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Lawmakers Introduce Host of Criminal and Traffic Bills

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.

While most of the criminal law bills focus on increasing existing punishments or establishing new criminal offenses, there are some bills designed to benefit past, current and future defendants.  A bill in the senate has proposed to end all criminal penalties for marijuana possession in lieu of civil fines, which will ultimately be passed in some form in the next few years if not sooner.  Maryland law currently permits a person to grow one cannabis plant but criminalizes possession of more than 2.5 grams of marijuana.  This is a major flaw considering an average cannabis plant yields more than 4 ounces of dried marijuana buds.

Another bill would allow an incarcerated criminal defendant to file for a modification of sentence regardless of whether a motion to modify was timely filed within 90 days of the sentencing hearing.  The bill would also do away with the 5-year restriction on when a judge can modify a criminal sentence.  There is also a bill that would allow for the expungement of past DUI and DWI cases where the defendant received probation before judgment (PBJ).  Unlike even the most serious criminal charges, Maryland law does not provide a means for a past defendant to expunge a prior DUI case even if he or she received PBJ.  This expungement bill would permit an application be filed 10 years after completion of probation.

The Blog will continue to follow the 2024 legislative session and will post an article as these and other criminal and traffic bills inch closer to becoming state law.  If you have been charged with a criminal or traffic infraction contact Maryland criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in jailable traffic offenses in state and federal court such as DUI, driving without a license, driving on suspended, exhibition driving, driving uninsured vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident.  He is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has successfully represented hundreds of clients charged with marijuana possession over civil, possession with intent to distribute and manufacturing.  Benjamin defends those charged with child pornography possession and distribution and all other sex crimes throughout the state, and is an experienced probation violation and warrant recall lawyer.


Proposed bill in Maryland would increase penalties for street racing, ‘exhibition driving’,

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