Vision: The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO)—which is uncompromisingly committed to accountability, professionalism and transparency—is working towards a future where community confidence in the criminal justice system is restored; violent repeat offenders are held accountable; and communities feel safe. During the 2017 Legislative Session, we will fight for laws in Annapolis that improve our ability to fight for victims of crime, identify and prosecute violent offenders, and restore trust in the community justice system.
Priority #1: Fighting for Victims of Crime
The SAO supports laws that help prosecutors deliver justice to the victims of violent crimes. We have successfully fought for longer prison sentences for criminals convicted of second degree murder and enhanced protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- SB217/HB429: Removing physical resistance as a requirement to prove a sex crime
- These bills establish that evidence of physical resistance is not required to prove that a sex crime occurred. Victims will no longer have to prove that they physically fought back against their rapist to prove that a crime occurred.
- SB349/HB255: Retaining rape kit evidence and notifying victims of rape kit disposal
- These bills make common sense improvements to the way rape kits are stored and disposed of in MD. Most importantly, they require all jurisdictions to retain rape kits for at least 20 years, enabling victims who initially wish to remain anonymous to decide, at a later date, to involve law enforcement.
- SB316/HB369: Admitting evidence in cases of repeat sexual offenders
- For the fourth consecutive year, State’s Attorney Mosby personally lobbied for critical legislation that would allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of a defendant’s other relevant sex crimes and bring our state’s sexual assault laws closer to federal rules. SB316/HB369 was part of the Governor’s 2017 legislative package.
- Shatia Lansdowne, Angela Wharton, Kiara James, and others shared their powerful stories of survival, while experts from Baltimore Child Abuse Center and experienced prosecutors from State’s Attorney’s Offices in Baltimore County, Calvert County, Carroll County, Wicomico County and Baltimore City shared the current limitations of prosecuting serial rapists. Several advocacy groups including the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, MCASA, Phynyx Ministries, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, and Maryland’s Chi Beta Zeta chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority lobbied for the bill. Over 3,500 people have signed a petition urging legislators to pass it.
- Unfortunately, after passing the Senate in 2016, neither bill was brought to a vote in 2017. The SAO continues to fight for this critical legislation and will be working with stakeholders and advocates throughout the summer to increase its future chances of passage.
*Interested in joining the fight or know a supportive organization? Contact Community Liaison Jessica Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org*
Priority #2: Targeting Violent Repeat Offenders
Nothing is more important than the prosecution of individuals who repeatedly commit crimes of violence against our friends, family, and neighbors. The SAO will leverage every resource— legislative or otherwise— to remove violent repeat offenders from our communities.
- SB224/HB294: Prohibits domestic abusers from possessing a regulated firearm, rifle or shotgun
- This legislation backed by House of Ruth is critically important to protect domestic violence victims from lethal abuse. Current law prohibits firearm possession by individuals “convicted of a disqualifying crime,” which includes a case in which a person received a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) for a crime of violence or domestically related crime.
- Under current law, an individual who receives a PBJ for second degree assault would not be prohibited from owning a gun despite using it to threaten their partner. SB224/HB294 closes this dangerous loophole by ensuring that individuals who received a PBJ for a domestically related second degree assault WILL be prohibited from possessing a firearm.
- SB826/HB1396: Imposing mandatory minimum sentences for repeat gun offenders
- Possession of an illegal handgun is a misdemeanor in Maryland. State law provides for mandatory minimums that the court must impose on repeat offenders; however, these sentences are not true mandatory minimums and can be suspended.
- The goal of this proposed legislation was to ensure that repeat gun offenders serve the mandatory minimum sentence without the option for parole or a suspended sentence. This bill was introduced by the Baltimore Police Department. SAO Gun Violence Enforcement Division Chief Charles Blomquist testified in support. Unfortunately, neither bill was brought to a vote.
