Articles Posted in Maryland Legislature

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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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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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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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thirteen-bags-of-marijuana-found-in-taxi-cabWhen recreational marijuana use became legal this past summer police officers were stripped of a major law enforcement tool.  Probable cause vehicle searches based solely on the smell of cannabis has over the years resulted in hundreds if not thousands of arrests in Maryland for crimes ranging from drug trafficking to transporting a firearm.  Many of these searches were suspect, as officers frequently performed them without ever locating actual marijuana.  In cases where police seized other contraband such as guns, narcotics or stolen property from a vehicle an arrest was made, and the defendant prosecuted.  The fact that the entire case began based off an error in judgment by a cop, or worse, a flat out lie rarely became a consequential issue.  When arguing a motion to suppress evidence in an automobile search a judge must only be convinced that the officer acted on a probable cause belief that he or she would locate evidence of a crime.  Probable cause is a much lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard to determine guilt or innocence.  Simply put, the deck was stacked against a defendant who was trying to fight an unlawful vehicle search based on alleged odor of marijuana.

The tide drastically changed when marijuana use by adults became legal.  Currently if an officer smells marijuana during a traffic stop, there is no reasonable means to conclude that a crime is being committed based on the smell of pot alone, as possession of marijuana under the civil amount of 1.5 ounces is perfectly legal for someone 21 or older.  Rather than face the prospect of hundreds of searches being overturned, lawmakers in Annapolis intervened and declared that officers would no longer be allowed to initiate warrantless vehicle searches based on the odor of cannabis.  More than six months has passed since this law went into effect, and it still doesn’t sit right with many lawmakers.  Back in November the Joint Republican Caucus stated it would attempt to overturn the law that now bars police from searching a vehicle based on the smell of weed.  The law was passed during the final hours of the 2023 legislative session and resulted in a host of republican lawmakers walking off the House floor in protest.  These politicians now argue that the search law prevents police from enforcing impaired driving laws, though this is a bit of a stretch.  Their argument is that police officers who smell the odor of marijuana emanating from a moving vehicle would not be able to stop said vehicle and initiate an investigation.  What this argument ignores is the fact that officers can still follow the vehicle and wait to observe signs of actual impairment or simply a traffic infraction.  Additionally, police in Maryland are still able to conduct a traffic stop if they observe vehicle occupants actively smoking marijuana.  Under Maryland law it is illegal to consume marijuana and alcohol inside a vehicle on a state roadway.  A police officer who observes active marijuana smoking inside a vehicle would have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop, and then may develop probable cause to detain a driver for a DUI investigation.

While impaired driving concerns are potentially real, as states where marijuana use is legal have reported a slight uptick in injury auto accidents and traffic fatalities, the bigger issue with the no-search law may be the effect on overall crime prevention.  Marijuana based vehicle searches have resulted in the seizure of hundreds of handguns over the years, and many of these firearms were taken from disqualified individuals.  As firearm crimes and the number of illegal guns on Maryland streets continue to rise police are looking for more ways to get guns off the street, not less.  The pervasiveness of ghost guns and the large number of juvenile gun crimes has also put the pressure on lawmakers and police to produce results.  We will of course follow any measures to repeal the vehicle search law and may post a follow up article once any bills hit the floor in Annapolis.  If you have been charged or are being investigated call Maryland gun and weapon crime lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in Maryland juvenile gun charges and adult charges for illegal possession of a firearm, minor in possession and violations of the wear, transport and handgun carry law.  He has successfully represented dozens of out-of-state defendants from places like Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina where the gun laws are far more relaxed.  He also defends clients charged with all other crimes in state and federal court, including possession of marijuana over civil,  CDS narcotics violations, theft, robbery and traffic charges.

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cannabis-1418339__340-300x290The Montgomery County Council is determined to crack down on driving while impaired by cannabis, but the method by which to accomplish this goal is still in still very much up for debate.  This week members of the Montgomery County Council’s Public Safety Committee met to discuss the issue of marijuana induced impaired driving and the meeting offered some insight on the challenges facing police officers who are tasked with enforcing Maryland impaired driving laws. There is currently no valid scientific test for marijuana impairment that compares to a breathalyzer test, which is used to test blood alcohol content in DUI cases.  Alabama is apparently one of the only states in the country that employs court approved saliva tests for cannabis concentration.  Other states have been reluctant to use this questionable methodology due in part to THC being tracible for several weeks after ingestion.

