By Capital News Service staff
ANNAPOLIS—A bevy of new state laws are going into effect on Thursday. Below is a list of some legislation of note that passed in the last General Assembly session.
Domestic violence (SB0269; SB0315; SB0477; HB0263; HB0390): New laws will provide additional relief to domestic violence victims in final protective orders and will clarify that protective order extensions also apply to consent orders. The laws will provide more protection to victims of sex crimes by making these cases eligible for protective orders and will expand the circumstances under which a court is required to issue a final protective order, including convictions for conspiracy or solicitation to commit murder. The new ruling will also authorize the filings of protective or peace orders if the abuse is alleged to have happened in the state or if the victim is a resident.
Criminal expungement (SB0651): A new law will allow people convicted of crimes to petition for expungement, or obliterate it from their record, if the act is no longer considered a crime in the state. This could include people who have been charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana, which was decriminalized in 2014.
Juvenile transfers (HB0618): A new law states every youth awaiting a trial with transfer eligibility will be held in a juvenile facility instead of adult jails. Juveniles who are charged as adults and are waiting to bring the case to court should be placed in a juvenile facility, except under specific circumstances, such as if the youth is released or if there is not enough space in a center.
Human trafficking (SB0520): A new law will provide an affirmative defense for people charged with prostitution as a result of human trafficking. If a person is charged with prostitution and is a victim of another individual who is charged with breaking the human trafficking law, they can use this defense. The defendant must provide the State's Attorney notice of the use of the defense at least 10 days before the trial takes place.
Police body cameras (SB0482): Law enforcement officers will now be allowed to intercept interactions with a body-worn recording or electronic device that is capable of recording audio and video. The law requires any law enforcement officer using these devices to be in uniform or with their badge displayed, making it known that they are a part of law enforcement. Officers using body-worn recording or electronic devices must also notify any individuals being recorded that they are using the device, unless they are in unsafe or prohibiting circumstances.
The law requires the Maryland Police Training Commission to develop and publish a policy online available to the public that outlines the use, requirements and restrictions of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers by January 1, 2016.
Alcohol or drug-related medical care (SB0654): The fact that a person providing or helping with the medical care of a person who is experiencing a medical emergency after taking drugs or alcohol may be used in the court of law as evidence to reduce charges. This can be applied to an individual who experienced the medical emergency and to any individual involved in the process of medical assistance. The bill, overall, expands the immunity to criminal charges and/or arrests if violations occur during a medical emergency.
DNA evidence (SB0583): This law is said to expand the group of people allowed to file a petition for DNA testing or a database or log search after a person has been convicted of a violent crime, including but not limited to: murder, sexual assault, robbery, carjacking, abduction and child abuse. The bill states that the state of Maryland must keep evidence from cases that are believed to hold DNA material, especially if the evidence is in connection to a violent crime.
Drug overdose medical care (HB0368): Individuals administering medication or treatment in response to a drug overdose who are licensed by the State Emergency Medical Services Board will be immune to civil liability. The law also provides protection for individuals if they decide not to administer medication or treatment in an overdose, so long as it is an act of discretion and not due to a failure to properly care for the patient.
Medical marijuana and drug paraphernalia (SB0456): This law requires a court to dismiss charges of possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia related to marijuana if the drugs possessed are proven to be needed for medical reasons. The law also requires the individual in possession to have a prescription or an order from a provider in order for the charges to be dismissed.
Home invasion (SB0067): Under this law, a home invasion will now be considered a violent crime.
Transgender birth certificates (SB0743/HB0862): Thanks to an amended section of Maryland law, transgendered or intersexed individuals born in the state can receive new birth certificates reflecting their preferred sex and name. According to the new law, the updated birth certificate may not show that a change has been made to either the sex or name, thus protecting their privacy. The birth certificate change requires a recommendation from a healthcare practitioner and a written request from the parent or guardian of minors.
Divorce (SB0472): A new law will allow for a couple to divorce with mutual consent, without a waiting period, if they do not have any children together who are minors. To divorce with mutual consent, the couple must submit a signed and written agreement to the court addressing issues such as alimony and distribution of property, and both parties must be present for the court hearing. -Naomi Eide
… and (HB0165): This law amends the grounds for limited divorce - a legal separation that does not end the marriage.
Public records (HB0674, HB0755/SB0695): Several laws related to public records will take effect, including one that requires every government unit to properly identify the public records custodian, on the Office of the Attorney General's website. The unit must provide the accurate contact information for the representatives, which anyone can use to request a public record. The Office of the Attorney General will also include the contact information in Public Information Act Manuals.
Another law will create the State Public Information Act Compliance Board and the Office of the Public Access Ombudsman to regulate the Maryland Public Information Act requests. The board must report to the governor and the General Assembly each year by Oct. 1. The Office of the Attorney General will report findings and tips to improve the act.
