The 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.