The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office—which is uncompromisingly committed to accountability, professionalism, and transparency—continues to work 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 2018 Session of the Maryland General Assembly, State’s Attorney Mosby and the Policy & Legislative Affairs Unit will advocate for state laws that will restore trust in the criminal justice system, remove violent offenders from our communities, and improve prosecutors’ ability to serve victims of crime.
2018 SAO Priority Agenda Items
The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act (HB301/SB270)
For the fifth consecutive year, State's Attorney Mosby will lobby for The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act—critical bipartisan legislation that will allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of a defendant's other relevant sex crimes and bring Maryland's rules of evidence in line with the federal system and the majority of states.
In past years, survivors including Shatia Lansdowne, Angela Wharton, and Kiara James bravely shared their powerful stories with the General Assembly. Experts from the Baltimore Child Abuse Center and experienced prosecutors from Baltimore County, Calvert County, Carroll County, Wicomico County, Charles County, Montgomery County and Baltimore City urged legislators to lift the current bar on introducing evidence of prior bad acts by serial rapists and child molesters. Several advocacy groups including MCASA, Phynyx Ministries, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, and Maryland's Chi Beta Zeta chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority have advocated for the bill. Thirty separate organizations and agencies support HB301/SB270. And over 3,500 people signed a petition urging legislators to pass this critical legislation.
Backed by State's Attorney Mosby, the bill passed the Maryland Senate unanimously in 2016; however, neither the House nor the Senate bill was brought to a committee vote in 2017 despite the Governor's backing. This year, the legislation has the support of the Governor, Women Legislators of Maryland, Legislative Latino Caucus, Legislative Black Caucus, and Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women.
Interested in joining the fight or know a supportive organization? Contact Jessica Bowes at JBowes@stattorney.org.
Police Powers for SAO Criminal Investigators (HB1169/SB343)
Confidence in the criminal justice system is vital to the City's success; the SAO is committed to rebuilding the public's trust.
The Baltimore Police Department is understaffed and in the midst of implementing a complex Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2017, BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis announced the move of 100 officers from various desk assignments to patrol to cope with the staffing shortage and violence in the City. Our Assistant State's Attorneys depend on law enforcement officers to carry out court orders once the SAO has a case. The demands of responding to violence in our City means our police officers and sheriff's deputies are not always able to serve warrants associated with pending cases in a timely manner.
When body attachments, search warrants, arrest warrants, and writs from jail go unserved, our prosecutions are harmed. When witnesses are unavailable, the criminal justice suffers. As a City, we need to use every resource we have in this crime fight.
This legislation would give the State's Attorney the authority to appoint investigators with the power to make arrests, carry a firearm, and serve warrants and writs. Four other counties in Maryland and many urban jurisdictions across the United States, including New York City and Los Angeles, already have similar legislation. The vast majority of SAO investigators—including Unit Chief Kelvin Sewell—are retired Baltimore City Police detectives with decades of experience in executing these vital tasks.
In 2017, this legislation was sponsored by the Baltimore City Senate and House Delegations. Unfortunately, the bills were not brought to a vote in committee. This year, State's Attorney Mosby testified in support with Chief Deputy Michael Schatzow and criminal investigators.
Witness Relocation Funding
The SAO’s Victim Witness Services unit coordinates with the Baltimore Police Department and the Housing Department to relocate witnesses and their families—particularly those who cooperate in homicide and shooting cases. This demand for emergency housing has increased significantly as a direct result of a violent crime increase. In the last two years, the demand for relocation assistance has increased by 30%. Over the past five years, the demand has more than doubled.
In 2017, the SAO relocated 125 victims, witnesses & their families. The SAO is the primary provider of relocation services for victims and witnesses of crime responsible for, on average, 80% of all relocations in the City each year.
Demand for relocation has far outpaced funding causing the SAO to overspend by $150,000-$300,000 on relocation each year. From FY2015 to FY2017, funding for victim/witness relocation increased just four percent. During the same time, the demand for relocation services increased 79 percent.
Despite funding from the City and State, we do not have nearly enough resources to meet the demand from victims and witnesses who are in immediate physical danger. State’s Attorney Mosby is advocating for additional state funding to protect these brave victims and witnesses.
State Right of Appeal in Gun Cases (HB692/SB126)
Current Maryland law allows prosecutors to appeal court decisions suppressing evidence in all cases involving a crime of violence or drug trafficking.
For example, if an individual is charged with armed commercial robbery of a convenience store and the trial court grants the defense’s motion to suppress surveillance footage from the store, the State has the right, under current law, to appeal that decision.
In firearms cases, however, the State does not have the same right of appeal. This legislation will expand the existing statute to include gun cases, allowing for the SAO prosecutors to use the same tools we have for crimes of violence before anyone gets hurt. Passing this legislation will help get violent repeat offenders—and their guns—off City streets.
2018 SAO Support
Support “Ban the Box” on College Applications
- Many people with a criminal background apply for college but do not have their applications considered because of their conviction history. The “box” refers to the question on college applications where prospective college students are asked to check “yes” or “no” if they have ever been convicted of a crime. State’s Attorney Mosby feels strongly that individuals with prior criminal convictions, who have successfully fulfilled the terms of their sentence, should be able to turn their lives around by pursuing further education.
Support Funding for Youth Programming in Baltimore City
- State’s Attorney Mosby is focused on ending the school-to-prison pipeline. While the SAO has invested in our own crime prevention programming—including Great Expectations, Junior State’s Attorney, and our Youth Pop-Up events—we know that Baltimore’s young people need as many opportunities as possible. The SAO supports legislation that will ensure State funding for youth programming in at-risk communities.
Support Laws to Combat Witness Intimidation
Support Penalty for Violating Pretrial Stay Away Orders
- Baltimore City is the home of witness intimidation. State's Attorney Mosby supports protections for all victims and witnesses of crime. In addition to funding for witness relocations, these protections include specific orders from the court that prohibit the defendant from contacting the victim while a criminal case is pending.
- The SAO will join House of Ruth in advocating for penalties when a defendant violates a pretrial stay away order in cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, and all other violent crimes.
Accountability for Obstruction of Justice (SB122)
- State's Attorney Mosby supports legislation that will deter witness intimidation and hold individuals accountable who obstruct justice by threatening victims, witnesses or jurors.