The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for April 12, 2021

Today on April 12, 2021, read about:

Of course, if these or any other legal questions are impacting you and your family, then don't hesitate to reach out to JC Law for your free initial consultation with one of our expert domestic, criminal, or civil litigation attorneys.

Constitutional Amendment on Referendum in 2022

Original Story

What's Going On:

A change to the courts is on the horizon. Lawmakers in Maryland passed a bill to amend the state constitution by changing the appellate courts' names.

The names would be changed from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland. Since this is an amendment, it goes to a referendum where the voting public will decide on the change.

Why This Matters To You:

This amendment is necessary to provide increased clarity on where to file in the state. Forty-eight other states call their top appellate court the supreme court of that state.

This bill will lessen the confusion from outside our borders and with Marylanders, too.

More About Maryland Court System Matters

Legislators Push Through Police Reform Bills Despite Governor's Veto

Original Story

What's Going On:

Maryland legislators overrode the governor's veto of the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, enacting sweeping reforms for policing in the state.

The bills include a new disciplinary process, use of force, body camera use, investigations into police killings, surplus military gear, public access to records, no-knock warrants, scholarships for future officers, and higher payouts in lawsuits.

Why This Matters To You:

The police reform package is a direct result of the public distrust of law enforcement following a rash of officers involved in homicides, particularly George Floyd's death. The outcry for change was loud and clear. Although some matters didn't make the cut, a large amount did.

Laws will now hold officers accountable for misconduct committed while on the job, and a civilian committee will determine the discipline enforced. Trouble may arise as the public looks for justice, they believe is needed for the many police killings across the country. Vindictiveness could lead to harsh and unfair punishment doled out to officers not responsible for the past.

Frivolous lawsuits are another worry here, as higher payouts may lure some to file a baseless suit, wasting taxpayer dollars. We need that money for training and equipment the officers will need with the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 measures enacted.

It is on all of us to hold each other accountable for actions deemed immoral or illegal, so with the new laws comes new responsibility. We hope to see a brighter and just Maryland in the future.

More About Maryland Murder Charges

No Juvenile Life Without Parole Reconsiderations

Original Story

What's Going On:

Those convicted in youth and sentenced to life without parole will not have the chance for reconsideration. Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the Juvenile Restoration Act late last week.

Hogan released a statement regarding the veto, saying, "[the bill] pertains to juveniles who have committed crimes so heinous that they are automatically charged as adults… that require the most serious of consequences."

The legislature would have allowed juvenile offenders convicted on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, and other serious felonies to seek early release after serving 20 years of a life sentence. The bill would have abolished the life without parole sentence for juveniles.

Why This Matters To You:

This bill offered the opportunity for a second chance to many. Our governor believed otherwise. Unfortunate since police reform made it through on an overridden veto.

Lawmakers could have done the same with this juvenile justice reform measure, but they did not. A young, still-developing brain should have an opportunity to seek a second shot. They are still able to learn from their mistake and show remorse for the actions they took.

Some of these juvenile offenders were only accomplices to the so-called heinous crime, but under Maryland law, an accomplice is treated just like the person who committed it. Shouldn't these juveniles have a chance at sentence modification?

As we reform policing in the state, we must also improve the judiciary system that upholds the laws they protect.

More About Juvenile Justice Services

M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards Hire Drone Security

Original Story

What's Going On:

Unauthorized drones flying around Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium have become a problem, so the Maryland Stadium Authority hired Aerial Armor. They specialize in "security solutions for drone intrusions."

It is a federal violation to fly drones around NFL or MLB stadiums while a game is in progress, an occurrence that stopped a Ravens game last December. The MLB saw many drone flyovers during the empty stadium season of COVID in 2020.

Many people don't realize that flying a drone in this way is a violation. The security measures are primarily a way to educate drone operators and make sure they use them appropriately.

Why This Matters To You:

COVID-19 took a lot away from us, and we are eager to get back to normal. Thanks to vaccines, diligent mask-wearing, and social distancing, we are closer than a year ago.

Drones offer the unique opportunity to see places you cannot get to, and with MLB ballparks closed to fans last season, they were the best way for a fan to get an in-stadium experience. Doing a drone flyover or drop-in to the stadium is against federal rules. You must have a license and permit to do so.

The FAA needs to track all aerial vehicles to provide safe transportation in our skies. When rogue drones fly into air space, they're not allowed, problems occur. No one wants to be responsible for crashing a plane because they were out trying to catch a glimpse of their favorite baseball team.

Federal violations incur hefty fines and possible jail time, not something a casual drone pilot wants to face.

More About Federal-Level Charges

Baltimore Officer Is Latest Charged In Connection To The Gun Trace Task Force Scandal

Original Story

What's Going On:

Fallout from the Gun Trace Task Force continues in Baltimore. Accusations of another police officer lying to the FBI and stealing money land on a grand jury.

The officer allegedly stole money following a search warrant and seizure in connection to a large cocaine drug ring. The officer's money turned into evidence was allegedly about $10,000 short. The FBI questioned the officer, who denied ever stealing anything.

It is unclear how the FBI found the officer lying, but he is charged with theft of government property and making false statements to federal law enforcement.

Why This Matters To You:

Corruption has long been a problem in Baltimore's police force, but that problem has been met head-on with the charges levied against several officers. These are only allegations, not convictions. These men still have their day in court ahead.

This most recent officer charged denied the theft. Law enforcement's evidence against him is flimsy at best; a rough estimate of money taken during the search warrant and hearsay from an ex-girlfriend about a large amount of cash in a freezer.

That is a weak case, but still a case. There is no information on how the feds determined the officer was lying, but that could be found out during his trial. Until then, he is innocent until proven guilty by a jury of his peers.

More About Theft Charges In Maryland

Coconut Charlie's Arsonist Pleads Guilty

Original Story

What's Going On:

A Pasadena man pleads guilty to arson for setting off makeshift firebombs in an attempt to destroy video surveillance evidence of a fight the man had with his girlfriend. The fire led to the destruction of Coconut Charlie's in 2017.

The defendant faced charges of second-degree assault and theft concerning his girlfriend's alleged attack while on the patio at the bar. He was served with a summons on those charges the day before the fire.

The same security system the man set out to destroy ultimately led to his demise. He faces five years to 20 years in federal prison for arson.

Why This Matters To You:

Video is everywhere, from security systems to people's phones. There is no escaping the lens of a camera nowadays. And, a camera doesn't lie.

Very hard to defend when the alleged crime is caught on camera. Although images from cameras are not always clear, what you get is a general description of a person rather than a clear-cut id. In those instances, you have a mistaken identity defense; you look like the perpetrator, but that's it.

The article describes flashes of light before the arson fire started, but there is never a mention of a man seen leaving the scene. Although the police found DNA evidence, the accused was a frequent patron of the business, so his DNA would be plausible.

This gentleman decided against fighting it out in court and plead guilty. Either the evidence against him was excellent, or he chose to own up to the actions' consequences.

More About Arson Charges