The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for January 18, 2021

Today on January 18, 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.

Despite Predictions Otherwise, Divorce Rates Went Down

Original Story

What's Going On:

A study out of Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research contradicts what most expected during the pandemic, divorce rates went down, not up.

After analyzing 5 states divorce and marriage statistics from March 2020 to September 2020, the research concluded that the US had an estimated shortfall of both marriage and divorce.

Not to say couples are happy, but appears they are staying together during the pandemic for practical reasons.

Divorces can get expensive, especially with custody matters, alimony, and asset division. Due to loss of jobs or daycare and school closures many are facing uncertainty and may be waiting until normalcy before making a big decision such as divorce.

Why This Matters To You:

It’s true, we really can get along with each other. At least for the time being, as we continue to wade through a global pandemic.

But, maybe playing the waiting game isn’t the right move. Some divorces or separations are not complicated. When there are no kids, property, or assets a divorce can be quickly taken care of with a minor expense.

The possibility of the pandemic causing a major strain and stress on the relationship is real, but what if time apart can lead to a better relationship in the future? Maybe a separation is right for that couple.

COVID-19 may have just interrupted the process, too. Jury trials are not being conducted, but family court matters are still going forward. The decision ultimately comes down to, “Is this the right time?”

They say timing is everything, so the time to have a serious conversation with a spouse may be now and not after the pandemic.

More About Divorce in Maryland

Former Community Liaison Charged With Perjury

Original Story

What's Going On:

A former community liaison to Baltimore City Council has been charged with perjury. Maryland State Prosecutors claim the defendant took payments from community groups, but she failed to disclose the money.

The payments go back to 2017 when she ran for a city council spot. She allegedly omitted those payments from the financial disclosure forms for the campaign.

Why This Matters To You:

Is this really a perjury case? The fact is, the defendant did not lie in court.

Perjury, by its definition, is lying in court while under oath.

Prosecutors claim the defendant lied about financial records while campaigning for a Baltimore City Council spot, but she did not lie while in court testifying.

It sounds more like a campaign financing issue, maybe embezzlement or possibly just an honest mistake.

Finances are a tricky business. Maybe she forgot that she received money from a group because there was not a recorded transaction, or the receipt got lost.

Prosecution bears the burden of proof. They will have to prove she willingly lied about the money and that the money was outside of campaigning.

Just because the money wasn’t reported does not mean she didn’t use the funds on her campaign. (Triple negative sentence!)

More About Perjury Charges

Maryland Prison Employees Charged In Kickback Scheme

Original Story

What's Going On:

Three Maryland prison employees face theft and bribery charges in connection to a kickback scheme involving unearned overtime pay.

Two of the employees were guards while the third worked as a payroll technician. The two guards were allegedly paid for overtime work they never performed while the payroll tech supposedly got a cut of the money for altering the time cards.

Roughly $60,000 is alleged to been stolen in the scheme. The indictment included text messages which prosecutors claim document the fraud.

Two of the three defendants have been released on bond, while the third is still awaiting their initial court appearance.

Why This Matters To You:

Working for a living requires a job and someone to pay us for that job. We agree upon an amount to be paid at the time of our hiring with the employer. Those payments can increase through bonuses, performance-based increases, or promotion.

We all want to make more money, of course. Normally to do, so we learn a new skill, change jobs, or switch careers. Sometimes our employers offer overtime hours, which lead to extra income.

Did these employees truly scheme together to work the system and defraud? Was the overtime worked?

These are questions the prosecution must answer to prove a crime.

The hours could have been entered incorrectly by the guards and the payroll tech had to adjust to correct their pay.

After all, people forget to clock in and out all the time.

More About Theft Charges In Maryland

Small Business Asked To Take Down "Open" Flag

Original Story

What's Going On:

A Cockeysville business’s "open" flag can fly no more. Facing a $500 fine and a court summons has the owner confused.

The flag is meant to let people know the business is open and has been out front for seven years, but Baltimore County told the owner she needed a permit to fly a flag in a commercial district.

When the owner went to get the permit, she was told it only lasted 60 days and the flag would then have to come down.

But, up and down the stretch of York Road where her business sits, there are dozens of businesses flying similar flags with no issue.

In the meantime, the owner found a legal loophole to keep the flag flying in front of her business. The flag now flies on her car ... while parked in front of the store.

Why This Matters To You:

The pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for business. Letting people know you are open for business is important.

All the quarantines and restrictions lead to questions about if a shop is still open, in business, or temporarily closed.

Having an open flag waving in the breeze out in front of the establishment is a clear indicator that business is going on.

They are everywhere! Practically every shopping plaza and strip mall has a few flapping in the wind.

COVID-19 hit small business hard and you would think that the county would want to help businesses stay open. Fining them and taking them to court over something as insignificant as an open flag seems counter intuitive.

Why then is one business not allowed to do so when others clearly are? Do the other shopping centers fall outside of the commercial district? And, why wait seven years before issuing a citation?

This business owner is one smart cookie. She dug into the law and found a way to keep that flag flying, for now.

Hopefully, the flag stays up without any further questionable reasons it should come down.

More About Maryland Business Legal Services

Ambulance Goes Missing From Medical Center On Eastern Shore

Original Story

What's Going On:

A Baltimore man has been arrested for allegedly stealing an ambulance on a joy ride in Dorchester County.

The incident happened last Friday evening when an ambulance was reported missing from outside of the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center in Dorchester.

Police located it a short time later when the suspect activated emergency equipment to move vehicles out of his way on Rt. 50 in Cambridge.

A brief chase ensued and ended when the suspect lost control and rolled the ambulance.

The defendant is charged with DUI, vehicle theft, drug possession, and other traffic related offenses. Maryland State Police continue to investigate the incident.

Why This Matters To You:

The good news, the suspect sustained only minor injuries and no one else was hurt.

Had a patient been on board the ambulance when it went missing charges against the suspect could be worse, vehicular manslaughter for instance.

How did this happen? Do ambulance drivers leave the keys in the ignition when arriving at the hospital?

Why was the ambulance unattended? And, who in their right mind wants to steal an ambulance, especially a county owned one?

Assuming the defendant was on drugs because they were on him when arrested, it seems likely he was not in his right mind.

For real, who steals an ambulance? Not an easy item to part out or chop up for profit. Plus -- it's an ambulance. It's not like you can't easily see it coming... or going.

More About Motor Vehicle Theft Charges