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splatter-paint-2165225_1280-300x169The Maryland State Police recently reported the arrest of a 39-year-old Ohio man after an alleged road rage incident on I-70 in Howard County.  According to the MSP press release a man called 9-1-1 to report that another motorist pointed a firearm in his direction while traveling westbound on I-70 in Western Howard County.  The alleged victim was able to provide a description of the vehicle and the license plate number.  Troopers eventually located the suspect’s vehicle traveling through Frederick and initiated a traffic stop.  During the traffic stop the driver admitted to officers that he pointed a paintball pistol at the victim and provided said pistol to the the troopers.  The man was arrested on the scene.  Troopers then consulted with the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office to determine the appropriate charges and were informed that a felony assault was appropriate under the circumstances.

The Ohio man was also charged with three additional misdemeanors for assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct.  He was taken to the Howard County Department of Corrections in Jessup where he was later released by a District Court Commissioner on a $10,000 unsecured bail.  He does not have a trial date yet because the District Court does not have jurisdiction over the felony assault.  The State will have to indict the defendant or file a criminal information in the Circuit Court for Howard County if they remain committed to pursuing the felony.  Otherwise, the case will be set for trial in the district court in Ellicott City.

The decision to charge the man with first-degree assault is curious to say the least.  Under Maryland criminal law 3-202 felony assault in the first degree is defined as intentionally causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another, committing an assault with a firearm or intentionally strangling another.  A paintball gun does not meet the definition of a firearm under the criminal code or the public safety code as the paintballs are ejected by compressed air rather than an explosive such as gun powder.  The same is true for BB guns and other air guns, which are considered dangerous weapons but not firearms.  Obviously, there was no strangulation in this case, so the State would have to believe it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant attempted to cause serious physical injury to the victim in order to support the felony first-degree assault charge.  While the MSP press release did not specifically state what happened during the alleged road rage, there likely must have been some testimony from the victim that the defendant used his vehicle in an overly aggressive manner.  We have seen numerous cases where a driver is charged with first-degree assault for attempting to hit a person with his or her vehicle, and a moving vehicle can clearly cause serious bodily injury if used as a weapon.  The State could potentially have a case under these circumstances, though a lesser charge is likely more appropriate under these.

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handcuffs-2102488__480-300x169The Maryland State Department of Education keeps detailed records of all school related arrests, and since the 2015-2016 academic school year has released an annual report with detailed data from all 24 state jurisdictions.  The reports covers arrests made on school grounds or during off-campus school activities such as sporting events and performances.  It also includes arrests made for an incident that may have occurred on a school bus or other school sponsored transportation.  Most of the individuals involved in these incidents are juveniles, which means they can technically be arrested without being handcuffed and taken away.  The data includes both physical arrests where the student is actually taken away in cuffs, and paper arrests where an officer initiates a referral or request for charges to the Department of Juvenile Services.  Some of the main takeaways from the report are that overall school arrests declined significantly, and that School Resource Officers in Wicomico County are not shy about using their arrest powers.

Last school year there were 1,568 school arrests effectuated compared to 2,187 in the 2021-2022 academic year.  This represents a significant decline, especially when factoring in that school attendance was likely up as things began to return to normal following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the results of the annual report are informative, they must be taken with a grain of salt due to the fact that arrests are within the discretion of the SRO.  For example, a fight in a Howard County school may commonly result in internal discipline of the students involved, while the same fight at a Wicomico County school seems to commonly end in an arrest.  In fact, there were 72 students arrested in Wicomico County schools for fighting last school year, which is almost three times more than the 26 total arrests in Baltimore City Public Schools.  Wicomico County reported 204 total arrests in the 2022-2023 academic school year, followed by 175 in St. Mary’s County.  Calvert County reported 168 arrests, which means the top three counties in arrests are also some of the smallest by total enrollment.  Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Harford County and Washington County were the only other school districts that reported triple digit student arrests last year.  Queen Anne’s County was the only jurisdiction with zero arrests, and Kent, Allegany and Garrett counties had single digit arrests.

