Securing a peace order

Carroll County: Westminster police officer case shows how new protective order law can work.

June 20, 2000

YOU MIGHT think a police officer would be among the most confident people in terms of personal protection.

But the police officer is also most aware of the various possibilities of danger, and of the laws that can provide at least a modest measure of added protection.

So it should be no surprise that the first highly publicized case in Carroll County of the state's new "peace order" law involves a local law enforcement officer.

Officer Niki Heuer of the Westminster police department got the court-issued protective order last week against Richard A. Ruby, a former city officer who allegedly threatened her. Mr. Ruby recently resigned as an officer after investigations of allegations he planted drugs on criminal suspects. Officer Heuer made one of the allegations.

It is important that the public be aware of this new law that provides for a court restraining order against persons posing potential physical harm to another. (The order does not prevent the filing of criminal charges, either.)

The peace order can be sought by anyone who has reasonable fears of threats, violence or harassment from another. It extends the civil protections that have existed in domestic abuse law to other persons claiming potential jeopardy.

Subjects of peace orders must refrain from contact with the protected party, from threats or communication and from deliberate proximity to the protected person. Violators of the court order are subject to immediate arrest, fines and imprisonment.

Certainly, the orders are not to be issued lightly by the courts. Upon showing reasonable cause, an initial seven-day order may be issued by a judge to the applicant. A hearing involving both parties is then held to determine if the peace order is to be extended for six months.

The peace order law, which took effect last October, offers all persons an opportunity for court relief from threat by another person. It is not a perfect protection but it can work in many cases.

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