Without a certified scientific test for cannabis concentration law enforcement officers must rely on their observations of the suspect to prove impairment to a judge or jury.  These include the driving pattern of the suspect, his or her statements and standard field sobriety exercise such as the HGN test, walk and turn and the one-legged stand.  Officers need to establish evidence of impairment before requesting participation in these exercises, and skilled criminal defense lawyers can often pick them apart if there is no corroborating evidence such as a scientific test or an admission by the suspect.  Still, county officials are determined to even the playing field through the use of “green labs” where law enforcement officers can hone their cannabis impairment recognition skills.

Montgomery County is home to the state’s only green lab, where volunteers ingest cannabis in a controlled environment at the county police department’s training academy.  The labs have been around for a few years after originally being proposed by a veteran traffic enforcement officer in 2017.  Since then, the department has hosted several sessions, which start with the volunteers smoking marijuana, vaping or consuming edibles and then transition to an observation and testing period.  There is no indication that the volunteers are asked to get behind the wheel of an automobile, and realistically this could only happen under extremely controlled circumstances in a closed area.  These precautions would likely limit the amount of usable data, as there is simply no way to simulate driving in actual traffic.  The labs likely offer police a glimpse of how a person under the influence of cannabis may look, sound and act, though how this translates to recognition of impairment is up for debate.

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holster-648014__480-300x206The Maryland State Police recently issued an agency-wide memo instructing its employees to continue to uphold the HQL law, which was just declared unconstitutional by a panel of three federal judges last week in Richmond.  Citing the infamous 2022 Supreme Court decision out of New York, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Maryland’s Handgun Qualification License is overly burdensome and not consistent with historically accepted limitations on firearm purchases.  Gun lobbyists from the NRA hailed the ruling as a major victory, while state officials including the Governor and the Mayor of Baltimore City expressed displeasure with the decision.  When the ruling came down last week the Governor’s Office issued a statement expressing a desire to continue to fight for the HQL, but this week the Attorney General’s Office stated they are weighing their options.  Enforcing the HQL despite the recent ruling may not end up being much of a story, as the decision has yet to become legally binding.  The federal court has not issued a mandate yet and will not do so until 7 days after the 14-day window to request a rehearing has expired.  If the State does not request a rehearing the mandate to strike down the HQL process would go into effect on December 11.  The State could also seek review by the Supreme Court though based on the Bruen ruling out of New York it would be unlikely to prevail.

The Blog will continue to follow this exchange between the courts and a state that is predominantly anti-gun.  Some lawmakers may try to circumvent this federal trend to loosen the state’s gun laws by introducing bills when the legislative session commences in January in Annapolis.  While these bills can sometimes create a few news headlines for attention hungry members of the House or Senate, they will likely be shot down by more experienced members of the judiciary committees.  Local politicians have already tried to circumvent state federal law by enacting county ordinances that restrict handgun possession beyond what state law allows.  A recent opinion in the Montgomery County Circuit Court struck down a county ordinance that prohibited firearm possession within 100 yards of any public or private place of assembly including schools, daycare centers, libraries and businesses.  The ordinance brashly attempted to start the measurement from the edge of the parking lots of these places, which would have restricted firearm possession of a licensed individual while traveling on a state highway.  Another provision of this overturned law attempted to restrict possession of ghost guns by outlawing privately manufactured gun parts without serial numbers.  Once again, this attempt to circumvent state and federal law was struck down by a judge for being overly broad and more restricted than state law.

January is shaping up to be an interesting month in Annapolis, and we will be providing updates on all the criminal law developments, including those aimed at banning ghost guns and making it more difficult to wear, transport and carry a firearm.  If you or a loved one has been charged with a firearm crime, contact Maryland gun possession lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin vigorously defends adults and juveniles in all Maryland courts from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland.  He has won jury trials for offenses such as possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, use of a firearm in a crime of violence and possession of a firearm by a minor.  Benjamin also specializes in warrant recall motions, bail review hearings for gun offenses and domestic crimes and is an experienced Maryland violation of probation attorney.  Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 and learn what defenses may apply to your case.

