christiani law

Domestic Violence and Firearms: Maryland Laws and Restraining Orders

May 31, 2024
Cyndi Christiani

Facing domestic violence allegations in Maryland can have serious consequences. Under Maryland law, not only can a domestic violence conviction lead to jail, but simply facing allegations of domestic violence can expose you to serious consequences before your criminal trial.

This includes the mandatory surrender of your firearms.

Domestic violence allegations can threaten your right to own a firearm in Maryland in three different ways. In many cases, the police can immediately remove firearms from the scene of an alleged domestic violence incident. Allegations of domestic violence can also lead to a temporary and final restraining order, and if you get convicted of a felony-level domestic violence offense or other “disqualifying crimes,” you can lose your gun rights indefinitely.

3 Ways Domestic Violence Allegations Can Threaten Your Gun Rights in Maryland

With this in mind, once you’ve been accused of domestic violence in Maryland, it is critical to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. As soon as you hire an attorney to represent you, your attorney will get to work building your defense and protecting your gun rights to the fullest extent possible.

Here’s more information about how facing domestic violence allegations in Maryland can result in losing your firearms:

1. Removal of Firearms from the Scene of an Alleged Domestic Violence Incident

Under Maryland law, the police can remove a firearm from the scene of an alleged domestic violence incident in many circumstances. When this is allowed, police can remove a suspect’s firearms immediately—without any court involvement. Section 4-511 of the Family Law Article provides that it is allowed if:

  • “[T]he law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has occurred;” and,
  • “[T]he law enforcement officer has observed the firearm on the scene during the response.”

When removing firearms in response to an alleged domestic violence incident, the police must provide the suspect with information about the process for retaking possession of their guns. The police must also safely store the suspect’s firearms until possession is restored.

2. Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (Including Extreme Risk Protective Orders)

Regardless of whether the police seize firearms during a domestic violence arrest, suspects can also lose their gun rights under a domestic violence restraining order. An accuser can seek a restraining order while the alleged abuser’s criminal case is pending, and restraining orders can be either temporary or final:

  • Extreme Risk Protective Order – An extreme risk protective order can require an alleged abuser to surrender any firearms and ammunition in his or her possession to law enforcement. It can also prohibit an alleged abuser from purchasing or possessing any new firearms or ammunition.
  • Temporary Restraining Order – Even if a judge determines that an extreme risk protective order is unnecessary, the judge may still issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting the possession of firearms or ammunition.
  • Final Restraining Order—Once a judge issues a temporary restraining order in a domestic violence case, the judge schedules a hearing to decide whether a final restraining order is warranted. Final restraining orders can impose long-term prohibitions on firearms (and ammunition) possession.

Restraining orders are legally binding, and violating a domestic violence restraining order can have serious consequences. Violating a restraining order is a criminal offense, and you can be convicted of violating a domestic violence restraining order even if you aren’t ultimately convicted of domestic violence.

3. Conviction of a Felony or Other “Disqualifying Crime”

In Maryland, you can lose your gun rights indefinitely if you are convicted of a felony or other “disqualifying crime.” Disqualifying crimes include violent crimes and misdemeanors with a potential jail sentence of two years or longer. Many domestic violence crimes are disqualifying crimes, including (but not limited to):

  • Abduction
  • First and second-degree assault
  • First, second, and third-degree sexual offense
  • Home invasion
  • Kidnapping

Whether (and when) you will be able to restore your gun rights after a domestic violence conviction depends on the specific crime (or crimes) of which you are convicted and various other circumstances surrounding your case. An experienced domestic violence defense attorney will be able to explain all of the risks you are facing and help you make informed decisions focused on protecting your rights to the fullest extent possible.

Protecting Your Gun Rights After a Domestic Violence Arrest in Maryland

Facing domestic violence allegations is an extremely serious situation that requires an informed defense strategy. With this in mind, here are some of the key steps involved in protecting your gun rights after a domestic violence arrest in Maryland:

  • Talk to an Attorney – As we mentioned above, you must speak with an attorney as soon as possible after a domestic violence arrest. Your attorney will be able to communicate with the police and prosecutors on your behalf while fighting to protect you and your gun rights in court.
  • Comply with Your Restraining Order – If you have a restraining order issued against you, you will need to strictly comply with the terms of the order. This is important not only for helping to protect your gun rights, but also for helping to keep you out of jail.
  • Determine What Evidence is Available and Prepare for Your Defense – Working with your attorney, you will need to determine what evidence is available (both favorable and unfavorable), and you will need to work quickly to build your defense strategy. At this stage, it is up to you to protect yourself, and you need to do everything you can to achieve a favorable outcome in light of the circumstances at hand.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation with Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Cynthia Christiani

Are you facing domestic violence allegations in Maryland? If so, we can help, and we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To discuss your case with domestic violence defense attorney Cynthia Christiani in confidence as soon as possible, request a confidential consultation online now.