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Difference Between Maryland Assault and Domestic Violence

Assault is generally part of domestic violence cases. A domestic violence case involves individuals that are in a relationship with each other. That relationship could be romantic or familial in nature, such as parents and children or siblings, but it essentially involves people that are a part of the same household and an assault or a threat of harm takes place. Those kinds of cases are considered domestic violence cases and they are handled by a specific set of prosecutors in each particular county. As with sex offense cases, these prosecutors have special training on how to deal with domestic violence investigations and how to work with individuals and families who are going through this difficult process.

Regular assault cases are very similar to domestic violence cases, except that the individuals involved don’t have domestic relationships with each other. Assault cases could occur if somebody is in a bar and begins to fight with another person, or if two friends are in a fight with each other and it becomes physical. These cases are not handled by the domestic violence unit, but rather by the regular prosecutors of the State’s Attorney’s office.

Difference in Defense Strategies in Maryland

Domestic violence cases are completely different from regular assault cases. There is a whole set of special rules that apply and that come up more in domestic violence cases than in almost any other type of case. Most of the time, when domestic violence occurs, there is an assault that takes place and the police are called. Everybody on the scene is usually very upset because somebody has just been assaulted or hurt in some way. Because the court dates are sometimes set so far out, people change their minds. Once they have calmed down, people may resolve their issues with their loved ones and no longer wish to proceed with the criminal charges. That is when these cases become different than other kinds of criminal cases.

Domestic violence prosecutors can’t dismiss every single domestic violence case in which the victim no longer wants to go forward with the charges, and the reason for that is twofold. The first reason is that they do not want people abusing the criminal system. If a crime took place and people called the police, the prosecutors want to make sure that those cases are followed through to the end. The other reason is that prosecutors don’t always know what the victim’s motivation is in deciding that they no longer want to go forward with the charge. They might be receiving threats from the defendant that if they go forward with the charges they might lose financial support or their home, or they may be subject to further violence. The prosecutors want to make sure that when somebody is charged in a domestic violence case that they make an attempt to bring the defendant to justice. Prosecutors have to use different tactics to get pieces of information into evidence when the individual who originally wrote the complaint is no longer cooperating with the investigation.

In Maryland, people have a right to assert their marital privilege, which allows them to not testify against their spouse for one time when it comes to domestic violence cases associated with assault. Prosecutors will allow that spouse to invoke that privilege and the case would usually be dismissed in court based on that privilege. In some situations, prosecutors might use other pieces of evidence, like a 911 tape or witness statements that are not governed by the hearsay statute, to try to prosecute the case anyway and they are often successful. These issues come up in domestic violence courts far more than they do in other types of criminal situations, and because of that, domestic violence cases need to be handled in a different way than a standard assault case.

Penalties for a Conviction

The penalties depend on what exactly the person is convicted of in a domestic violence case. Domestic violence cases can sometimes involve first degree assaults, which are felony assaults in which somebody is being threatened with either death or serious physical injury. Felony assaults can carry penalties of up to 25 years of incarceration. Second degree assaults or simple assaults, which are misdemeanor cases, are handled in district courts and the penalties include a maximum period of incarceration of ten years. There are some less serious offenses that we see in criminal court as well as on domestic violence dockets, including reckless endangerment. Those charges result in significantly less jail time than assault charges, but they are still serious criminal offenses.