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pistol-1350484_1280-300x200Roughly ten years ago Maryland lawmakers passed the Firearm Safety Act of 2013.  For the last decade anyone who wished to purchase a handgun in Maryland was forced to apply to the State Police for Handgun Qualification License or HQL.  There were several requirements for obtaining a HQL, with the first being eligibility to own and possess any type of firearm.  In Maryland this meant the applicant must have been at least 21 years old and have no prior convictions for an offense that carried a maximum penalty of two years or more.  Additionally, all Maryland HQL applicants must have completed a four-hour gun safety course that included firing an actual round and passing a background check.  The background check mandated that the applicant be fingerprinted, and any prior criminal or domestic violence related cases that show up were be considered.  There is no statute of limitations for prior convictions, as we have seen applicants denied for 40 and even 50-year-old criminal convictions.   Once the State Police approved a person for an HQL, he or she would be permitted to purchase a handgun provided the appropriate federal ATF forms are also filled out properly.  In Maryland an HQL did not give a purchaser the right to carry or transport a handgun or any firearm for that matter.  A person who is caught driving with or carrying a firearm without a concealed carry permit will likely be arrested and charged regardless of whether they held a valid HQL.  Possessing an HQL potentially helped in mitigation, but it was never a defense to a firearm possession charge.

Maryland Handgun Qualification Licenses have been much easier to obtain than wear and carry permits, but the 2022 Supreme Court decision in Bruen drastically turned the tide.  These days in Maryland a large percentage of HQL holders were able to obtain a carry permit if they completed additional gun education and safety requirements.  Lately we have received more calls about HQL denials than wear and carry permit denials, but as of this week we may never field a call about a HQL denial again.  On Tuesday a federal appeals court struck down the entire HQL policy, and specifically called out the background check requirement that has forced law abiding gun purchasers to wait a minimum of one month before being able to obtain a handgun.  The appeals court opined that the state failed to demonstrate any historical requirement that a citizen receive advance permission to purchase a firearm in Maryland.  The court stated a person should be able to purchase a firearm if they feel they are in danger and being forced to wait 30 days or more is unacceptable.  The wait time is exactly what supporters of the HQL policy have lauded as an effective tool in preventing gun violence.  The Governor and the Mayor of Baltimore have expressed displeasure over the ruling, while the gun lobby is celebrating a major victory.  Maryland is one of a dozen or so states that require gun purchasers to pass strict background checks, and this number could be zero within a year if the Supreme Court agrees with this decision out of the Richmond federal court.

The Blog will continue to follow this story as it will generate a ton of attention over the next few months.  The legislature begins its session in January and there are bound to be reactive attempts to keep Maryland a strict gun law state.  Federal courts can intervene when laws are deemed to restrict the Second Amendment, but the courts are generally not able to interfere with the harsh punishments that Maryland provides for gun offenders.  Anyone caught carrying or transporting a firearm without a license in Maryland still faces arrest and potential jail time depending on where the offense took place.  This includes federal property such as the NIH, CMS and the various military bases in Maryland where even state carry permits are not valid.  With respect to state cases, Prince George’s County, Baltimore City and Charles County often attempt to hand down the harshest punishments for gun offenses, but each case is different and there is always a legal argument that can be made in a gun case.  If you or a loved one has been charged with a gun offense contact Maryland criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in Maryland gun crimes such as wear, transport and carry, possession by a prohibited person, minor in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm at a federal facility.  He is an experienced juvenile gun lawyer and has successfully argued for the dismissal of adult gun charges in state and federal court.  Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 and learn how you may be able to fight your gun charge.

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annapolis-237078_960_720-300x195The 2024 Maryland legislative session is roughly two months away, but there are already signs that juvenile justice will be a hot topic when lawmakers report to Annapolis in January.  The Maryland House Judiciary Committee has already held multiple juvenile justice fact-finding meetings in advance of the legislative session and may hold others before the end of this year.  The meetings come in response to increasing outcry by the public, law enforcement and State’s Attorney’s Offices.  Many have been critical of recent changes to juvenile justice policies that limit who the police can arrest, detain and interrogate.  While there is no proven correlation between juvenile justice reforms and a rise in crime, many believe reform has directly contributed to skyrocketing carjackings, shootings and violent assaults committed by those under the age of 18.

