Four years ago, State’s Attorney Mosby created the Policy & Legislative Affairs Unit within the BCSAO because she understood that in order to have an effect on the laws in which we implement, prosecutors must do more than just advocate in the courtroom. Prosecutors must also advocate for fair and just laws, which requires us to have a voice in Annapolis. For four years, State’s Attorney Mosby and her staff have worked to change state laws with the goal of restoring trust in the criminal justice system, holding violent offenders accountable, and better serving victims of crime.
2019 Legislative Victories
During the 2019 Legislative Session, the BCSAO supported various bills that would provide additional tools for prosecutors to pursue justice and address funding gaps in victim and witness services and sexual assault. The following are bills that positively impact the BCSAO and the communities we serve:
Post-Conviction Review - State’s Motion to Vacate (HB0874/SB0676) – MAJOR VICTORY!
- This legislation will soon allow judges to grant a prosecutor’s request to vacate a conviction “in the interest of justice and fairness,” especially in cases involving actual innocence, cases tainted by police misconduct, or cases involving behaviors like marijuana possession that would not be prosecuted in the jurisdiction today.
Child Sex Trafficking Screening and Services Act of 2019 (HB0827/SB0688)
- Requires a law enforcement officer and social services agency who suspects a child that has been detained is a victim of sex trafficking to notify a regional navigator.
Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits – Analysis (HB1096/SB0767)
- Requires that a sexual assault evidence collection kit be submitted to a forensic laboratory for analysis and inform a victim who wishes to remain anonymous and not file a criminal complaint that they may initiate a criminal complaint at a future time.
Grace’s Law 2.0 – Electronic Harassment and Bullying (SB0103/HB0181)
- Prohibits a person from maliciously engaging in electronic communications, which can intimidate, harass or cause serious physical or emotional distress to a minor.
ALL BILLS BECOME LAW AS OF OCTOBER 1, 2019
Prior Legislative Victories
Accountability for Those Who Threaten Witnesses
The BCSAO supported increased penalties for victim, witness or juror intimidation in SB1137, sponsored by Senators Joan Carter Conway and Bobby Zirkin (SB122).
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion©
The BCSAO supported HB432, sponsored by Delegate Brooke Lierman, which provided for four years of mandated state funding to sustain the Baltimore City Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion© (LEAD) program.
The BCSAO joined Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America in support of SB1036/HB1646, sponsored by Senator Will Smith and Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, which requires surrender of firearms by convicted domestic abusers.
“Ban the Box” on College Applications
The BCSAO supported a successful veto override and passage of 2017 legislation expanding access to higher education for individuals with prior criminal convictions.
Witness Relocation Funding
HB432, sponsored by Delegate Brooke Lierman, mandated four years of State funding for emergency housing when witnesses are threatened. The funding totals $360,000 per year from FY 2020-2023.
Body Attachments for Adult Witnesses in Juvenile Cases
HB1023, sponsored by Delegate Luke Clippinger, allowed the juvenile court to compel adult witnesses.
Penalty for Violating Pretrial Stay Away Orders
The BCSAO joined House of Ruth and other stakeholders, including SB170/HB388 sponsors Senator Susan Lee and Delegate Aruna Miller, in advocating for penalties if a defendant violates a pre-trial stay away order in cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, and all other violent crimes.
The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act of 2018 (SB270/HB301)
For five years, BCSAO lobbied for the Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act (RSPPA) to bring Maryland’s rules of evidence in line with the federal system and the majority of other states. The passage of this critical bipartisan legislation in 2018 means that prosecutors can now introduce evidence of a defendant’s other relevant sex crimes in sexual assault cases.
Thirty separate organizations and agencies supported HB301/SB270, sponsored by Senator Jim Brochin and Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary. Nearly 5,000 individuals signed a petition urging legislators to pass this critical legislation. The new law also had the support of the Governor, Women Legislators of Maryland, Legislative Latino Caucus, Legislative Black Caucus, and Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women.
Removing Physical Resistance as a Requirement to Prove a Sex Crime
Due to SB217/HB429, the State no longer must prove that a victim fought back against his or her rapist.
Retaining Rape Kit Evidence
SB349/HB255 required law enforcement to retain rape kits for at least 20 years.
Enhanced Penalties for Repeat Drunk Drivers Who Injure or Kill
SB160/HB157, sponsored by Delegate Valentino-Smith and Senator Cassilly, increased the maximum penalties for repeat offenders who kill or seriously injure someone while driving under the influence or impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Increased Maximum Penalty for Second-Degree Murder
The Final Justice Reinvestment Act Bill (SB1005) included a provision to increase the maximum penalty for second degree murder from 30 to 40 years.
Maryland Second Chance Act
SB526/HB244 enabled individuals to petition a court to shield certain non-violent misdemeanor convictions from public access, enabling them to obtain jobs without their criminal record blocking their path.
Creation of Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council
The BCSAO teamed with public safety agencies statewide to support SB602/HB388. The Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council is developing a statewide policy framework to reduce the state’s incarcerated population and reduce spending on corrections.
The Citizens' Legislative Toolkit
The Policy & Legislative Affairs Unit of BCSAO created a comprehensive Legislative Toolkit to help community members stay visible and engaged during the legislative session. Topics include an overview of the Maryland General Assembly, how bills become law, how to be an advocate, and include worksheets intended to help guide communication with legislators. Please download the Legislative Toolkit and share it with your neighbors, friends and family. We will see you in Annapolis!