Guns and Domestic Abusers: Protective Orders and Gun Removal in Montgomery County, Maryland

Recognizing the extreme danger of guns in domestic violence situations, and the risk to victim safety posed by the Rahimi case, we believe it is timely to report on relevant laws in Maryland and practices in Montgomery County to keep firearms away from domestic abusers through use of civil protective orders. Part I of this report presents an overview of federal and Maryland law governing domestic violence protective orders and firearms, followed by a description of the protective order process in Maryland and procedures used by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to serve orders and remove guns. Data on the number of guns removed from abusers in Montgomery County also are presented. Part II of the report presents findings on the use of gun-related best practices by District Court judges at protective order hearings, based on data collected by Court Watch volunteers and our review of the protective order service process in Montgomery County. Conclusions and recommendations to address these findings are included at the end of the report.

2023 Staggered Exit Supplement: Montgomery County District Court Increased Use of Staggered Exits in Intimate Partner Violence Hearings from 2022 to 2023

Staggered exits are a nationally recognized best practice intended to keep victims safe, allowing them to leave the courtroom first after a protective order hearing, with their alleged offender leaving no sooner than 15 minutes thereafter. When properly executed, staggered exits reduce the risk of confrontation between the parties outside the courtroom and enable victims and their families to get safely to their transportation home. Staggered exits can help lessen trauma and increase the likelihood that victims will return to court when necessary to obtain a final order. Court Watch has seen the use of staggered exits fluctuate by year and vary by judge, despite the fact that they are cost-free and pose no significant burden to the courts. In our 2023 supplement, we are pleased to report that use of staggered exits in Montgomery County District Court increased by 20 percentage points in the one year since we last reported on use of this best practice. We applaud the judiciary’s commitment to use of this safe and free protocol.

2022 Yearly Report: Protective Order Outcomes

Civil protection orders are intended to protect victims of domestic violence by directing abusive partners to stop harming or threatening them and, in most cases, to stay away from them for the duration of the order. Protective orders are one of the most effective ways to stop or reduce domestic violence when paired with a strong safety plan and proper enforcement. Final protective orders have been shown to lower the risk of contact with abusers, decrease threats with a weapon and reduce injuries.
In this report, we provide the overall rates of final outcomes in protective order hearings observed by Court Watch in 2022: orders
granted, dismissed and denied. We then look at these rates by individual judge. We also examine how these outcomes are affected
by the presence of in-court support for victims from both victim advocates and attorneys. Finally, we analyze whether judges ask
petitioners certain safety-related questions or refer them to a victim advocate before agreeing to a request to dismiss their case.