizing casino gambling. Since the Hollywood Casino of Perryville opened roughly 8 years ago five more casinos have opened their doors, with the newest being the billion-dollar MGM National Harbor Casino in Prince George’s County that opened at the end of 2016. The casinos are spread pretty evenly across the state from the Rocky Gap Casino in Allegany County to Ocean Downs on the Eastern Shore. The Horseshoe in Baltimore and Maryland Live in Anne Arundel County are the closest together distance wise, but draw from a large customer base and have no trouble keeping the profits flowing. Average monthly revenue from the casinos is approaching $150 million. The six casinos draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and the positive economic impacts have been undeniable. While the tax revenue and job creation have been a huge positive for the state there is also a dark side to the all the bright lights and jackpot payouts. Six new casinos opening in a little over five years brings an increased risk for gambling addiction. Marylanders once had to board a plane to Vegas or drive 3 hours in traffic to play table games, but now it’s hard to find a place in the state that is more than an hour drive away from a casino.

Upon legalizing casinos lawmakers also created provisions to combat gambling addiction including educational resources and 24 hour hotlines, which are both helpful tools for those who desire help. On the other hand these resources lack teeth for players and their families that are trying to stop. For those that require additional help lawmakers and the gaming commission created the voluntary exclusion program or VEP, which allows a person to voluntarily agree to refrain from entering and playing at any Maryland casino. Anyone can enter the program with the caveat that the application has to be accompanied by an in person interview. Spouses, friends and family members may try to convince a person to enter the program but they cannot enter it on their behalf. The reason the commission requires a thorough application process and an in person interview is because the consequences for violating the pact to refrain from entering a casino are criminal. A person enrolled in the voluntary exclusion program may be charged with criminal trespass upon entering a Maryland casino, and odds are that this will happen regardless of whether a chip is played. Casinos take the exclusion program very seriously, and they have to in order to remain in the good graces of lawmakers. Issuing a large number of criminal trespass citations ensures the image of compliance, so a person who is caught will almost certainly not be able to talk their way out charges. While a person may take themselves out of the voluntary exclusion program after two years this does not happen automatically. You have to apply to take yourself off, and the commission must approve this request before you can reenter or play again. It is not a defense that 2 or more years have passed since acceptance to the program.

The casinos can easily locate an excluded person through face recognition technology, credit card alerts and players club card alerts so do not be surprised to see security walk up on you within minutes of entering the facility. Generally casino security will escort a potential offender off the gaming floor to a back room, where a local police officer will show up toting a citation booklet. Offenders are then issued a citation and escorted off the property. Criminal trespass carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, though most people that receive these citations are first time offenders and realistically do not face a lengthy jail sentence upon conviction. On the other hand, the potential to receive a permanent criminal conviction looms large for anyone who receives a trespass citation, and this result could have devastating effects on the ability to maintain employment, professional licenses and security clearances. If handled properly casino trespass citations could be nothing more than an inconvenience so it is important to contact an attorney who has experience handling these cases. An attorney can attempt to work out a favorable resolution in advance of the court date, which will not only limit exposure to criminal sanctions but also eliminate the stressful uncertainty of a court appearance.

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keyboard-453795_1280-300x200Maryland sports one of the most convenient systems to access criminal case information via the casesearch website. The website allows the user to search a database of thousands of cases by first or last name of the defendant, and displays the charges, court location and hearing times. If the case is closed it provides a brief summary of the outcome or disposition including the length of suspended and unsuspended jail time, the terms and conditions of probation and whether a probation before judgment (PBJ) was granted. The site lists any attorneys involved including the prosecutor and defense lawyer, and in some cases includes the victim or complaining witness. The site also lists the names of any police officers involved, but for a few days last week and without warning or explanation these names suddenly disappeared.

