ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland House and Senate likely will have to work out differences in measures designed to give domestic abuse victims 24-hour access to court protective orders, if the House passes its version of the bill.
On Wednesday, the House tentatively approved a different version of the legislation backed by the Senate last week.
Each bill allows District Court commissioners to issue interim orders when the court is not in session, but the House bill makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who intentionally provides false information in a petition.
The House could vote as soon as today.
“I’m not sure it (misdemeanor provision) is needed,” said Judge Martha F. Rasin of the 7th District Court of Maryland, who coordinated testimony for the bills before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
“A petition for a domestic violence order is made under oath,” Rasin said, and would fall under perjury laws. The addition may not hurt, but she said she considers it “overkill.”
The House bill also added language that looks after the concerns of the person receiving the order.
In addition to the date, time and location of the temporary order hearing, the House wants them notified of the final hearing, even if it’s tentative.
Giving the second hearing date might be confusing, Rasin said.
“From my experience in the courts, if you give a tentative date there’s the danger they will rely on it.”
But “we’re trying to accomplish the same thing,” she said, which “makes it less problematic.”
The last significant change the House made was to clarify the duration of the interim order. Delegates required the order stay in effect until the temporary order hearing or the end of the second day the office of the clerk of the District Court is open.
The changes are not “world shattering,” said Sen. Walter M. Baker, D- Cecil, a Senate sponsor. Basically, he said, the bill still does the same thing.
The Maryland Judicial Conference, which pushed for the legislation, will look over the amendments, Rasin said, to make sure it is comfortable with the changes.
The bill’s outlook is good, Rasin said, “but you just never ever know.” Ultimately the measure’s future will be in the hands of the voters. Both the House and Senate versions require a constitutional amendment, which would go before voters in the fall if approved. – 30 – CNS-2-27-02