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The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for March 29, 2021

Today on March 29, 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.

Mosby Ends Prosecution of Low-Level Offenses in Baltimore City

Original Story

What's Going On:

Maryland's State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Baltimore would no longer prosecute low-level crimes. These offenses include drug possession, prostitution, open container violations, etc.

After reviewing an experiment called the Covid Criminal Justice Policies, Mosby decided to make the policy permanent. Last year during the pandemic, Baltimore halted prosecutions of low-level offenses to reduce the number of incarcerated people during the public health crisis.

The results proved positive as the city saw an 18% decrease in people jailed, violent crime dropped by 20%, and property crimes fell 36%. Community groups and behavioral services helped them instead of jail time for people who committed low-level offenses. Due to these productive numbers, Mosby decided to make the change permanent.

Not all agree with her policy as opponents to her decision state it goes too far and only legislation sets policy.

Why This Matters To You:

Criminal justice reform is an ongoing subject across the country. Baltimore is choosing to implement reform through a halt to the prosecution of certain criminal offenses.

The city has been dealing with a black eye on its reputation for quite some time, and a move like this shows our local leaders recognize significant change is needed.

This new policy also begs the question, will those already convicted of these low-level offenses get the opportunity for sentence modification? By modifying their sentences and letting them finish them through services offered by the community groups and behavioral services, Baltimore jails' incarceration level would further decrease.

Now, this policy only holds for the city of Baltimore. Prostitution, drug possession, and open container prosecution still apply to all other Maryland counties and cities.

If you happen to need any legal help outside of Baltimore for these offenses, JC Law is here to vigorously defend your rights and get you the support you need and keep you out of jail.

More About Prostitution Charges in Maryland

Community Outraged Over Montgomery County Police's Handling of a 5-Year-Old

Original Story

What's Going On:

Body camera footage released last week by the Montgomery County Police Department shows two officers detain a 5-year-old boy who left school grounds, placing him in handcuffs, repeatedly stating the boy needs a "whooping" or a spanking, as well as verbal abuse.

The event happened back in January 2020. The child's parents filed a civil lawsuit against the police officers involved in the incident, the county, and the Montgomery County Board of Education. The parents seek compensatory and punitive damages for "severe emotional distress" caused to their son.

Montgomery County Police stated there was an internal investigation into the incident, but due to Maryland law, the findings are confidential. Both officers involved remain employed by the department.

Why This Matters To You:

After viewing the footage, many would agree that the officers' tactics were overly aggressive. But, they are not foreign to us. An A&E TV show called "Beyond Scared Straight!" uses scare tactics to deter teens from jail and a life of crime.

The caveat there is the people involved are teens, not kindergartners. Younger children respond better to tactics that don't include intimidation. Mentioning that Mom and Dad won't be happy about him leaving school and that he will face punishment from them is OK, but threatening to inflict physical abuse is over the line.

By using aggressive tactics against a young child, these officers opened themselves up to the public opinion's microscope. The outcry over the officers' conduct is only increasing now that the body cam footage is public.

Yes, the parents already filed a lawsuit because of this incident, but more may come from groups such as the ACLU and NAACP against the Montgomery County Police Department for civil rights violations.

Hopefully, a peaceful and fair resolution is reached. A lesson learned that our officers who serve and protect need better training on handling different situations they encounter as public servants.

More About Civil Litigation in Maryland

The Time To Make Sure Licenses and Registrations are Current and Renewed is Coming

Original Story

What's Going On:

Back when the pandemic began in March 2020, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced an Executive Order that suspended the need to renew or register specific State-issued licenses, permits, and authorizations due to the health emergency.

The suspension was to last up until 30 days after the Maryland State of Emergency ended for the COVID-19 pandemic. This order is now amended and is not valid. Governor Hogan changed the ending of the order to June 30, 2021. Any license, permit, or registration expired during the order is now required to submit renewal or registration no later than June 30th.