Fighting was by far the most common reason for student arrests during the academic year, and these students were likely charged with assault in the first or second degree or affray, which means participating in a fight or disturbance.  There were 222 drug related arrests last year in schools and 28 firearm arrests.  120 students were arrested for possessing other types of weapons and 18 for false bomb threats.  Other crimes with more than a handful of arrests include destruction of property, theft, and trespassing.  Most of the students charged will likely be able to have their cases resolved at intake, though the more serious offenses such as firearm possession, sexual assault and first-degree assault will end up with juvenile delinquency petitions being filed.  If your child has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense anywhere in the state, contact Maryland juvenile crimes attorney Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in defending assault charges, CDS drug offenses and firearm offenses for juveniles and adults of all ages.  He has successfully handled numerous school firearm offenses and all other delinquency petitions such as detention hearings.  Benjamin also appears at intake hearings where cases can be closed prior to being filed in court.  He is available 7 days a week at 410-207-2598 and offers flexible payment plans in all cases.
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technology-2500010__480-300x200Carroll County Deputy Sheriffs recently arrested multiple individuals after an investigation of an alleged retail burglary turned into a multi-jurisdictional high-speed chase.  The incident began when a concerned citizen called police upon observing a suspicious U-Haul van that was parked at a residence in Westminster.  The van’s registration plate was apparently covered by a piece of cardboard.  Officers were unable to immediately locate the vehicle, though a short time later it was observed in a retail store parking lot where several individuals were seen walking from the area of the vehicle to and from the store.  Police surveilled the vehicle and the individuals and then decided to pursue the van as it pulled out of the store parking lot.  A traffic stop was initiated, and officers ordered the driver out of the vehicle, but he allegedly refused and sped away.   As the driver, a 56-year-old man from Baltimore, drove off he allegedly struck a deputy sheriff on the arm with his vehicle.

Deputies initially chased the van as it weaved in an out of traffic, allegedly reaching speeds of over 90 miles per hour.  At some point the chase was terminated due to safety concerns for the public and the officers.  Baltimore County Police was notified that the van was headed toward its jurisdiction and provided air support to locate the vehicle.  Air support by way of helicopter is not always available in the event of a terminated high-speed chase, but due to the allegation of a felony assault on an officer the helicopter team jumped into action.  The driver of the vehicle was ultimately detained and arrested in Baltimore City, and then transported to the Carroll County Detention Center.  He was charged with resisting arrest, 4th degree burglary, assault in the second degree and assault in the first degree.  A District Court Commissioner held the defendant without bail at his initial appearance, and a judge ordered the same during bail review.  His next court appearance is scheduled for mid-June, though this preliminary hearing will likely be cancelled in favor of an indictment or information filed with the Circuit Court.

The defendant also faces a slew of traffic infractions for fleeing, running a red light, negligent and reckless driving, and multiple speeding tickets.  Two other individuals were charged in the incident, but with less serious charges than the driver of the van.  One was charged with 4thdegree burglary and released by the commissioner shortly after his arrest.  The other was charged with 4th degree burglary and fraudulent personal identification to avoid prosecution under Maryland code 8-301.  This offense, which carries up to 1 year in jail, is often charged with false statement to an officer, though false statement to an officer carries a 6-month maximum penalty under 9-501.  The false statement cost the defendant a night of freedom, as he was held without bail by the commissioner and released by a judge the next day.

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monitor-1307227__480-300x212Baltimore County Police recently secured an arrest warrant for Pikesville High School’s former athletic director, and he was arrested at BWI Airport just one day after the District Court Commissioner signed the warrant.  The defendant was taken in for questioning by TSA after attempting to travel to Houston with a firearm when an issue arose regarding the way the gun was packed.  Law enforcement noticed the warrant while dealing with the firearm and placed the defendant into custody.  He was released later that day on an unsecured bond, which means he was not required to pay a bail bondsman.  In Maryland unsecured bonds only become due if the defendant fails to appear in court, and even then, the State rarely pursues a judgment.  The defendant faces charges for felony theft, disturbing school activities, witness retaliation and stalking, and has his first District Court trial date in June.

