The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for February 22, 2021

Today on February 22, 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.

Legislation Seeks To Reform Policing in Maryland

Original Story

What's Going On:

Maryland lawmakers are considering bills that would change public safety and policing in the state.

One bill seeks to end qualified immunity for police officers. Qualified immunity protects cops from personal liability or misconduct.

Proponents believe the current law oversteps protection since officers are immune to lawsuits or criminal charges when their actions are reckless, harm, or even kill private citizens.

The proposed law also raises the cap for damages paid to victims and allows revocation of an officer's pension.

Why This Matters To You:

Many see qualified immunity as a way for cops to be above the law. That is the main issue at hand as we’ve seen countless Americans be victims to a crime. But, no repercussions or consequences because the officer is “immune” to charges.

No one, not even an officer of the law, is above the law. Maryland legislators are looking to level the playing field by holding officers accountable. Baltimore is still dealing with the fallout from the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal.

Baltimore police officers allegedly carried out a campaign of robbery and extortion of drug dealers for years in the city. One example of officers abusing the power given to them by the citizens they are sworn to protect.

The age old saying, “Power corrupts completely,” holds true. Lawmakers believe by ending qualified immunity we will have a better checks and balances.

After all, we as private citizens face consequences to laws we break, so why shouldn’t the police?

More About Civil Litigation in Maryland

Legislators Look To Raise Legal Age To Marry For The Sixth Time

Original Story

What's Going On:

For the sixth time in as many years legislators will consider raising the legal age to marry in Maryland. The bill has failed the previous five times.

Currently, Maryland allows teens as young as 15 to marry in the case of pregnancy or birth and those 16 or 17 years-old just need parental consent.

The newly introduced bill requires Marylanders to be 17 to legally marry. It will also have teens undergo a judicial review process that would expose coercive and abusive relationships.

Even though Maryland’s attempts have failed in the past, 26 other states have such a law on the books. Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware (our state neighbors) have increased the legal age to marry to 18. Banning child marriages in PA, NJ, and DE.

Proponents of the bill say the majority of child marriages are between much older men and young girls. Opponents believe mature teens should have the right to start a family if they wish.

Exactly what qualifies as “mature” seems to be at the heart of the debate as to change the law or not. The bill awaits approval from the Senate Judicial Committee before it can move to the floor for a vote.

Why This Matters To You:

Marriage in America is an act of love between two consenting adults.

Through the years we’ve tended to agree that 18 is the age at which you are considered an adult. One can vote, go off to war, and make legal decisions about life without a parent. Up until recently many states even let 18-year-olds smoke cigarettes, but Maryland recently upped the age to 21.

If they are not considered adult enough to smoke or not, should they be allowed to decide to get married?

Yes, people mature at different rates. Some teens are wiser than their years. But, does that mean they are ready to make adult life changing decisions?

After all, over 50% of marriages end in divorce. And according to this article, 80% of minor marriages end in divorce. Breaking up is hard and with young love it’s even harder when unprepared for adult life.

Plus, as a parent we look out for our children and protect them from harm. A much older significant other is alarming and concerning to many parents. That age difference could also mean statutory rape charges are possible.

Clearly defining an age, we can agree that we are legal adults could go a long way in solving this debate. Legal to vote and die in war, but not legal to smoke or drink for that matter sends mixed signals.

Are we adults at 18 or 21? Or is it 15 since technically someone could get married at that age. Confusing indeed.

More on Child-Related Sex Charges in Maryland

Maryland Becomes First State To Tax Digital Ads

Original Story

What's Going On:

Maryland became the first state to approve a tax on the revenue brought in from digital advertisements. Last Friday lawmakers overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the bill, making it law.

Companies making at least $100 million to $1 billion a year will be taxed at a 2.5% rate, while ones that make more than $15 billion face a 10% tax on digital ad revenue.

Opponents expect legal challenges over how much governments can tax social media and tech giants. Arguing the measure could run amiss of the First Amendment and federal regulations.

They also warn that the cost of the bill could be passed down to small businesses that buy digital ad space. A sector already hurt by the pandemic.

State governments, like Maryland, see this legislation as a way to refill the coffers. Many states budgets are severely depleted due to COVID-19.

Why This Matters To You:

Death and taxes, the only guarantees in life, as they say. The government always finds new forms of revenue with taxes.

