Protective Orders and Peace Orders in Maryland: What’s the Difference?

In Maryland, Protective Orders and Peace Orders are both legal (restraining) documents that aim to protect individuals (or petitioners) from harm, harassment, or threats (from the abuser or respondent).

Both can be obtained by filing a petition with the District Court.  A Protective Order may also be filed in Circuit Court if the litigants have an active Family Law matter in the Circuit Court.  A hearing will be scheduled, and the judge will decide whether to issue the order based on the evidence presented.

However, there are several key differences between the two. The experts at Atkinson Law briefly explain to you how the two differ. Keep reading…


Protective orders are issued to protect victims of abuse or domestic violence from a current or former spouse, intimate partner, family member, or someone with whom the person shares a child. On the other hand, a peace order is issued to protect victims of harassment, stalking, or cyberstalking from another person, that do not meet the requirement of the protective order relationship. Mutual orders (in case of mutual abuse) might come into effect if both parties file for a protective order or a peace order.




To obtain a protective order, the victim must have a certain relationship with the abuser, such as a spouse, ex-spouse, family member, or cohabitant. In contrast, anyone who is a victim of harassment or stalking can obtain a peace order. For better assistance in understanding the eligibility requirements, you can contact an Atkinson Law protective and peace order attorney to guide you toward justice and well-deserved protection.

Rules That Apply

In order to obtain a Protective Order or Peace Order, a petition must be filed with the Court.  This may be done at the clerk’s office of the District Court or in the Family Law Clerk’s office in the Circuit Court in certain circumstances.  If the matter is outside of normal business hours, the Petitions may be filed before a District Court Commissioner who will issue an Interim Order if there is reasonable grounds that the prohibited contact occurred.  The Interim Order extends until the next session of the District Court and the Petitioner must appear before a Judge to determine if there are reasonable grounds for the Order to be entered.  A final hearing to determine if by preponderance of the evidence that the prohibited contact occurred is usually set out a week from the temporary hearing date.  At the final hearing the Respondent has the opportunity to present witnesses on their own behalf. Protective orders provide extensive protection to the petitioner and are more heavy-handed. These assist with the petitioner’s immediate needs and require the complete surrender of any firearms in the respondent’s custody. The orders also apply more specifically to familial bonds. However, peace orders are more general, designed to apply to someone other than family, mandate counseling for the accused, and put an immediate end to abuse.


Protective orders typically prohibit the abuser from having any contact with the victim, including:

  • Physical contact

  • Phone calls

  • Emails

  • Text messages

They may also require the abuser to stay away from the victim’s:

  • Home

  • Workplace

  • Other locations

Peace orders may have similar restrictions, but they are usually less severe.


Usually, temporary protective orders can last up to 7 days. The final order can be in effect for up to a year. Only in very specific circumstances can the order be permanent. Similar rules apply to peace orders – 7 to 30 days for temporary peace orders and 6 months for the final order.


Violating a protective order or a peace order can result in criminal charges, including fines and imprisonment.

Filing Protective or Peace Orders

You can file a protective order in a district or circuit court. However, peace orders must be filed only in district court. For the best outcome, you must should consult and retain an attorney.   At Atkinson Law, we have prosecuted and defended Protective and Orders and Peace Orders for close to 20 years. 

Seek Legal Assistance Today!

Still unsure what type of order to file? Going through a peace or protective order can be a frustrating, challenging, and emotional experience.  Our experience in evaluating the evidence, potential defenses and possible outcomes puts you position for the best possible result.. 

An Atkinson Law we handle the matter both locally (Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Harford County) and statewide.

Call us today at 410-882-9595 or schedule a consultation online to obtain the protection you need.