The charges stem from an incident back in January that made national headlines when a recording of racists statements allegedly made by the school’s principal began circulating on social media.  The principal denied making the statements from the beginning and police began to investigate the possible use of artificial intelligence to create the recording.  County police detectives consulted with an AI expert from Colorado who has been contracted as an expert by the FBI.  The expert opined that the recording was in fact AI generated and was not a particularly skilled fake, as there was an obvious presence of fabricated background noise.  In addition to investigating the recording, police also were also looking into the motive for the former AD to target his principal.  Police were directed to an open internal investigation where the former AD was accused of improperly compensating his roommate for coaching the girls’ soccer team at PHS.  The roommate was a coach at the school, but never coached girls’ soccer and was never properly contracted to do so as required by Baltimore County Public School policy.  A check for nearly $2k was drafted for the roommate by the former AD, and school administration was potentially in the process of a disciplinary proceedings.  The check written for the roommate is the basis for the felony theft charge and also for the witness retaliation charge, as the principal was the one of the school officials looking into the possible criminal activity regarding the check.

At this time no other individuals have been charged, but police are apparently still investigating.  Charges could potentially be filed against the former AD’s roommate if there is probable cause to believe he was an accomplice to the theft charge.  Accomplice liability for the individuals who spread the fake recording could also potentially trigger criminal charges.  The Blog will continue to follow this case as it presents a host of criminal law issues, including some that we have never seen.  The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office has never prosecuted a case involving an AI generated recording until now.  AI is a valuable tool, but when used maliciously could be quite damaging as we now see.  In the days following the release of the recording the principal received multiple threats and basically had his life turned upside down.  Police were originally investigating the defendant for reckless endangerment for placing the principal in harm’s way, though these charges are not pending at this point.

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drink-driving-808790__340-300x200In 2016 Maryland lawmakers passed a law requiring anyone convicted of DUI or DWI to enroll in the engine interlock program.  The engine interlock program requires drivers to install a “blow and go” device on a vehicle they own or operate, obtain a restricted license and then successfully complete a 12-month term using the device without violation.   Testing over the limit or failing to keep the device calibrated often results in the MVA extending the program, and thus costing the driver more time and money.  The law had originally been designed to apply to all defendants found guilty of impaired driving, but at the last minute was modified to exclude those who were granted probation before judgment or PBJ.  PBJ allows a judge to sentence a defendant without imposing a permanent conviction and the resulting 8 or 12 points on the defendant’s driving record.  PBJ is granted in more than half of Maryland DUI and DWI cases that result in a plea or finding of guilt, and with over 10,000 drunk driving arrests per year thousands of defendants leave court without a judge ordering interlock.  Assuming the governor signs the bill into law, which at this point is a foregone conclusion, the interlock requirement will become law on October 1.

While the interlock requirement contained House Bill 105 will be celebrated by law enforcement and anti-drunk driving lobbyists alike, its impact may be overstated.  Most Maryland drivers who are arrested for DUI or DWI already face mandatory interlock installation before they ever set foot in a courthouse.  The MVA enforces an implied consent law to drug and alcohol testing.  Anyone with a Maryland driver’s license can look on the back of his or her license to see a sentence that reads “Driving in Maryland implies consent to chemical testing for intoxication as required by law. Longer license suspensions may result from refusal to be tested.”  Those who refuse to submit to a breath or blood test face an automatic 270-day license suspension that starts 46 days after the DUI arrest unless the driver enrolls in the interlock program.  Those who submit to the test and produce a reading of .08 or higher face a 180-day suspension unless interlock is elected.  There are a few exceptions to the general rule that all Maryland drivers who are charged with DUI or DWI must enroll in interlock.  The first exception is if the driver takes the test and scores over .08 and under .15.  These defendants may request a MVA hearing and petition for a restricted, work only license.  Assuming PBJ is granted, a defendant in this scenario may be able to completely avoid interlock.  The second exception is when a defendant tests under .08, or as is often the case with DUI drugs, tests .00.  These defendants could currently be found guilty but avoid interlock if they are granted PBJ.  In sum, the defendants who will be most impacted by the mandatory interlock law are those who don’t refuse and test less than .15.