Why This Matters To You:

Millions of Americans (hundreds of thousands of them Marylanders) lost jobs and income during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Executive Order handed down by Governor Larry Hogan intended to help those struggling with finances not have to worry about renewing or registering. They were removing a financial burden for a time.

Now that a vaccine is out and many are getting vaccinated, states ease prior restrictions and start to get back to normalcy. Along with that comes an end to certain easements and restrictions.

If a driver's license, car registration, handicap permit, or other expired and hasn't been renewed yet, now is the time to get it done. Before, we were forgiven for not having renewed our drivers' license, but after June 30th, police again have the authority to charge us with driving with a suspended license.

Don't forget to renew the registration, too, because driving on expired tags gets your car impounded. The fine and impound fees alone are more than the registration fee, so you end up paying more and putting yourself in a bad financial spot that probably wasn't great to start.

It's a good idea to contact the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, either online or through a phone call, and find out if you're in good standing with your tags and license or if you need to get current before the end of June.

The end of this Executive Order also applies to other licenses like qualified handgun instructor license, wear and carry (handgun) permit, Maryland regulated firearm dealers license, and Maryland new resident registration.

More About Maryland Traffic Matters

Maryland Senate and House of Delegates Pass Legislation to Decriminalize Drug Paraphernalia

Original Story

What's Going On:

The Maryland Senate passed a bill last week to decriminalize the possession and distribution of drug paraphernalia. Along with marijuana pipes, bongs, and the like, the legislation includes hypodermic needles and syringes.

The bill's goal is to give the people who are using drugs to get clean and sterile products, specifically those who inject drugs with needles.

An identical bill in the House of Delegates passed, too. Both versions will head to the committee to work out any discrepancies between the versions.

Why This Matters To You:

The laws on drugs keep on changing. Marijuana legalization is growing in support across the country, with Maryland already adapting legal, medical use of the drug and Oregon recently decriminalized all illegal drugs.

This policy change means that those detained for these offenses will likely get referred to treatment centers and behavioral services. We are helping them with their addiction rather than just incarceration. Frequently, defense attorneys request these services for their clients instead of jail time, so they can get help and better their lives.

As we look at drugs and drug offenses in a new light, we see how beneficial treatment is compared to incarceration. JC Law commends our lawmakers for passing legislation to help Marylanders in need.

And until the bill is officially law, if you find yourself facing paraphernalia charges, let us fight for you and your second chance to make a better life.

More About Maryland Drug Charges

Former Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Faces Perjury Charges

Original Story

What's Going On:

A former candidate for mayor of Baltimore faces perjury charges, falsifying voter registration, and false oath. The candidate, a Baltimore police officer, ran for the Republican nomination and vowed to run city hall during the day and protect the streets at night.

The officer lied about his residency on the application to run, stating he had a row house in Canton. Still, state property records show his primary residence is actually in Essex. Baltimore requires anyone running for mayor to have a year of residency in the city and registration to vote as conditions to run for office.

Candidates for office swear under penalty of perjury that the information they supply as a candidate is correct and truthful.

Why This Matters To You:

We want our elected officials to be honest and truthful…attributes seemingly lacking with some. Lying about where you live to run for an elected position is counterintuitive to political leaders' purpose.

These are people from our community that we choose to represent us and the county, municipal, borough, city, or state. When it comes to the local government, we want fellow community members as our representation because they live in the same community. Someone living in Cumberland has no clue as to what is going on in the city of Baltimore, so why would they run for mayor of a town they don't live in?

Although Essex is not that far from Baltimore, it is a community. Running for mayor there is plausible. Perjuring yourself instead of simply moving into the community and following the election protocol seems a bit ridiculous.

Now, the officer wanted to make Baltimore a better place, so we cannot fault him for that. Simultaneously, a 10-year prison sentence for perjury is a bit excessive for this case. Maybe community service in Baltimore city is better punishment. It gives the man the chance to improve Baltimore through service to the city and its community.

More About Perjury Charges