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March 12, 2009

Domestic violence heats up in Annapolis

The General Assembly is constantly debating ways to alter Maryland's domestic violence laws, but this year the issue is becoming the sleeper topic of the session. Most of the legislation under debate would strengthen domestic violence laws (such as a proposal to take guns from people who are subject to restraining orders), but the one that has sparked controversy this week nudges the law in the other direction. The proposal, sponsored in the House by Del. Luiz Simmons and in the Senate by Sens. Norman Stone and Mike Miller, would allow for the expungement of records related to a temporary restraining order if it never becomes a permanent order. According to Julie Bykowicz's story today, "records would be cleared if a judge denies an order after hearing from both the petitioner and respondent or if the accuser does not come to court."

Simmons, who managed to resurrect the idea after it narrowly failed in the House earlier this week, calls it a matter of fairness. If a person is not found to have committed abuse, he or she should not have to live with the taint, Simmons says. Opponents of the idea say falsely filed domestic violence complaints are rare and that victims often have a good reason -- such as intimidation -- for not coming forward.

What do you think?

Posted by Andy Green at 11:51 AM | | Comments (2)


Even if there has only been one false complaint ever, why should that person have false allegations posted on the internet by the State? It is disingenuous to claim that domestic violence should be takenly seriously, then yet not expect those falsely accused to contest allegations and protect their public reputation and livelihood. I think people don't understand how easy it is to have a false allegation posted on the internet. A protective order doesn't even have to be issued, just applied for ex-parte (the other side is not present to defend themselves), and then the allegation is posted on the internet. Witness intimidation can be a factor in any lawsuit. You can't start presuming guilt on this premise. If there is evidence of intimidation, then prosecute it. Sometimes witnesses don't appear because they may be charged with perjury or worse once the accused has their day in court. The domestic violence lobby basically says that the innocent are not worth protecting because as far as they are concerned, there may not be a lot of them. Victims of false allegations are victims too, and need relief now. We do not wish to be martyrs to the cause, collateral damage, or used to pad dv statistics. False allegations of domestic violence need to be taken seriously. We have now gotten to the point where people are actually saying with a straight face that the innocent are not worth being concerned about in the grand scheme of things. A senator at the hearing (Jacobs) actually questioned if a law allowing expungement would not be favorable to women since they file more protective orders than men. This senator is on a judicial proceedings committee! Is this now our standard of justice in Maryland? We will deny innocent men (and women as well) so it will be fair? To have a protective order issued against you and allegations published, you do not actually have to do anything wrong, all you need is a person willing to do damage to you, for instance revenge, custody or a divorce suit.

Yes i think they should come off... Anyone can get a restraing order on them... If granted you should be allowed to get it removed from your record after 3 years... If convicted of DV crime in some other states can obtain a gun after a 40 hour course... The laws in MD are BS...

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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