With over 6,000 impaired driving accidents per year, it’s no wonder that Maryland lawmakers are pressing for harsher penalties for all DUI offenders and not just those who receive a conviction.  At the same time, the MVA already enforces strict interlock laws that drastically affect drivers before they are ever found guilty of impaired driving.  If you have been arrested for impaired driving contact Maryland DUI lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in federal DUI cases, repeat offenders and out of state defendants.  He has also successfully taken on numerous juvenile traffic offenses and other aggravated offenses such as DUI with a minor in vehicle, manslaughter by vehicle and DUI homicide.  Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598.  Additionally, if you have a drunk driving conviction that is more than 15 years old it may be eligible for expungement come October 1.  Contact us for details about expungements anytime, or if you have a question about breath test refusals and what to expect after being charged with DUI in Maryland.

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police-850054_960_720-300x212Montgomery County Police recently announced the arrest of two women after a 6-month long prostitution investigation into multiple local massage parlors.  The investigation spanned three counties and involved the Anne Arundel County and City of Laurel Police Departments.  Accorded to the MCPD the two suspects owned massage parlors in Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County where sex acts were offered in exchange for money.  The investigation began back in October of 2023 at a “spa” in Kensington.  Detectives allegedly observed dozens of male costumers exiting the Kensington location daily and obtained confessions from multiple Johns.  Detectives also became aware that an employee attempted to bribe a Health and Human Services inspector during an inspection to prevent the business from being shuttered.

 In early March detectives executed a search warrant at the Kensington parlor and located one of the owners, a 34-year-old woman from Columbia.  Court records show the Howard County woman was arrested for sex trafficking, running a prostitution business and prostitution on March 7, and released two days later on an unsecured bond.  The other co-defendant, a 50-year-old woman from Philadelphia, was arrested on March 7 for bribery of a public employee and multiple counts of prostitution.  She was released the same day of her arrest on an unsecured bond.  Both defendants were charged by way of criminal information in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County where they will stand trial this summer.

 Under Maryland law the general prostitution statute prohibits engaging in prostitution and occupying a building used for the purpose of prostitution.  Any defendant found in violation of this law faces up to 1 year in jail and a $500 fine under criminal law section 11-303.  The severity of prostitution offenses in Maryland increases drastically for those alleged to have received profits from the business of prostitution.  Receiving earnings of a prostitute under criminal law 11-304 is still a misdemeanor, but the maximum penalty jumps to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.  Those who are charged with receiving earnings of a prostitute are typically also charged with human trafficking under Maryland criminal law section 3-1102.   Human trafficking and or sex trafficking has a broad definition under Maryland law and is considered a sex offense under Maryland law.  Anyone convicted faces mandatory sex offender registration for 25 years as a tier II sex offender.  It is currently a misdemeanor with a 10-year maximum penalty, though the violation becomes a felony with a 25-year maximum penalty if a minor is involved.  Anyone who participates in the business of prostitution, which includes receiving money, encouraging participation or harboring a participant may face human trafficking charges.
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auto-2378367__480-300x169The Maryland General Assembly recently passed strict laws aimed at eradicating street racing and exhibition driving, and now the Governor’s signature is all that is needed for the law to take effect as early as June 1 of this year.  House Bill 601 and Senate Bill 442 add significant penalties for drivers and other participants in organized highway speed contests and spontaneous racing or exhibition driving.  Up to 8 points will be assessed for any driver convicted of either racing or exhibition driving, and this jumps to 12 points if the act results in serious bodily injury.  Drivers and other participants in either of these acts could also face criminal penalties of up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine upon conviction.  The potential maximum penalty jumps to 1 year in jail if serious bodily injury occurred during the act.  While only drivers would face license points, other participants such as flagmen and timekeepers could face criminal penalties for being involved.

