Each year, House of Ruth Maryland carefully monitors the Maryland General Assembly to support legislation that helps victims of intimate partner violence and oppose legislation that could be detrimental to the women and children we serve. We’ll be updating this page as legislation begins moving and as the status changes. To help achieve this effort, we are asking all supporters to actively advocate for these bills.
The Maryland General Assembly opened on January 9, 2019 and there are a lot of new members and a lot of new committee assignments. There are 13 (out of 22) new members on the House Judiciary Committee and 5 (out of 11) new members on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Almost all of our bills are assigned to these two committees.
So far, the response has been good to our primary bill, Protective Order Relief Eligibility which would change the definition of “person eligible for relief” in a protective order to include anyone who alleges s/he is a victim of a rape or sexual offense, clarifying that they are eligible to receive a protective order rather than a peace order.
Listed below is a short summary of the bills that we are tracking and supporting (or opposing) at this time. Please feel free to contact Dorothy Lennig at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any questions.
To learn who your elected officials in Maryland are, go to www.mdelect.net.
Protective Orders- Relief Eligibility – Rape and Sexual Offenses – This bill would change the definition of “person eligible for relief” in a protective order (PO) to include anyone who alleges s/he is a victim of a rape or sexual offense, clarifying that they are eligible to receive a protective order rather than a peace order.
For many years, domestic violence and sexual assault advocates worked to have the PO cover victims who were in dating relationships and victims of sexual assault. One of our first attempts to add this resulted in the creation of the peace order. While the PO covered these acts, many victims were not eligible for a PO because of their relationship to the abuser. In 2015, the law changed to include victims on sexual relationships. Since then there have been a number of judges who believe victims of date rape do not qualify for a PO because the parties were not in a “relationship.” By clarifying that this group of victims is eligible for a PO, it provides them with the special protections of a protective order that are not included in peace orders, e.g. longer order, removal of firearms, more robust response by law enforcement.
SB 130 – Criminal Procedure – Charge by Citation – Violation of Condition of Release – This bill makes a small correction to a bill we supported last year to allow the arrest of a defendant who violates a pretrial order to have no contact with the victim. Unfortunately, we did not change the corresponding section of Criminal Procedure 4-101 which defines when law enforcement shall charge by citation. Unless we amend the citation section of the code, violating the conditions of a pretrial no contact order would result in law enforcement issuing a citation to the defendant rather than making an arrest, defeating the purpose of the changes we made last year.
SB 103 – Criminal Law – Electronic Harassment and Bullying (Grace’s Law 2.0) – This bill alters prohibited actions relating to electronic harassment of minors. While it is not a domestic violence bill, we have worked to strengthen Maryland’s electronic harassment and stalking statutes and believe this bill moves the law in the right direction. In our work at House of Ruth we see the impact of electronic harassment on adults and can only imagine how these behaviors are amplified for minors. Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on January 29.