New laws reform criminal justice, suffrage, LGBTQ + rights | Politics & Government



ANNAPOLIS – New laws now in effect in Maryland have enacted police and criminal justice reforms, addressed early elections, and increased protection for LGBTQ + people.

Police reforms include greater transparency of police records and independent investigations into deaths in police custody. New criminal justice laws prohibit life sentences without parole for minors tried as adults and reduce sentences when detainees continue their education. LGBTQ + protection laws incorporate gender identity in state hate crime and eliminate establishing a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense in court.

Elsewhere in the new measures, which went into effect Oct. 1, it’s illegal for adults to release balloons, and veterans can adopt a new pet for free.


Arrest Warrants and Police Misconduct Records – Anton’s Law (SB178) – This new law restricts the use of no-knock warrants, including daylight restrictions. The law also makes most police misconduct records available for public information law inquiries.

Police data (HB1248) – Starting in March, local law enforcement agencies will be required to report annually information about incidents of violence involving a police officer that result in a cash settlement or a verdict against the agency. Authorities must report the age, gender, ethnicity, and race of each person involved – including the police officer – to the governor’s office for crime prevention, youth and victims’ services, which shares the information publicly.

Police Sexual Activities and Open Cases (SB43) – A new law extends the group of people with whom law enforcement agencies are not allowed to have sexual relations. The policy adds victims, suspects, and witnesses in open cases by an officer to the existing law that banned sex with anyone in the officer’s custody.

Automatic deletion (SB 201) – All police or judicial records of a three year civil or criminal charge that have been acquitted, dismissed, or resulted in a non-guilty verdict are automatically erased by the Maryland courts. Before this law, the defendants had to request deletion, and many never have, as data shows – now they are mailed notifying them that the job is done. It is estimated that this process will save the courts 75 minutes per record, but new employees may need to be hired.

Reduced penalties for further training (HB89) – For prisoners, their sentences can be reduced for continuing their education. A new law cuts jail sentences by 60 days if they have a degree or certificate, but only if they have not been convicted of certain violent crimes.

Youth Sexting (HB180) – Juvenile courts will treat cases of consensual sexting among young people – where the age difference between sender and recipient is less than four years – differently from cases of child pornography. Instead of sending children to sexting in community custody, courts can order these children to participate in an education program about the risks and consequences of sexting.

Reduction of life sentences for minors (SB 494) – The Maryland courts are prohibited from giving life imprisonment without parole to a minor who is tried as an adult. A minor convicted of an adult crime can apply for a reduction in the life sentence and the court must hold a hearing.

Access of crime victims to private rooms (HB193) – The law requires law enforcement agencies to give victims of violent crime access to a private room when reporting a crime against someone. The victim’s reports indicate a crime that injured a person.

Free Online Child Abuse Course (HB9) – A new law requires child abuse education courses to be posted on the Maryland Department of Human Services website. This course provides guidance on how to identify and report child abuse.


Gender identity as sexual orientation (SB220 / HB128) – This new law includes “gender identity” as a feature of sexual orientation in hate crime cases. Gender identity is defined as the gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, regardless of the gender assigned to the person at birth, under a 2015 Maryland Act.

Abolition of the “Gay-Trans-Panic Defense” (HB231 / SB046) – This prohibits the discovery or perception of a person’s national origin, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation as a reason to change the conviction from murder to manslaughter. This bill repeals “gay trans panic defense,” which says that discovering the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity caused the murder and turned the murder into manslaughter.

LGBTQ Affairs Commission (HB 130) – Establish a LGBTQ Commission in the Governor’s Office for Community Initiatives. The Commission is tasked with preparing an annual report containing policy recommendations to end discriminatory practices against LGBTQ adults and young people.


Mental Health for Veterans (HB 605 / SB164) – Assigns the Maryland Department of Health to provide mental health services to veterans who meet criteria established by Maryland Behavioral Health Services. Creates a mental health education program to help veterans and their families identify and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse.

Animal adoption for veterans (HB 563 / SB338) – Veterans can adopt a pet without paying an adoption fee. The policy requires that publicly operated animal shelters allow a veteran to adopt a cat and dog every six months for no fee.


Vending machine sales of medicines (HB107 / SB499) – People are no longer prohibited from disposing, selling or distributing drugs through vending machines or similar devices. These include over-the-counter drugs and some prescription drugs.

Cheaper drug option (SB 537) – Pharmacists are obliged to inform consumers about a more cost-effective drug alternative to their prescribed drugs or medical devices. Pharmacists also document that a patient has been notified of the equivalence of the drug in writing or orally.

Collection of racial / ethnic data (HB 309 / SB565) – Maryland will begin collecting racial and ethnic data on all licensed or certified health workers. The data is compared to the racial breakdown of the state and published in a semi-annual updated report. So far, race-specific data have only been collected from general practitioners.

Psychiatric institutions and reporting of sexual abuse (HB 881) – All Maryland inpatient treatment facilities must report sexual abuse no later than 24 hours after receiving the complaint. Cases can be reported to the Behavioral Health Administration, Office of Health Care Quality, or Child Protection Services. Currently, reports of sexual abuse must be reported, but the new law provides a deadline to prevent organizations from processing reports internally. The bill provides that the Behavioral Health Administration develop training courses for staff to help patients file complaints and teach them to recognize sexual abuse.


Prefix centers (HB 206 / SB 596) – This new law requires early polling centers to be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on each pre-election day for presidential elections. For all other area codes and general elections, the area code centers must be open during opening hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Additional area code centers (HB 745) – Maryland will allow additional early voting centers in some counties, depending on minority accessibility, proximity to a dense population of voters, and public transport accessibility, to ensure an even distribution of early voting and to maximize turnout.


Ban on deflating balloons (HB391 / SB716) – This measure prohibits anyone over the age of 13 from deliberately releasing a balloon into the atmosphere and organizing a mass release of 10 or more balloons. Violators will face a $ 100 fine, do community service and / or watch an instructional video. The bill aims to curb the pollution caused by the release of balloons.

Cybersecurity (SB049 / HB038) – Requires the Information Technology Secretary, Legislature and Justice of the State Government to advise on the state of cybersecurity and ransomware software, with a few exceptions. The bill was created 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 in the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to assist current students or graduates of four-year colleges and universities in the state in obtaining low-interest home loans for home purchases near their respective schools.

Flower Branch Act – Gas Supply Regulators (HB 345) – This law requires gas suppliers to install new or replaced gas regulators outside of residential buildings and to submit a plan to the Public Service Commission. The new law is named after the Flower Branch apartments, where an unventilated mercury service regulator caused a natural gas explosion in 2016, killing seven people.

Establishment of the governor’s office for immigration matters (HB15 / SB85) – A new office will set up service centers for high-immigrant neighborhoods that cost more than $ 320,000 nationwide in the first year. The state-sponsored centers have the task of promoting English-language programs, strengthening access to career opportunities and accompanying the path to citizenship. The office will also set up a multilingual hotline and website for assistance with these services, as well as for reporting crime and fraud; Local centers are expected to use these reports to help fight crime against immigrants.

Trisha Ahmed, Alex Argiris, AR Cabral, Rachel Logan, Allison Mollenkamp, ​​Bethan Probst, Alexandra Radovic and Catherine Wilson reported for Capital News Service.


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