Just “A Piece of Paper?” : Domestic Violence Peace and Protective Orders in Montgomery County District Courts

In the six months since Court Watch Montgomery issued its first report, the County’s district courts have made several significant improvements to protect victims of domestic violence. For the first time, abusers are now regularly held in the courtroom after protective and peace order hearings until victims have a chance to leave safely. As well, for the first time, all victims and offenders can hear an audio introduction in English and Spanish that clearly explains how a hearing will work before the judge takes the bench.

Yet this six month period also offers new reasons for serious concern. During this period victims barely gained ground on several important metrics. Given that some 76,000 women in Montgomery County are likely to be attacked by an intimate partner at some time in their lives, these lapses pose an unacceptable risk.

Most troubling, during this period, three Montgomery County residents were killed due to domestic violence – including a ten year old boy. These homicides raise important questions about the efficacy of our county’s outreach efforts to victims that do not come to court, our peace and protective order process, and the county’s ability to keep offenders who violate protective and peace orders from committing lethal violence.

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