The 2022 Maryland legislative session has come to a close, and now the Governor must decide the fate of numerous bills that passed the House and Senate. In total there were 140 enacted bills this year, but less than 20 were criminal law related. There will be no groundbreaking criminal laws going into effect this year, though the marijuana referendum will steal headlines for several weeks in the fall, and again when recreational marijuana becomes a reality. Regardless of the lack of headlines, there are still multiple new criminal laws worth discussing. First, lawmakers took measures to beef up the penalty for a violation of a protective order by prohibiting merger for sentencing with the underlying act that caused the violation. This means if a person violates a protective order by trespassing, assault, harassment or other related offense he or she may be sentenced for that act and the protective order violation. The sentences could be consecutive, which means a first-time offender could face an additional 90 days in jail, and a subsequent offender could face an additional year. The law also reaffirms that a police officer shall arrest a person believed to have violated an interim, temporary or final protective order.
Another criminal bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year includes a provision that will limit the use of the spousal privilege in criminal trials. A person cannot be compelled to testify against his or her spouse for second degree assault and other misdemeanor offenses, but the law currently does not require the marriage to have been in effect before the crime. Apparently there have been cases where a defendant and a victim decided to marry while the criminal case was pending, and then assert the privilege. Somehow lawmakers caught wind that this was an ongoing issue, and decided to take a stand. When this provision becomes law, the prosecution will be required to ask a victim when he or she became married to the defendant. Lawmakers additionally passed a bill authorizing local animal control offices to recover costs of housing and treating animals that are seized as a result of animal cruelty charges or other violations. The law will limit the amount recovered to $15 per day per animal, which will also prohibit animal control from abusing their right to recover costs. Other new criminal laws include a provision where the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to notify the Baltimore Police Department within 24 hours of each person released from a pre-trial detention facility. This piece of legislation is another example of the state telling the Baltimore City government that it has been wholly incompetent in keeping the peace. The state and the feds will likely keep intervening with the hope that violence will one day start to decline in Maryland’s largest city.
This year lawmakers made an effort to expand the definition of the crime of stalking to include electronic communication and tracking. It is now a crime to use a phone or other device that can locate another person’s phone without their consent. Electronic communications currently are a means to establish harassment course of conduct and protective order violations, but now these communications can be used to prove stalking. Under Maryland law stalking is a misdemeanor, but carries a harsh 5-year maximum penalty. The Blog will continue to follow the new criminal laws passed this year, and will update as more news comes from the governor’s office. We will also continue to follow the marijuana referendum that is scheduled for November. If you have a criminal law question or have been charged with an crime or traffic violation, contact Maryland criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation. Benjamin specializes in domestic violence charges such as assault, protective order violations, harassment and stalking. He is available 7 days a week at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation and offers flexible payment arrangements for criminal cases. Benjamin is also licensed to practice law in Florida and the federal criminal defense in Baltimore, Greenbelt, Salisbury and the various military bases in Maryland.