The two bills received an outpouring of support from law enforcement and local officials around the state.  Exhibition driving was also in the spotlight during the legislative session after numerous roads were effectively shut down in the Takoma Park area of Montgomery County in February due to driving exhibitions and unlawful races.  Ocean City even sent its mayor and other town officials to Annapolis to testify in favor of the bills.  Back in 2018 Ocean City lobbied for permission to criminalize exhibition driving in special event zones after the beachfront town had for years struggled to deal with non-sanctioned rally car events that would often result in impromptu races and exhibitions.  The situation in Ocean City became so out of control that the local government warned non-resident property owners to stay away during the pop-up rally events.

Exhibition driving is defined as excessive, abrupt acceleration or deceleration, skidding or smoking of the tires, intentional swerving from side to side, producing unreasonably loud noises, grinding the gears, using hydraulics to pop the tires off the ground or transporting passengers in areas of the vehicle not intended for people to sit.  Sitting on the hood or roof of a moving vehicle in motion will be classified as exhibition driving.  The definition of exhibition driving includes a large number of acts, and in order to prevent abuse of this offense by charging officers the legislature has created a section for affirmative defenses.  A driver could be acquitted from the charge if he or she demonstrates the act was reasonable and for safety purposes.  This is important, as we have seen numerous citations issued where drivers skidded or accelerated abruptly for legitimate reasons and not to put on a show.  Sitting on a car during a properly permitted parade would also be an affirmative defense, so police will not be out in force on July 4th ticketing en masse.

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Gun-evidence-box-300x225While Maryland lawmakers are busy hamming out new legislation to send to the Governor for a signature two current state laws are under scrutiny in the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.  These laws have been the subject of numerous headlines over the last few years, and now their Constitutionality is being put to the test.  The first law is the Maryland Handgun Qualification program, which requires all citizens to obtain a license in order to purchase a handgun.  The license, commonly known as an HQL, can only be obtained after a rigorous background check complete with fingerprinting and completion of a 4-hour gun safety class.  As a result of these requirements, purchasers face a delay of weeks or even months before they can obtain a handgun.  The HQL was originally struck down by a panel of three federal judges, but the State of Maryland filed for a rehearing and the program was brought back to life.  The State Police never actually stopped enforcing the HQL program despite the original ruling declaring it unconstitutional back in November.  Arguments are currently in progress, and a ruling could come down in a matter of weeks.  Either side could potentially petition the Supreme Court of the United States to review an unfavorable decision, but at this stage if the law is struck down the HQL program would likely be shelved or scrapped completely.

The second law that is up for debate in the federal appeals court is the assault weapons ban that followed with the passage of the Firearms Safety Act of 2013.  This debate is far more complex and involves a full examination of the history of the Second Amendment and the balance of gun rights against the dangers of military style weapons being readily available for purchase.  Maryland criminal law section 4-301 provides the definition of an assault weapon per Maryland lawmakers.  It lists more than 80 specific gun models including the infamous AK-47, Uzi semiautomatic pistol and AR-15 rifle.  These weapons have been widely used on Hollywood movie sets and unfortunately in a host of real-life shootings.  The problem with these weapons is not only their large capacity magazines but also their ability to fire numerous rounds within seconds.  This ultimately reduces accuracy and places innocent bystanders at risk if the weapon falls into the wrong hands.  A violation of the ban on possession of an assault rifle is currently a misdemeanor with a 3-year maximum penalty under 4-306 of the criminal code.  If the assault rifle is used in a crime the penalty becomes up to 20 years with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.  Use of a firearm in a crime does not require the State to prove that the gun was discharged.

The Blog will continue to follow each of these cases and will post a follow-up article when the courts have made their rulings.  If you or a loved one has been charged with any criminal offense, contact Maryland gun possession lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin has successfully defended more than 200 clients in gun crimes ranging from possession of a firearm by a convicted felon or disqualified individual to unlawful wear, transport or carry of a firearm.  He has represented out of state residents and juveniles charged as adults in cases involving possession of a firearm by a minor.  He has successfully transferred numerous cases from adult court to juvenile court, and secured the release of his juvenile clients.  Benjamin has also represented dozens of clients in federal court for gun possession at a federal facility such as the NIH or various miliary bases and has handled unlawful transfer of a firearm to an out of state individual.  Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation about your case at 410-207-2598.
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annapolis-237078_960_720-300x195The 2024 Maryland legislative session is creeping toward a close, but the details of numerous impactful criminal law bills are still up for debate.  No criminal law bill has generated more attention than juvenile justice reform, which has been a hot topic for several years.  Last year the General Assembly approved measures to prevent juvenile interrogations without counsel and prohibit children under 13 from being charged with most non-violent offenses A storm of juvenile motor vehicle thefts in the Baltimore and Washington Metro areas led to public outcry, which in turn forced lawmakers to reconsider their stance on children and crime.  Now, both the Senate and the House have passed a bill to re-tighten juvenile justice provisions that were loosened less than one year ago.

