The shift in seasons is not the only change coming to Maryland this October. The 2014 Session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis set the stage for a host of new laws affecting a wide range of areas from driving, domestic violence, detention centers, to the environment. So what exactly are the laws that go into effect on the first of this month, and what do they mean for Marylanders? Read on to find out more.
Annapolis Decides on New Rules for the Road
Several of the new laws in Maryland pertain specifically to drivers. “Jake’s Law,” which Sean Malone of HJM advocated for on a pro bono basis this past winter, stipulates that any driver who causes an accident that results in injury or death while they are talking or texting on their handheld cell phone is subject to a one-year prison term. The “Jake” of Jake’s Law was five-year-old Jake Owen, who was killed when a driver, talking on their handheld cell phone, struck his parents’ car. In addition to a year of jail time, drivers causing such accidents could also have to pay a fine of $5,000 under “Jake’s Law.”
Another rule of the road that lawmakers in Annapolis passed expands Maryland’s “Move Over Law.” Now, in addition to moving over into the next lane to clear the way for emergency vehicles (when safe and appropriate to do so), drivers will also have to move aside for tow trucks attending to a disabled vehicle . Both the “Move Over Law” and “Jake’s Law” endeavor to increase driver safety on Maryland roads.
Maryland Marijuana Laws to Change
One of the new laws that has gained much attention is the change Annapolis has made to the State’s marijuana laws. While possession of any amount of the drug was previously considered to be a criminal offense, now individuals found with 10 grams or fewer of marijuana will only be committing a civil offense. Consequences of this civil offense include fines that increase with each repetition of the offense ($100 for the first time, $250 for the second, $500 for the third), and possession of any amount of marijuana exceeding 10 grams remains a crime.
Annapolis Prioritizes Anti-Discrimination Laws in Latest Session
The Maryland General Assembly also passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which serves to protect transgender individuals from discrimination. Under the new law, discrimination against gender identity, along with other characteristics such as sex, race, and religion, is illegal in the majority of places and situations, though religious organizations and a few other private institutions remain exempt from the law. It is nevertheless a step forward for Maryland, which joins 17 other states and District of Columbia in taking steps to banish gender identity discrimination.
Maryland will no longer be the only state in the nation to require a heightened standard of proof for individuals seeking final protective orders. While clear and convincing evidence was previously required of a victim, a preponderance of evidence will now satisfy the victim’s evidentiary burden. In addition to this domestic violence law, Annapolis has also determined that individuals who commit domestic violence in front of a child increase their potential prison term by up to five years.
To stay up-to-date with the latest news from Annapolis lawmakers and policies in Maryland, check back with Harris Jones & Malone. Our lobbying and government relations services in Annapolis and throughout Maryland are carried out by a team of expert attorneys who have experience in criminal, litigation, procurement, government contracting, and labor law practice. Call us today for more information 410-366-1500 and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.