Priority #3: Community First Focus -- Restoring Faith in the Criminal Justice System
- SB835/HB1362: Supporting all victims of crime regardless of immigration status
- SAO proudly supported SB835/HB1362—the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act—and submitted written testimony in support of both bills. Trust and faith in the criminal justice system is critical to its success—victims and witnesses of crime must feel empowered to participate in the system and protected against retribution either by their attacker(s) or their government.
- The Maryland Trust Act clarifies the parameters of state and local participation in federal civil immigration enforcement efforts to ensure that state agencies do not contribute to federal attempts to discriminate on the basis of faith, national origin, sexual orientation, and more. The act does not alter the criminal justice system from running its normal course. Unfortunately, this bill was withdrawn after amendments rendered it ineffective.
- SB207/HB166: Immediately forwarding charges against correctional officers to State’s Attorney for review
- These bills expand the definition of "law enforcement officer" in Article 2-60 of Maryland's Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code to include correctional officers. This statute—which already applies to educators, emergency services personnel and police officers—provides that any applications filed in District Court for a statement of charges against certain individuals must be immediately forwarded to the State's Attorney for review.
- Review by the SAO, and our colleagues’ offices statewide, saves resources throughout the criminal justice system. SAO submitted written testimony in support of both bills.
- SB215/HB471: Eliminating automatic adult jurisdiction for juveniles
- This legislation would have eliminated automatic adult jurisdiction for juveniles in cases of robbery, assault, and gun crimes. While the SAO supports efforts to reform the juvenile justice system and seek rehabilitation over incarceration for youth offenders, we support removal from the community, if warranted, in order to protect Baltimore City residents.
- Juvenile Division Chief Gavin Patashnick testified in opposition. Neither bill passed.
- SB409/HB1403: Authorizing the SAO to appoint criminal investigators with police powers
- These bills, sponsored by the Baltimore City Senate and House Delegations, would have granted the SAO the authority to appoint investigators with police powers, enabling the SAO to supplement the BPD in making arrests, carrying a firearm and serving warrants. Three other counties in Maryland already have identical legislation.
- Investigator Al Marcus and Director of Policy & Legislative Affairs Lisa Smith testified in support. Unfortunately, the bills were not brought to a vote in committee.
- SB545/HB1023: Enabling Baltimore City to appoint civilians to law enforcement review boards
- House Bill 1016, passed by the General Assembly in 2016, authorized jurisdictions to allow public participation on law enforcement hearing boards. Further legislation, however, is needed to amend the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights to enable the City to appoint civilians to the hearing boards and achieve the goals of last year's bill. Civilian participation in law enforcement hearing boards is critical to restoring trust and faith in the criminal justice system and improving public safety. The SAO joined the Mayor’s Office and BPD in support of this legislation.
- SAO submitted written testimony. Unfortunately, there was no movement on these bills after their initial hearing.
- SB790: Clarifying animal cruelty statutes to effectively prosecute and convict animal abusers
- This bill clarifies our animal cruelty statute, enabling prosecutors to more effectively prosecute and convict animal abusers before they have the opportunity to redirect their violence towards humans.
- ASA Wes Corning worked with animal rights advocates prior to session to draft this legislation and testified on the
- SB880/HB1390: Reforming the state pretrial system
- This legislation was created to ensure that pretrial release decisions are based on an individual’s relative risk, maximizing public safety and minimizing unnecessary and costly detention. It aimed to establish pretrial services for all jurisdictions in Maryland and ensure the setting of bail bonds within the defendant’s financial means, unless the defendant poses a flight risk or danger to society.
- Director of Policy & Legislative Affairs Lisa Smith testified in support of this bill. Unfortunately, the bill did not receive a committee vote. However, advocates including Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland and Job Opportunities Task Force ensured that competing and harmful legislation did not pass. The Court of Appeals recently revised the rules relating to pretrial release decisions, which state that the court will prioritize non-financial conditions
How Can You Help?
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Contact Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs Lisa Smith at Lsmith@stattorney.org or Policy and Legislative Analyst Shelley Spruill at Sspruill@stattorney.org for additional information about any of these issues or to find out how you can get involved in our legislative work.