Some Criminal Justice Laws that Became Effective in Maryland on October 1st
Adapted by Susan Olsen from the Capital News Service
It can be hard to keep track of when different laws will become effective since there are various starting dates. Several criminal justice laws became effective on October 1, 2019 in Maryland. A ban on bump stock sales in Maryland became effective October 1st, which also was the two-year anniversary of the Las Vegas country music festival massacre.
Our “murder for hire” law (HB493) has been updated. “Stacey’s Law” states that if a person solicits or conspires to commit murder and someone dies, it will be considered first degree murder with no statute of limitations. Remarkably, this charge was previously a misdemeanor with a three-year statute of limitations.
Our new electronic harassment law (SB 103) broadens what constitutes electronic harassment in Maryland and toughens the penalties against it. A person who uses electronic harassment with the intent of inducing a minor to commit suicide can now be imprisoned for up to 10 years and/or fined up to $10,000. It builds off the original Grace’s Law, named after Grace McComas, a teenager who committed suicide in 2012 after “repeated and vicious harassment online by a neighbor,” according to a legislative analysis.
Violence against pregnant women was addressed in “Laura and Reid’s Law” (SB 561) which was named after a woman who was killed while she was 14 weeks pregnant. This new law imposes stricter penalties, including additional imprisonment of up to 10 years, on someone who has committed a crime of violence against a woman with the knowledge that she is pregnant. Laura Wallen, a Howard County teacher, had chosen the name Reid for her future child.
The Post-Conviction Review law (HB 874) authorizes courts to vacate a conviction if there is new information that calls into question the original ruling. The bill is rooted in the actions of the Baltimore City Gun Trace Task Force, where eight police officers were charged with crimes like filing false paperwork in 2017. Approximately 1,300 cases may have been affected, according to Legislative Services.
Gambling in Maryland is now decriminalized under SB 842. This includes betting, wagering and gambling. The penalty for such offenses was previously imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to $1,000. Now, gambling is a civil offense with no possible jail time. Running illegal gambling operations will remain a misdemeanor with possible jail time under the new law.
Now, under our hate crime law (HB 240), it is illegal to threaten hate crimes — not just to commit them. Threats are assessed the same misdemeanor penalty of a maximum of three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Hate crimes rose nationwide by 17%, and in Maryland by 35%, from 2016 to 2017, according to the FBI.
SB736 addresses child pornography. Computer-generated images that are indistinguishable from identifiable children younger than 16, and engaged in sexual conduct, now qualify as child pornography. Film, photo, video and “other visual representation(s)” already qualified. Drawings, cartoons, sculptures and paintings do not. Penalties are up to 10 years in prison and $10,000.
Now more people are eligible for jury duty (SB236). As reported by Ian Round, a jail sentence (or potential sentence) of longer than six months previously disqualified citizens from service; but citizens will now be disqualified for sentences of a year or longer.
Drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians face a maximum fine of $1,000, up from $500 (SB460). The fines will contribute to a Pedestrian Safety Fund which will be used for traffic calming, enforcement, and education.
The sale of a minor has been reclassified to a felony offense (HB 481). Under the prior Maryland criminal code, the trade, barter or sale of a child for money or something of monetary value was a misdemeanor with penalties not to exceed a fine of up to $10,000 and/or five years.
State law previously permitted the Department of Juvenile Services to house children as young as 7 in detention facilities with juveniles up to age 21. Maryland’s new juvenile detention law (HB649) raises the minimum age of detention to 12, allowing for the exception of those who commit violent crimes or who are at risk of fleeing the court’s jurisdiction.
Owners of handguns and other regulated firearms may be prosecuted for loaning weapons to individuals who they have cause to believe are legally barred from possessing them (SB346). This also extends to situations when there is reason to believe that someone may use the weapon to cause harm to themselves or others. Maximum penalties may include a $10,000 fine and prison time.
Maryland no longer can prosecute attempted suicide as a crime (HB77). The state previously recognized the act as a crime under English common law. There has been one conviction in the last five years. That defendant is serving a three-year suspended sentence and two years of probation.
The penalties for drunk and drugged driving offenses have become more severe (HB707). If you have prior convictions for operating either a vehicle or vessel under the influence, or if you commit a homicide in the process, there are now longer sentences and more costly fines.
Under HB871, forced marriage or sex trafficking will be a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine. Between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, 22 people were sentenced to 39 counts of felony and misdemeanor human trafficking in state circuit courts.
Our legislature worked hard this past session and grassroots action was rewarded. Murder for hire was addressed as well as cyberbullying, violence against pregnant women, hate crimes, child pornography, selling children, inappropriately loaning guns, sex trafficking, and more. If you worked on any of these bills or are particularly affected by them, you may want to send a quick thank-you note to your delegate and senator if they voted in favor of them.