The main focus of the bills is to address crimes committed by 10–12-year-old children that were previously exempt from prosecution.  Specifically, the crimes being discuss are motor vehicle theft and firearm possession.  Both houses agree that motor vehicle thefts committed by children aged 10-12 should be handled by the criminal justice system, but do not mistake this as a call for these children to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Rather, the lawmakers are suggesting that these juveniles face a soft introduction to the criminal justice system through mandatory diversion programs and Children in Need of Supervision petitions or CINS.  The House bill would also require local school boards to provide alternatives to public school education for children who are required to enter on the juvenile sex offender registry after being found involved or delinquent of felony sex crimes.  This provision appears to be in direct response to public outcry over a 15-year-old who was found involved in a second-degree rape case and returned to public school shortly thereafter.  To sum it up, there will be juvenile justice reform in 2024 that aims to roll back some of the recent changes.  We will post a follow up article after the General Assembly agrees on a conglomerate proposal to send the Governor.

Juvenile justice has dominated the headlines, but there are other criminal law bills that may become law within the next year.  Proposals to allow shielding or expungement of first offense Maryland DUI and DWI cases has gained some traction.  Shielding or expunging would require a probation before judgment (PBJ) disposition and have a wait time of 3-5 years after probation was completed.  Under Maryland law DUI is the unique offense that is not expungable even with a PBJ.  Some lawmakers are also pushing to strengthen Maryland animal cruelty and child pornography laws but allowing for increased punishments in certain circumstances.  Animal abuse and child pornography have always been hot button topics for lawmakers, and in many cases, it can be argued that defendants charged with these crimes are treated disproportionally harshly.

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bmw-1045050__480-300x225The 2024 legislative session is about halfway through, and Maryland lawmakers are currently debating dozens of criminal and traffic bills that would become law as early as June 1.   One bill gaining a decent amount of attention is a measure introduced in both houses to criminalize exhibition driving throughout the state.  Exhibition driving is defined as operating a vehicle in a crowd or large gathering in a manner that includes abrupt acceleration or deceleration, skidding, squealing or smoking tires, or swerving a vehicle from side to side.  Those familiar with the Blog are well aware that Ocean City has enforced exhibition driving laws in so called “special event zones” in Worcester County for the last two years.  Officials say the law, which carries up to 1 year in jail, has reduced the number of exhibition driving incidents.  While serving a year in jail for exhibition driving is not a realistic punishment save for the most egregious cases, the simple threat of being arrested has proven to be a major deterrent for Ocean City visitors looking to show off their driving skills on Coastal Highway.

Lawmakers are hoping for the same deterrent effect from Senate Bill 442 and its companion House Bill 601.  If enacted the law would add points and criminal penalties for exhibition driving under 16-402 and 21-1116 of the Maryland Transportation Code.  A conviction for exhibition driving would add 8 points to a person’s license and 12 if there was an injury.  Criminal penalties would include a jail sentence up to 60 days if no injuries, and up to 1 year if there was a serious bodily injury.  This bill would effectively end the special event zone requirement and would become state law in all jurisdictions.

Lawmakers are also attempting to strengthen Maryland child pornography laws by adding provisions that would make possession of more than 100 images or videos a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  Additionally, possession of any child pornography that depicts a person under 13 years old would be a felony regardless of the number of images.  Possession of child pornography is currently a misdemeanor offense in Maryland, though this modification would result in a large number of possession cases being filed as felonies.

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