One of the most impactful juvenile justice reforms has virtually eliminated juvenile interrogations in Maryland.  Anytime a juvenile suspect is arrested the police are required to allow the suspect to speak to an attorney before answering questions.  Many people are under the impression that police must seek permission from parents or guardians before speaking to a juvenile suspect in custody, but this was never the law in Maryland.  Police were simply required to read Miranda warnings to the suspect before engaging in an interrogation like they would with an adult suspect.  This presents numerous issues regarding a free, knowing and voluntary waiver of Fifth Amendment rights that is required for statements to be admissible.  It is argued that juveniles rarely understand the rights they are waiving, and thus cannot make a legally sufficient waiver.  This is especially true when the juveniles are under duress and face intimidation by law enforcement.  The legislature agreed, and now juveniles are rarely if ever advised to make statements.  Criminal interrogations were once the strongest law enforcement tool to locate co-defendants in juvenile cases and to solve past and even future crimes.  A large percentage of juvenile crimes involve multiple co-defendants, as teenagers spend most of their time out of the home with friends or classmates.  Since the summer, police officers investigating juvenile crimes have been forced to rely solely on evidence gathered at the crime scene, and through talking to witnesses that agree to cooperate.  As such, it’s no surprise the reforms have been blamed for the increased amount of felony juvenile criminal activity in Maryland.

Another recent reform that could face further scrutiny is the law prohibiting police from arresting a juvenile under the age of 13 for a non-violent crime.  We previously posted on an 11-year-old that was suspected of stealing multiple cars in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.  Critics of this provision believe any type of criminal activity can ultimately lead to violence, and not prosecuting young juvenile defendants for serious crimes establishes a harmful precedent.  The Blog will continue to follow juvenile justice policy as we head toward the next legislative session.  Rising juvenile crime rates will be a top priority for lawmakers as soon as they report to Annapolis, but it is unclear whether any of the reforms will be walked backed after just one year in effect.

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hammer-719066_960_720-300x225On October 1 the Maryland Redeem Act became state law, and now thousands of individuals can file to expunge prior criminal convictions that were once considered permanent.  The Redeem Act is a major breakthrough for those who have struggled to advance in the workplace, obtain professional licenses and secure loans or apartment leases.  It provides an avenue for prior defendants to apply for expungement in numerous types of charges, including felony drug cases.  In addition to adding more charges to the list of qualifying offenses, the law also shortens the wait time necessary to apply for expungement.  The relevant portion of the Redeem Act is codified in the Criminal Procedure section 10-110 of the Maryland statutes, though the section lists the crimes by statute number and not name.  It is advisable to have your charging document handy when checking to see if your prior offense qualifies, or you can consult with a Maryland criminal defense lawyer.

In this post we’ll go through some of the major changes to the expungement laws, but for a more detailed analysis about your particular situation, feel free to call Maryland expungement lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598.  The Herbst Firm handles expungements and petitions for early expungement based on good cause.  It’s safe to say that the drug laws have been impacted the most by the Redeem Act, as convictions for possession with intent to distribute are handed out like candy in the courthouses across the state.  Many a defendant has accepted a guilty plea to this crime to get out of jail or simply to close the case and move on with life, only to have it severely hinder personal growth in the future.  If the criminal defense attorney on the case did not successfully argue for probation before judgment or if a timely motion to modify was not filed within 90 days, the conviction used to last a lifetime.  Though as of October 1, there is hope for anyone with an old PWID or distribution charge, as an application to expunge may be filed 7 years after a time served disposition or 7 years after probation or parole has ended.  Anyone with a marijuana distribution or PWID conviction can file for expungement 3 years after the disposition or the end of probation or parole if applicable.

Felony theft and burglary may be expunged after 10 years, but other felony charges have yet to be added to the list of crimes that are eligible.  This includes motor vehicle theft, which is not one of the offenses that is currently expungable under Maryland law.  Gun crimes have also not been added to the list of expungable offense.  On the positive side, misdemeanor offenses such as CDS possession not marijuana, burglary in the 4th degree, malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct, prostitution, obstructing and hindering and various others are expungable after 5 years of the conclusion of the case or the end of probation/parole.  Prior convictions for domestically related crimes such as second degree assault and violation of a protective order are not eligible for 15 years.  If assault in the second degree or protective order violation convictions were not marked as domestically related, they would be eligible after 7 years for assault and 5 years for violation of a protective order.

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