ANNAPOLIS – New laws that came into effect in Maryland on October 1 implement police and criminal justice reforms, address early voting, and strengthen protection for LGBTQ + people.
No-knocking warrants and police misconduct records – Anton’s Law (SB178) This new law places restrictions on the use of no strike warrants, including limiting them to daylight hours. The law also makes most police misconduct records available for public information law requests.
Police data (HB1248) Starting in March, local law enforcement agencies are required to report annually on use of force incidents involving a police officer and resulting in a monetary settlement or judgment against the agency. Agencies will report the age, gender, ethnicity and race of everyone involved – including the police officer – to the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services, which will share the information publicly.
Police Sexual Activity and Open Files (SB43)
A new law expands the group of people with whom law enforcement officers are not allowed to have sex. The policy will add victims, suspects and witnesses in an officer’s open cases to existing law, which prohibited sex with people in the officer’s custody.
Automatic deregistration (SB 201)
Any police or court record of a three-year-old civil or criminal charge that has been acquitted, dismissed, or resulted in a not guilty verdict should be automatically struck out by the courts of Maryland. Before this law, defendants had to apply for expungement, and many never did, according to the data. Now they will be notified by mail that the job is done. It is estimated that this process saves courts 75 minutes per case, but may require the hiring of new court clerks.
Shortened sentences for continuing education (HB89)
Prisoners may have their sentences reduced for continuing their education. A new law shortens a person’s sentence by 60 days if they obtain a diploma or certificate, but only if they have not been convicted of certain violent crimes.
Juvenile courts will treat consensual youth sexting cases – where the age difference between sender and recipient is less than four years – differently from child pornography cases. Instead of sending children to community detention for sexting, courts can order these children to participate in an educational program on the risks and consequences of sexting.
Reduction of life sentences for minors (SB 494)
Maryland courts are prohibited from giving a life sentence to a juvenile tried as an adult without the possibility of parole. A juvenile found guilty of an offense committed by an adult can apply for a reduction of a life sentence and the court must hold a hearing.
Gender identity as sexual orientation (SB220 / HB128)
This new law includes âgender identityâ as a hallmark of sexual orientation in hate crime cases. Gender identity is defined as the gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the sex assigned to the person at birth, according to a 2015 law of the ‘State of Maryland.
Elimination of âgay-trans panic defenseâ (HB231 / SB046)
The new law prohibits the discovery or perception of a person’s national origin, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation as a basis for changing the sentence from murder to manslaughter. This bill would nullify the “gay-trans panic defense,” a defense that says it was the discovery of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity that caused the murder and, in turn, , changes the murder to a charge of manslaughter.
Mental health for veterans (HB 605 / SB164)
Mandates the Maryland Department of Health to provide mental health services to veterans who meet criteria set by Maryland Behavioral Health Services. Creates a mental health education program that helps veterans and their families recognize and respond to signs of mental illness and addiction.
Pet Adoption for Veterans (HB 563 / SB338)
Veterans can adopt a pet without paying an adoption fee, under a new law that will come into force. The policy will require that public animal shelters allow a veteran to adopt a cat and dog every six months at no cost.
drug sales (HB107 / SB499)
People are no longer prohibited from disposing of, selling or distributing drugs through vending machines or similar devices. This includes over the counter drugs and some prescription drugs.
Pharmacists are required to inform consumers about a lower cost drug alternative to their prescribed drug or medical device. Pharmacists will also document that a patient has been notified in writing or verbally of the equivalency of the drug.
Mental health facilities and sexual abuse reporting
All residential treatment facilities in Maryland must report cases of sexual abuse no later than 24 hours after receiving the complaint. Cases can be reported to the Behavioral Health Administration, the Office of Health Care Quality, or child protection services. Currently, reports of sexual abuse must be reported, but the new law will add a deadline to discourage organizations from processing reports internally. The bill will require the Behavioral Health Administration to develop training for staff to help patients file complaints and teach them to identify sexual abuse.
Early polling stations (HB 206 / SB 596)
A new law that requires early voting centers to be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. for each day of early voting for presidential general elections. For all other primary and general elections, early voting centers must be open during the hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Additional early voting centers
Maryland will allow additional early voting centers in certain counties, depending on accessibility to minority groups, proximity to dense concentrations of voters, and accessibility by public transportation to ensure an equal distribution of early voting and maximize participation.
Balloon release ban (HB391 / SB716)
A new law that will prohibit anyone over the age of 13 from intentionally releasing a balloon into the atmosphere and organizing a mass release of 10 or more balloons. Violators of this new law would face a fine of $ 100 and be required to perform community service and / or watch an educational video. The bill aims to reduce the environmental damage caused by the release of balloons.
Cybersecurity (SB049 / HB038)
This law obliges the Secretary of Information Technology to advise the legislative and judicial branches of the state government on the state of cybersecurity software and ransomware, with a few exceptions. The bill was developed in response to a growing number of ransomware attacks, data breaches, and other cyber attacks in 2019 and 2020.
Affordable Student Home Loans (SB637)
Enables a faction of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to help current students or recent graduates of state four-year colleges and universities obtain low-interest home loans to buy nearby homes of their respective schools.
Flower Branch Act – regulators of gas services (HB 345)
A new law will require gas service providers to install new or replaced gas service regulators outside residential buildings and file a plan to do so with the Civil Service Commission. The new law is named after the Apartments in Flower Branch, where in 2016 an unvented mercury service regulator led to a natural gas explosion that killed seven people.
Establishment of the Governor’s Office for Immigration Affairs (HB15 / SB85)
A new office will establish service centers for neighborhoods with high immigrant density, which will cost more than $ 320,000 statewide in the first year. The publicly funded centers are responsible for promoting English language programs, enhancing access to career options, and facilitating pathways to citizenship. The office will also set up a multilingual hotline and website to help with these services, as well as to report crime and fraud; local centers should use these reports to help fight immigrant crime.