To keep and improve state run programs, infrastructure, and employees there must be a way to pay for it. To do just that, we pay our income taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, etc. We pay a fair share into the coffers to make everything run.

Maryland is now asking the big tech giants and social media companies to pay their fair share of taxes on revenue generated through ads sold in the state. But is that really fair?

Advertising is a cost of doing business. How else is anybody going to know what service or product the business offers? Especially in today’s world.

Digital advertising has only helped spread the word and message of companies further than traditional radio or TV ads.

Like the article says, the cost of the tax is passed on to someone, and that someone usually ends up being the little guy. In this case, small businesses.

With millions of small business owners struggling due to a global pandemic, digital advertising helps them stay open. Driving up the cost of an affordable form of advertising will only hurt, more than it helps.

Plus the law appears to discriminate, focusing on the large social media and tech companies, like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. The tax will not affect smaller sized companies. Why do only a few have to pay? Doesn’t sound very fair in principle.

The law has an uphill battle as challenges loom. So, the current law may look very different from its final version.

More About Maryland Business Legal Services

New Bills Seek To End Life Without Parole Sentences For Juveniles

Original Story

What's Going On:

Maryland’s 2021 Legislative session is in full swing. Lawmakers are considering a new bill that would abolish life-sentences without parole for juveniles.

The Juvenile Restoration Act also sets a standard for sentencing review 20 years into a juvenile’s term in prison. This bill is part of criminal justice reform. Addressing the inequity, irrationality, and racial injustice in Maryland’s legal system.

Both the House of Delegates and Maryland State Senate held hearings about the legislation. During the hearings, lawmakers added a couple of amendments.

One requires notification of the victim or victim’s family before a hearing for release. The other allows the state to enter evidence at the release hearing.

A recent report by from the Justice Policy Institute showed that Maryland has the largest Black prison population in the US. Roughly 30% of the state’s population is black, but the prison system in the state sees a 70% population of Black inmates.

Why This Matters To You:

Making mistakes and learning from them is a part of growing up, but how can someone do that when locked up since they were a child? Yes, some mistakes are graver than others, but this country is based on second chances.

Mind-boggling to learn that our state has the largest number of Black juvenile and adult offenders in the country. There is no equity in those numbers.

Juvenile offenders are not adults. A young offender may be in a bad situation and chose a wrong way out, but that should not prevent them from obtaining that second chance.

How can a young mind not fully developed be expected to mature in the prison system? We are not in disagreement that they should face punishment. But, juvenile offenders need different resources than do adult offenders.

Many of us can look back at our lives and think of regretful decisions. We learned from them because a chance to so was granted.

As defense attorney’s we fight for people every day, to give them an opportunity to learn from a possible mistake and be better people.

More About Juvenile Justice Services

Two Arrested and Charged In Death of Laurel Lawyer

Original Story

What's Going On:

Two weeks ago we told you about a fellow defense attorney, Brian Bregman, found murdered in his law office in Laurel, Maryland. On February 10th and 11th police apprehended two suspects and charged them in his death.

According to Laurel police, Bregman supposedly invited the two over to his law office/apartment on the evening of January 30th. Both suspects allegedly plotted to rob Bregman with many other suspects.

Both suspects are facing charges of first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, home invasion and armed robbery.

The investigation continues and police say more arrests are coming.

Why This Matters To You:

The mystery into Brian Bregman’s death deepens with two charged in his murder. It is still unclear the relationship Bregman had with the alleged suspects.

Were they friends? Was this supposed to be a potential client consult that turned in to a setup? And, why did they supposedly plot to rob him?

Most law offices do not have cash money lying around. Today’s digital world allows most transactions to occur electronically. Computers and some nice furniture are the most you’ll get any value from, so not really worth robbing, let alone murder.

From the sounds of it, a conspiracy occurred as police say they expect more arrests. Were the two arrested the actual murderers or were they just a couple in on the plot?

Tragic nonetheless as a fellow colleague lost their life. The details into his death grow more intriguing by the day. This truly is a case of murder mystery and who done it.

Since this case involves a member of the law community every precaution in collecting evidence and questioning suspects must be taken.

The light shines very bright on these types of murder cases. The need for a proper investigation takes precedence over a rush to convict.

More About Maryland Murder Charges