The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for December 28, 2020

Today on December 28, 2020, as we get ready to leave 2020 in the rear view mirror, 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.

Maryland Reenters Phase II Reopening of Courts

Original Story

What's Going On:

Courts in Maryland will remain in phase II operations until at least March 14, 2021.

Jury trials will continue to be suspended too, until April 23, 2021.

Only clerks’ offices will remain open for emergency purposes or scheduled matters in both district and circuit courts throughout the state.

Certain cases will still have in-person or remote hearings and the courts will continue to use technology like video or phone for remote proceedings, but it varies by location.

Anyone who has business with the court is asked to contact that location before arriving.

The rollback to phase II is a direct response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.

Court services had resumed in full back on October 5th, but following the Thanksgiving holiday COVID-19 cases began to soar, forcing the Judiciary system to fall back two phases in its five-phase reopening plan.

Why This Matters To You:

The pandemic has thrown yet another wrench into the judiciary gears and anyone who has matters in the court is affected.

Jury trials are again delayed causing many to miss out on the right to a “fair and speedy” trial, but could this benefit them if their trial cannot be held in the accepted amount of time?

Time and legal arguments will tell on that matter, however, in the meantime those legal matters will be delayed.

Now that a vaccine has been released and distributed, hopes are that the recent delay will be the last.

JC Law is working hard to inform all clients and our fellow Marylanders how the pandemic is affecting the states judicial system.

We are here for all your legal questions and concerns.

More About Maryland Court System Matters

DUI Convictions in PG County Tend to be Less Harsh Compared to Surrounding Counties

Original Story

What's Going On:

According to one local news stations investigation DUI cases in Prince Georges County result in lesser sentences that those of surrounding counties.

The station looked at cases in Prince Georges, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, and Charles counties between January 2019 and August 2020.

Their research found in Prince Georges of the 75 DUI arrests made during that stretch only one resulted in jail time, while an average of half of the cases in the other counties saw time served in jail.

Some see the lack of stiff punishment in PG county as a way of not taking the issue of impaired driving seriously.

Others say the pandemic affects those numbers as PG county courts have not closed roughly 40% of DUI cases from 2019 due to COVID-19.

These variations in sentences are not exclusively found in Maryland as it occurs across the country among a wide variety of offenses, according to legal experts from George Washington University.

Why This Matters To You:

Just because someone is arrested and charged with a DUI or DWI does not mean they go straight to jail.

There most definitely are usually consequences to breaking the law when caught, but getting thrown in jail usually happens after a trial.

That punishment could be a fine, community service, probation, or jail.

And, most first-time offenders are likely to receive lesser sentences due to the fact it is the first time.

Lots of factors go in to how an individual DUI case is handled and punished.

Having a good defense attorney who will work to resolve the matter in the best possible outcome can go a long way in keeping someone out of jail.

But, just because they did not face jail does not mean they were not punished.

Our legal system is designed to allow for the accused to face the accuser and defend themselves against those accusations, if this were not the case then all DUI cases would be treated the same.

Although, no one should ever drink or do drugs and drive, we do all deserve a second chance when we make a mistake.

Learn More About DUI Penalties

Maryland Attorney General Joins Fight Against Ghost Guns

Original Story

What's Going On:

Maryland’s Attorney General has joined 16 other states in going after the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) to regulate “ghost guns” as firearms.

Ghost guns are nearly complete firearms that require assembly and machining, but do not have a serial number to track them.

In 2015, the Gun Control Act interpreted that these kits were not firearms because they lacked certain characteristics, mainly full functionality when purchased.

The kits have become popular with gun enthusiasts as a unique way to build their own gun, while also offering a legal way for gun owners wary of the government keeping tabs on what weapons they own.

D.C. recovered zero ghost guns in 2017, but obtained 116 in 2019 with 3 of them used in homicides.

The lawsuit asks for the ATF to correctly interpret these kits as firearms under federal law. Virginia, D.C., and Delaware have also thrown their states weight into the lawsuit.

Why This Matters To You:

A legal gun owner who has purchased a ghost gun kit and assembled it into a firearm, could be considered a criminal if this lawsuit changes how the Feds interpret the Gun Control Act.

Legally anyone can make their own weapon if it is not intended to be sold and only used personally, it is your 2nd Amendment right.

The issue at hand is tracing and tracking these guns as it is not required to have a serial number since they are technically not firearms.

A fully assembled and manufactured gun comes with a serial number that connects to the owner of the weapon, so the government knows who owns what gun.

But, this is not an assembled gun, in fact, it requires some technical milling and additional parts in order to fully assemble the kit into a gun.

Law is a game of technicalities and nuance, so it sounds like an amendment to the 2015 Gun Control Act may be required for the Feds to see the law fall on their side.

For now, the law says ghost gun kits are not firearms, and until that changes they will continue to be legal to purchase and own.

More About Maryland Gun Charges

Howard County Public Schools Superintendent Accuses Parents of Cyberbullying

Original Story

What's Going On:

Howard County Public Schools superintendent spoke out against online bullying of the boards student member following a split vote on whether to continue with virtual learning through mid-April.

Following the heated vote some on social media have criticized the student board member, with some of the criticism stepping over the line and into bullying territory according to the school’s superintendent.

Last week two parents with children in the school district filed a lawsuit to strip the boards student member of their power to vote.

Arguing that a high school student with the right to vote on school board decisions violates Maryland’s constitution because the student is not 18 years old and is not eligible to vote in elections or to hold an elected office.

Why This Matters To You:

Bullying is an unacceptable behavior in our society today and when it happens the response can be just as fierce as the bullying.

Remember, cooler heads usually prevail.

Parents and students alike are upset that school is still virtual and students are not physically in the classroom, but blaming a student for not having a vote go the way they wanted it to seems a tad uncalled for.

Also, we as Americans have the right to voice our opinions, whether someone likes them or not.

Meaning the board, parents, and students can say how they feel about the decision to remain virtual without repercussions.

But, to use platforms such as social media to cyberbully or harass a student as an adult is over the line.

It is our responsibility as adults to teach kids how to act like one and those behaviors do the opposite.

Fortunately, in this situation the school’s superintendent called out the behavior before it went to far, and in the end it is just people being upset about school, which is how most parents feel during this pandemic.

This is a trying time, and we are trying to figure it out as we go along, so expect some bumps along the way.

More About Cyberbullying

Christmas Eve Armed Robbery

Original Story

What's Going On:

A local grocer was robbed at knife point Christmas Eve.

Howard County authorities responded to a call just before 5PM from the Perez International Foods on Pulaski Highway in Edgewood.

Upon arriving police learned that the suspect entered the establishment wielding a knife and demanded money.

The suspect made off with an undisclosed amount of cash and no one was harmed in the incident.

Why This Matters To You:

Armed robbery is never good for the victim or the suspect.

The victim must endure some trauma, while the suspect may have chosen to commit the crime based on bad circumstances or life choices.

Either way, it is a bad experience.

COVID-19 has left many on hard times and making decisions they have never once thought they would make.

Sometimes that results in resorting to crime to make ends meet or put food on the table.

Although, those decisions are not the best, desperate times can call for desperate measures.

When weapons become involved in a robbery the situation can become grave instantly.

Injuries, even death occur when weapons get involved in crime, making a simple robbery turn into attempted murder or even homicide.

Fortunately, in this case the weapon was never used, and the victims were unhurt.

Understanding what led to the armed robbery could allow for a more reasonable sentence for the suspect and for the grocer to see a need in the community they may be able to help.

More About Maryland Robbery Charges