October 1st Brought Some Changes to Our LawsEvery October, our legislature puts a whole slew of new laws into effect. Some of them, like the repeal of the laws regulating the temperature of crab meat for sale, probably don’t affect most of us (outside of now knowing that at one point, the temperature of crab meat for sale was such a big freakin’ deal, they passed a law about it). But there were a handful this year that I took a particular interest in, because my clients could be affected.

You can find the full list here, but I want to run down some of the myself for you.

First and foremost, know that they are “Revising, restating, and recodifying the laws of this State relating to penalties for violations of the Maryland Vehicle Law” – SB 165, Chapter 55. The whole thing is being revamped. We’ll talk about those penalties and changes are they come along.

In the meantime, here are some other big changes.

  1. If you are convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the penalty has been increased from three years to five years.
  2. Amber’s Bill became Amber’s Law. Courts can now place a GPS monitoring device on anyone with a restraining order for domestic violence, if the victim requests it.
  3. You can now file for expungement if you were convicted of common law battery, but you have to wait 15 years after you finished your sentence to do it. You can also file for expungement if you were convicted of marijuana possession.
  4. If you have a pet or an animal, and you don’t “provide the animal with proper air, proper space, proper shelter, or proper protection from the weather,” you can be charged with abuse of that animal. If you beat, torture, mutilate or kill the animal intentionally, you can be charged with aggravated cruelty. After this year’s debacle with the “Shotgun Shark,” I gotta say – I’m okay with this one. They also increased the damage awards for people who kill or injure other people’s pets via their own – you now, like dog fighting? – from $7,500 to $10,000. And is the vet suspects such activities or cruelty? He or she is now required to report it to the cops.
  5. They’re reviewing the penalties for people whose licenses are suspended because they didn’t take the court-ordered driving classes within 60 days, or who are behind on their child support.
  6. In certain cases, a victim will be notified if an offender is out on parole, or if his or her sentence is coming to an end – that type of stuff. They’re expanding that list of who will be notified, and for what.
  7. If you’ve been convicted if a drug crime, and you apply for temporary cash assistance or food stamps, the state of Maryland can no longer specify testing.
  8. Home invasion is now a crime of violence.
  9. The term “convicted of a qualifying crime” now includes cases where a person was on “probation before judgment for assault in the second degree if the crime was a specified domestically related crime.”
  10. Solicitation to commit murder in the first degree, or arson in the first or second degree, now has a 3 years statute of limitations.
  11. They made some changes under the Justice Reinvestment Act, too, “Requiring the Division of Parole and Probation to conduct a risk and needs assessment on inmates as soon as feasible after sentencing and develop a case plan to guide an inmate’s rehabilitation while in custody; altering the manner in which specified diminution credits may be earned; authorizing expungement for convictions for specified misdemeanors after 10 years, or 15 years under specified conditions; establishing the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board and the Local Government Justice Reinvestment Commission; etc.”

Changes to sex crimes laws

Okay: here’s some big news.

  1. They changed the statute of limitations for civil actions regarding child sexual abuse allegations. I don’t handle civil cases, but I think you should know that, even if your criminal case is decided in your favor, or thrown out of court for some reason, you can still have a civil suit filed against you. (HB 642, Chapter 12)
  2. Because Baltimore couldn’t get its act together with the rape kits, the legislature was ALL OVER that issue. There is now a new law “Requiring a specified health care provider to provide a victim of sexual assault with written information describing the laws and policies governing the testing, preservation, and disposal of a sexual assault evidence collection kit; requiring a hospital or child advocacy center to transfer a sexual assault evidence collection kit to a law enforcement agency within 30 days of the exam; prohibiting a law enforcement agency from destroying or disposing of specified evidence of sexual assault within 20 years of its collection; etc.” Pay attention to this one. If you were a victim of sexual assault, these are your rights to your information. If you are accused of sexual assault, evidence processing should go much more quickly, which means false accusations should be dismissed more quickly – providing, of course, that they don’t screw up the handling of the evidence. (SB 359, Chapter 158)
  3. People who allege they have been sexually assaulted no longer have to provide evidence that they resisted the attack. (SB 217, Chapter 160)
  4. If you are on the offender registry, you now have to tell local law enforcement 21 days, or three weeks, ahead of time if you plan on leaving the U.S. It used to be 3 days.
  5. If you were convicted of a sex crime by “another state or a federal, military, or Native American tribal court,” that information can be submitted so you face enhanced penalties as a repeat offender.
  6. They reclassified the names of the offenses:
    1. Sexual offense in the first degree is now rape in the first degree.
    2. Sexual offenses in the second degree is now rape in the second degree.
    3. Sexual offenses in the first and second degree have been repealed.*
    4. Attempted sexual offense in the first and second degree have been repealed.*

The laws themselves are not gone; they just changed the names. Call me if you don’t understand what that means, okay?

It’s a lot to take in, I know. So if you have any questions, or if you think you’re going to need some help, Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law is open and ready to serve. I’ve been a criminal defense lawyer in Annapolis for nearly 20 years, and I can walk you through the big changes. Please call 410.777.8103, or fill out this contact form for more information.

When you need help, just remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.