The details behind the information blackout are still somewhat murky, but we do know that at some point in the last few months a government committee that oversees the website voted to replace the officer’s first names with their initials in the interest of protecting police from potential retaliation. This change had been on the agenda of the Anne Arundel County Police for years though AA County PD never advocated for the complete deletion of officer information. After the names disappeared we learned that no law enforcement agency in the state actually advocated for the complete deletion of officer information. Quite to the contrary most publicly denounced it, which made the move even stranger and only increased the amount of backlash by civil rights advocates, police watchdog organizations and criminal defense attorneys around the state. Accessing the names of arresting officers is essential to filing expungement applications, which are processed at a rate of close to 6,000 per month. In order to apply for an expungement within the first three years of a case being dismissed all defendants must fill out a waiver and release form that basically states you will not sue the police. Without the arresting officer’s name you cant properly fill out the form.

There was certainly a shortage of justification for deleting the information from public view, and the move could not have come at a worse time. In light of Baltimore City police corruption gaining widespread national media attention over the past few months you would think the response by state agencies would be for more transparency and not less. The rocky relationship between police and the general public is not going to smooth out by adding another layer of secrecy. Luckily before the backlash grew the Maryland Court of Appeals stepped in and reversed the decision and ordered the judiciary to undo the deletions. It wasn’t quite no harm no foul as the government wasted over ten thousand dollars deleting and restoring the data. As of now the site is back up and running like normal, but there are still unanswered questions about what actually happened.  The judiciary called the move an honest mistake, though the Blog will continue to track this bizarre story and if any new information comes to light we may post a follow up article. For any questions on criminal defense issues such as expunging a case or seeking representation for a current charge feel free to contact Benjamin Herbst at 410-207-2598. Benjamin defends clients charged with any offense in all Maryland jurisdictions including federal court.

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handcuffs-2102488__480-300x169Finding out that a friend or loved one has been arrested is frightening and stressful, but having the feeling that you can’t do anything about it is worse. The laws applying to bail have changed drastically in Maryland over the last couple of years and understanding how to navigate around these laws could mean the difference between release and an extended stay at Baltimore City central booking or one of the state’s county jails. In most cases when a person is first arrested he or she will be taken before a district court commissioner who will check to see if there was probable cause for the arrest and who will then make a determination of release conditions.  This usually happens within a few hours of the arrest, but some in some of the larger jurisdictions it could take longer.

Court commissioners are not judges, lawyers or even law school graduates, and they are not required to have any extensive legal training. A bachelor’s degree and county/ city residency are all that are required for the appointment to serve as a commissioner. The prerequisites to become a court commissioner are light and severely contrast with the power to put someone in jail by signing off on an arrest warrant or to keep someone in jail by denying bail. Thankfully around half of defendants are released on their own recognizance, and will regain their freedom within an hour or so of speaking with the commissioner. But the other half face the possibility of remaining in jail until their case is closed if the case is not handled properly.

As a friend or family member there is not much you can do to influence the court commissioner’s decision at the initial appearance because they are not public hearings. Defendants are afforded the right to have an attorney present when they go before the commissioner, so the best approach is to try to hire a lawyer immediately. Realistically though this is not always possible, and the first time you may hear about the arrest could be after the defendant sees the commissioner. Those that are denied release will be scheduled for a bail review in front of a district or circuit court judge the following business day. Most of these hearings take place by video, but the defendant has an absolute right to have a lawyer present. The first bail review is the best shot and in some cases the only chance before trial to secure release, so it’s incredibly important to be prepare beforehand and ready to argue at the hearing.

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IMG_7858-e1515083729598-225x300Multiple police departments in Maryland have posted messages on social media warning local residents to take proper care of their pets amidst the current run of frigid cold temperatures. Anne Arundel County Police sent the word out via Facebook post, which focused on dog owners who choose to leave their pup outside unattended in the cold weather. The police department provided specific guidelines during a severe weather animal emergency including maintaining a constant supply of non-frozen drinking water and using a dog house that is equipped to protect against the elements. The houses must have a usable door flap pointed away from prevailing winds, abundant dry bedding and be situated at least 2 inches above the ground (or any snowfall on top of the ground). Police also warned that houses or shelters that are too large to maintain a temperature above 33 degrees are unsafe for dogs, and any shelter may not be suitable if the “feels like” temperature drops below 20 degrees. During the last week and for the next few days a “feels like” temperature of 20 degrees may seem like summer, and thus no dogs should be left unattended outside for the foreseeable future. Those who fail to comply with the Anne Arundel County law during severe weather animal emergencies face civil fines up $1,000, confiscation of the animal and the potential for criminal charges for animal abuse or neglect.

