The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for February 1, 2021

Today on February 1, 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.

Maryland Says No To Flavor, in Tobacco Products

Original Story

What's Going On:

Maryland lawmakers introduced legislation to stop the sale of flavored tobacco products. The ban would include the sale of menthol products.

Last week the Maryland Senate Finance Committee heard the proposal. The Maryland House Economic Matters will take public comment on the proposal February 10th.

Why This Matters To You:

It seems every year lawmakers put the squeeze on tobacco, either through increased taxes or in this case banning flavored products.

Smoking tobacco is not good for your health, but legal adults have the right to choose to smoke or not. Part of the benefit of living in America, freedom of choice.

Should our state government have the control to tell you what you can and cannot do with your own life and lifestyle? Granted, we live in a society of rules and laws, but do the laws need to control our choices?

The proposed legislation is meant to fend off possible ways to introduce a new younger generation of people to smoking.

Makes sense, but at the same time it penalizes those who may have grown accustomed to a choice of flavored tobacco products as a legal adult.

In the eyes of the law, juveniles cannot purchase tobacco products until they are 21 in Maryland (thanks to recent legislation increasing the legal age from 18 to 21 in 2019). At that point it is a person's choice as to what “flavor” they choose to smoke or vape.

Nobody is holding a gun to someone’s head and telling them to smoke, it is a personal choice. What’s next, no more flavored alcoholic beverages because they cater to introducing a younger generation to alcohol? Many more teens are killed in DUI accidents compared to smoking.

Teaching a younger generation about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs should be done, but after that it’s up to them to decide how to live their lives.

More About Juvenile Justice Services

Maryland Starts With Non-Profit Licensing To Begin Sports Betting Legislation

Original Story

What's Going On:

Sports betting will be here in Maryland soon, but all the details need to be worked out first. The referendum on the ballot for the 2020 elections only asked yes or no as to sports betting.

Voters passed the referendum in November and sports betting will include for-profit sportsbooks, but the first thing up are licenses for non-profits. Making Maryland the first state to require licenses for non-profits.

First step of many to decide what will be legal, who will regulate, and what the tax revenue will be with sports betting. The hope is to have everything ironed out by the start of the 2021 NFL season, but some believe sports betting won’t happen until 2022.

Millions of dollars in revenue are projected for the state once sports betting gets going.

Why This Matters To You:

First, there won’t be a need for any of those “illegal” wagers made between people betting on sports. Soon, Marylanders will have opportunity to bet without worry of repercussions from the law. (Well, as legally as the new laws will allow.)

Secondly, Maryland has an advantage, casinos. The state can quickly grant licenses to them and allow them to partner with online sportsbooks. Those sportsbooks can then offer their products and services to Marylanders.

When exactly that time comes is still a mystery, as lawmakers hash out the details of legal sports betting in the state. And, there is bound to be some pushback which too could delay the realization.

Gambling does bring problems, especially in the form of addiction. Fortunately, our state is set up to handle those problems as they were addressed with the casino legislation.

But as more legalized gambling is made accessible, there will be a larger need for help for those who succumb to gambling addiction.

If you think there’s something that needs addressed in the sports betting law, reach out to your local state senators and representatives to let them know your concerns or ideas.

More About Maryland Gambling Matters

Maryland Could Guarantee Counsel to Renters for Eviction Cases

Original Story

What's Going On:

Tenants in Maryland may soon have the right to counsel in eviction lawsuits. New legislation in the General Assembly focuses on the imbalance of legal representation between landlords and renters.

In Baltimore City eviction cases, 99% of renters had no lawyer while only 4% of landlords went without representation. Due to the disparity, city council passed a law last year guaranteeing a lawyer for tenants involved in eviction disputes.

The proposed new state law mirrors much of the Baltimore City legislation, guaranteeing counsel to low-income renters.

Currently, Marylanders are afforded counsel from a public defender in criminal or juvenile matters, but not for eviction cases. If this bill passes, residents who make 50% less than the state’s median income will have access to representation in eviction suits.

Why This Matters To You:

Eviction lawsuits are expected to spike following the COVID-19 pandemic as moratoriums on evictions end. Renters will need protections and help to keep roofs over their heads.

Federal eviction moratoriums end in March and Maryland has no comprehensive ban on evictions during the pandemic. Renters have access to federal protections and limited defenses offered by Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order, but still face the possibility of losing their homes due to evictions.

JC Law has fought for Marylanders for over 30 years and will continue to do so. The new proposed legislation gives renters a way to properly defend themselves and we applaud Maryland lawmakers for this move.

We have helped many businesses and individuals deal with eviction cases. Laws like these give our team the arsenal needed to protect the roof over your head and the business of real estate.

