Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City

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.

Admission of Evidence in Cases against Repeat Sexual Offenders (HB369/SB316)

For the fourth year in a row, State’s Attorney Mosby will lobby for critical legislation to allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of a defendant’s other sex crimes and bring our state’s sexual assault laws closer to federal rules. In 2016, our bill (sponsored by Senator Jim Brochin) passed the Senate unanimously, marking the legislation’s most significant progress to date. This legislation has never had a vote in the House Judiciary Committee. The 2016 bill had widespread support from service providers, prosecutors and concerned citizens throughout Maryland. State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello and the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office joined us in Annapolis to share the powerful story of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell who was raped and murdered by a serial sex offender who had won multiple prior acquittals after relevant evidence was excluded under Maryland rules. Shatia Lansdowne also shared her powerful story of survival. Several advocacy groups including the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, Phynyx Ministries, the Women’s Law Center and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Abuse lobbied for the bill. And over 3,300 people signed a petition urging legislators to pass it. The SAO worked with stakeholders throughout the summer to increase this legislation’s chances of passage in 2017. Governor Larry Hogan announced on January 12th that he will introduce this bill as an Administration bill.

Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence (SB217/HB429)

The SAO supports SB217 and HB429 which establishes that evidence of physical resistance by a victim is not required to prove that a sexual crime was committed. Not all victims of sexual assault physically resist their attackers. While current law provides exceptions to protect individuals who are mentally or cognitively impaired or physically helpless and thus unable to resist, it does not provide exceptions for victims who may be “frozen” in fear or whose resistance may not meet the jury’s definition of resistance. A lack of resistance in these circumstances does not mean that the victim consented or that no force was used. Victims should not have to choose between fighting back and getting hurt or not resisting and forgoing justice. 

Designating SAO Criminal Investigators as Peace Officers (HB1403/SB409)

An amendment to state law would allow Baltimore City SAO investigators to enjoy police powers and fully participate in criminal investigations. The ability to make arrests and to serve warrants and subpoenas would enhance the SAO’s ability to seek justice for crime victims. Currently three other State’s Attorneys’ Offices in Maryland enjoy this law enforcement tool.

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.

Fighting Gun Violence (HB1396/SB826)

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 - to be introduced by the Baltimore Police Department and supported by SAO - is to ensure that repeat gun offenders serve the mandatory minimum sentence without the option for parole or a suspended sentence.

Violent Juvenile Accountability (HB1403/SB409)

In 2016, the SAO opposed legislation to eliminate automatic adult jurisdiction for juveniles who commit violent crimes and murder. That legislation was defeated and never made it out of committee. This year, we anticipate similar legislation that we will oppose if the bill lacks sufficient safeguards to protect the public. We support juvenile rehabilitation with adult consequences, if warranted, in order to protect Baltimore City residents.

Priority #3: Community First Focus -- Restoring Faith in the Criminal Justice System

Protecting the community stretches beyond issues of crime and punishment. The SAO believes that permanent improvements to public safety will take hold when Baltimore City residents have stable employment; stable families and communities; and access to educational, mental health, and economic services when they need help.

Consequences for Law Enforcement Misconduct (SB545)

The SAO will support state legislation that requires meaningful civilian membership on law enforcement trial boards.

Supporting All Victims of Crime Regardless of Immigration Status (SB835/HB1362)

The SAO is a proud supporter of SB835 and HB1362- the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act. 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.

How Can You Help?

Visit the SAO website and sign up for our community newsletter on the home page
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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.