Montgomery County issued a similar message, reminding residents that during weather emergencies pets must not be left outside unattended. The county police department gave a stern warning that leaving animals outside in these conditions may be considered an act of cruelty, and owners could be subject to criminal charges. The Montgomery County code provides a civil fine of up to $500,which police officers could charge in addition to the state statute regarding abuse or neglect of an animal. Under section 10-604 of the Maryland criminal code anyone who deprives an animal of necessary sustenance or inflicts unnecessary pain or suffering upon an animal could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. In addition, a conviction could result in the defendant being prohibited from owning pets in the future and being compelled to participate in psychological counseling at their own expense. If the police deem that the cruelty was intentional they may charge a defendant with aggravated animal cruelty under 10-606, which is a felony with a 3-year maximum prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. As with many criminal cases in Maryland, police officers will typically charge a suspect with the maximum relevant offense even if there is unconvincing evidence that it occurred.

Animal cruelty is a serious charge in Maryland and should be handled with extreme care to prevent penalties including a permanent criminal conviction and even jail time. An attorney could help obtain a dismissal or prevent criminal charges from being filed in the first place. In some cases police officers or animal control will confiscate the pet before making a determination whether to file charges. A lawyer can communicate with these agencies to try to work out an alternative resolution to the filing of criminal charges. Benjamin Herbst is an experienced Maryland animal abuse attorney who handles cases in all jurisdictions. Contact Benjamin today at 410–207-2598 for a free consultation.

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arguing-1296392_1280-300x212The holiday season is supposed to be a time for families to come together and enjoy each other’s company, but unfortunately it takes more than holiday cheer to keep relationships from going awry. Most couples, friends, family members and neighbors are able to get along with each other just fine and will never have to deal with the stress of the court system. For those that aren’t so lucky it is important to understand your rights and the avenues available in order to clear your name. In Maryland there are two types of legal proceedings where the courts will assist in keeping the peace between feuding individuals. The most common is called a protective order, which applies to family members, current and former spouses, partners who have been sexually active within the last year and parents who share a child. If a person wants the courts assistance with an individual who does not fit in one of these categories then a peace order must be filed. Former friends, co-workers or others in a business relationship, and neighbors who can’t get along are the most common parties to a peace order.   Peace orders can last up to 6 months or 1 year with good cause and protective orders up to 1 year or 2 with good cause.

Peace orders and Protective orders begin in the District Court where the petitioner asking for a no contact order or order to vacate a home fills out a sworn statement and submits it to the court commissioner. The petitioner will then appear before a judge at a temporary hearing to swear to the alleged facts under oath. Judges will typically grant temporary protective orders or peace orders because the standard is low and they only last about 7 days. The judge must only find reasonable grounds to believe the respondent (defendant) committed the acts alleged. If a judge grants a temporary protective order against you it is important to remain calm and seek legal advice. A temporary protective or peace order is not final and you still have a chance to defend yourself at an evidentiary hearing, and if you win the final hearing and the order is dismissed you will be able to shield the case from public view. The standard of proof at a final hearing is called preponderance of the evidence, which means the petitioner must convince the judge more likely than not that the allegations occurred.

Preponderance of the evidence is the same standard used in violation of probation hearings, and while it is not as high as proof beyond a reasonable doubt used in criminal trials, it still requires that the petitioner convince the judge. If there is no objective evidence, unbiased witnesses such as a police officers, and the respondent denies the allegation then the judge should dismiss the order. One party’s word against the other’s with nothing more should not be enough to satisfy the burden of proof, but judges have the final say. It is always important to prepare an effective cross examination of the accuser and contacting a lawyer is one way to make sure this happens. Bringing evidence such as pictures or text messages may be another effective way to challenge the petitioner’s accusations.