More About Maryland Real Estate Matters

Students Sue Schools Over COVID-19 Changes To Learning

Original Story

What's Going On:

A local Howard County Community College student filed a lawsuit against the institution claiming breach of contract and unconstitutional taking. Just one of hundreds of academic suits filed by students across the country seeking reimbursement of tuition, room and board, as well as other fees.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on all sorts of businesses and educational institutions as everyone scrambled to seek ways to keep them open. Many students are participating in virtual learning, the heart of the Howard County student's grievance.

The student claims they signed up for in-person classes and that contract was broken when classes went virtual back in March 2020. Legal precedent involving a pandemic’s impact on an educational institution’s obligation to provide in-person learning when it could be unsafe or against government mandates is lacking.

But, Maryland court rejected the students claims based on sovereign immunity and a valid property interest.

Basically, the student did not provide a written contract to prove breach of contract, nor did they prove that the tuition paid was unvoluntary. Because of this, the court dismissed the case.

Why This Matters To You:

Parents and students alike are frustrated by the current state of academia across the country. For many, that in-person classroom atmosphere is the most conducive to learning. Without it, grades and subject comprehension have dropped dramatically for some students.

Others have not found the transition from brick-and-mortar classrooms to virtual ones as daunting. Creating a split and rift between students and learning institutions.

It’s hard to place blame on schools as they, just like us, were unprepared for a world involved in a pandemic. The game changed with no notice and we all must adapt.

Does that adaption mean we have to lose money on education that may not work? Do students deserve a refund on money paid when that educational arrangement isn’t working?

What if the student needs to leave school due to the pandemic because they must help their family and need that tuition refund to do that? Questions that will need answering in the coming days, weeks, and months.

More About Civil Litigation in Maryland

Montgomery County Notes Rise In Carjacking During Pandemic

Original Story

What's Going On:

Montgomery County Police have noticed a spike in carjacking's. Law enforcement have attributed the spike to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nine such crimes have been committed in January alone, according to police.

County police noticed the uptick in carjacking's back in September when several food delivery drivers and take out customers were robbed while leaving their cars running and unattended.

Cops believe more people are doing such things during the pandemic and that opens the door for possible crimes to occur. Many of the suspects have been young and resort to violence when committing the carjacking.

Law enforcement recommends no one leave their car running, always lock your car, and if someone does demand your car to just give them the keys to avoid serious injury.

Why This Matters To You:

Our cars happen to be a very important piece of property. They help us to be employed, maintain contact with loved ones, as well as giving us the freedom to travel.

Having a vehicle stolen from your driveway or parking lot causes a major inconvenience. But, when you’re in the vehicle and someone uses force or violence to “jack” your ride it becomes a very terrifying ordeal.

The pandemic has led many to do things they would have never done before in order to keep food on the table or a roof over head. Our cars and the items left or kept in them are appealing to some because of the quick and easy money to be made.

No excuse for stealing, but it explains why these crimes have increased due to the strain the pandemic has placed on many.

Remember, be vigilant about locking your car and not leaving it running. Simple steps to prevent a major inconvenience.

And, if you can, see what you can do to help your community out during the pandemic. A helping hand could be all that’s needed to prevent another carjacking.

More About Motor Vehicle Theft Charges

NRA Backs Lawsuit To Overturn Maryland's Handgun Law

Original Story

What's Going On:

The National Rifle Association is backing a lawsuit brought by Maryland Shall Issue, challenging Maryland’s law that requires handgun buyers to undergo training and apply for a state license.

The suit is asking federal court to overturn the law on grounds it violates the Second Amendment. Supporters of the suit also argue the law was put in place to discourage law-abiding people from buying handguns for self-defense or other lawful purposes.

As the law stands, Marylanders who purchase a handgun need to fill out an application with State Police, provide a copy of their fingerprints from a third party, attend training and qualify with a handgun in order to get a handgun qualification license.

Applicants must also pay a $50 fee and wait up to 30 days for authorities to process the application.

Why This Matters To You:

Whether you are for or against gun control, anything to do with gun laws catches headlines. Maryland happens to be a tough state to own a handgun.

Bureaucratic red tape causes mishaps, delays, and backups for law abiding people to buy handguns. Not everyone agrees this is a bad thing, as gun control advocates believe the law helps citizens properly use firearms as well as keeping tabs on who and where the weapon goes.

Gun rights advocates see this as a hinderance to our right to bear and keep arms as guaranteed by the Constitution.

It all goes back to gun violence. Some do not want to deal with the violence gun crime can bring, while others believe they have the right to protect themselves from that violence. It really is a slippery slope as one can agree with points from both sides.

On one hand we use guns for sport, hunting, etc., and on the other side they get used for murder, mass shootings, and sexual assaults.

Hunting is good, it brings food to the table. Murder is bad, because it ends another human's life. Not one argument for or against guns is without debate.

More About Maryland Gun Charges