In Maryland, domestic violence charges are governed by the state's assault laws. This means that even if your domestic dispute didn't result in any physical harm, you can be charged with assault. If physical harm did result, or if a weapon was used, you could be facing felony assault charges.
What Are My Options?
A criminal charge doesn't always mean trial and jail. Diversion programs can prevent you from being prosecuted or can be used as an alternative sentence after you've been convicted.
Domestic violence charges are often caused by underlying issues, such as drug or alcohol use or a lack of anger management skills. The courts are open to treatment programs that address these issues - often in lieu of trial or jail.
Common diversion treatment programs include attending inpatient or outpatient alcohol or drug rehabilitation facilities, anger management counseling, interpersonal violence programs, family counseling or parental education classes, or individual psychiatric counseling.
When Do These Opportunities Arise?
Diversion opportunities present themselves at several points throughout your case. The first opportunity occurs soon after arrest in the pretrial stage. You may be able to negotiation a deal with the prosecution to give you probation and treatment in exchange for dropping your criminal charges. Even if your case proceeds, prosecutors may be willing to offer this type of deal at any time before a final judgment - either by a judge or jury - is obtained.
If you go to trial, and are found guilty, there may be another opportunity to obtain treatment in place of jail. This is known as post-trial, or post-verdict, diversion.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you of when to take advantage of diversion programs, and will know how to best negotiate probation or treatment on your behalf.