Drunken driving (HB0430): Drunken drivers involved in deadly vehicle accidents will face harsher punishments come Oct. 1. Under the new law, drivers with a .08 or higher blood alcohol concentration involved in motor vehicle accidents resulting in the death of another person will have their driving privileges suspended for six months for their first offenses and one year for subsequent offenses. Those suspensions will increase for drivers with .15 or higher blood alcohol concentration, to one year for first offenses and a revocation of driving privileges for subsequent offenses.
The law also expands on existing penalties for negligent driving, which revoke licenses of intoxicated drivers involved in non-lethal accidents for up to 180 days, depending on their level of intoxication and number of prior offenses.
Rape kit backlog (SB0498): To better assess the number of backlogged, untested rape kits in the state, the legislature is requiring state and local agencies to inventory their number of untested kits by Jan. 1. Existing legislation requires agencies to report bi-annually on DNA evidence. This year's inventory will ask agencies to also prepare a report on the untested kits. The attorney general will present a report to the General Assembly on the status of the state's kits on Dec. 1, 2016.
Fracking (SB0409/HB0449): The state's Department of Energy has one year starting Thursday to adopt regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing of a well in the state. Any regulations the department drums up before Oct. 1, 2016, won't take effect until the same date a year later. Additionally, the department is not permitted to issue any permits for fracking of a well in Maryland until Oct. 1, 2017. The legislation helps set a timetable for the state's foray into exploration and production of natural gas via fracking, a controversial measure that according to polls is largely opposed by Marylanders.
Behavioral health (HB0367): The Maryland Mental Health Crisis Response System will now be called the Maryland Behavioral Health Crisis Response System. The system will be required to evaluate the outcomes of services through the annual collection of data on behavioral health calls received by police, attempted and completed suicides, unnecessary hospitalizations, etc. The bill also revokes the requirement that the state may not spend more than $250,000 in general funds in each fiscal year to implement the response system's initiatives.
School-based health centers (HB0375): The Maryland Council on Advancement of School-Based Health Centers will be established and required to study how to improve the health and educational outcomes of students who receive services from school-based health centers. The council will be required to make recommendations to the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene by Dec. 31, 2016.
Burial or disposal of bodies (HB0431): This bill prohibits an individual from burying or disposing of a body, unless it is done in a specified area, including at a crematory, cemetery, as a donation to science or removing the body to a state to settle final legal matters. Violators of this law will face a penalty of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000.
Electronic cigarettes (HB0489): The prohibition against selling, distributing or offering for sale an electronic device to a minor that can be used to deliver nicotine will also include any component for the device or product used to refill or resupply the device.
Disabled persons (HB0293): Courts will be authorized to appoint a guardian to a disabled person for a limited period of time if it is likely that the disability will end within a year of the appointment of the guardian.
Consent by minors (SB0157): This bill will establish that a minor who is 16 or older has the capacity to consent to consultations, diagnoses and treatment for mental or emotional disorders by a health care provider. It does not, however, allow the minor to refuse to consultations, diagnoses and treatment for which a parent, guardian or custodian has given consent. The bill also authorizes the authorized health care provider or health provider to decide whether to give the minor's parent or guardian information about the minor's needed or received treatment, with or without the minor's consent.
Bicycle and pedestrian priority areas (SB0371): The State Highway Administration will decide whether to designate certain areas within the state bicycle and pedestrian priority areas. This determination will involve collaboration with local governments to see which areas are locally deemed bicycle and pedestrian priority areas in order to be recognized on a state level. Local governments who notified State Highway Administration prior to Sept. 30 will get first priority in the decision-making process of whether the state will determine these bicycle and pedestrian priority areas state-wide. If the local government contacts the State Highway Administration on or after Oct. 1, about their priority areas, the determination will be made within one year of notification.
Speed limits (SB0044): The bill increases the maximum speed limit the state can set for Maryland highways from 65 mph to 70 mph. Based on the Maryland Department of Transportation's research, which examined the speed of 85 percent of drivers on a given road when unaffected by traffic or weather, the raised speed limit should not increase the number of crashes. The information suggested the speed limit has less of an effect on the speed of motorists than the eighty-fifth percentile speed. Gov. Larry Hogan approved the bill in mid-May.
Commercial Driver's License (HB0846): Program for Veterans and Service Members (Troops to Trucks) This bill waives the commercial drivers skills test for veterans and members of the military who are transitioning out of military service to obtain a commercial drivers license, who meet certain criteria established by the MVA. For additional information see: http://www.mva.maryland.gov/drivers/apply/cdl/commercial.htm
Vehicle Laws - Manufacturers and Distributors (HB0235): Sale of Electric or Nonfossil-Fuel Burning Vehicles - This bill authorizes a manufacturer or distributor to obtain no more than four licenses as a vehicle dealer if the manufacturer or distributor deals only in electric or nonfossil-fuel burning vehicles, no dealer in the State holds a franchise from the manufacturer or distributor, and the manufacturer or distributor does not have a controlling-interest relationship with any other manufacturer or distributor licensed as a dealer under the bill.
State Donor Registry Information and Methods of Registration (SB0415): Clerks of Circuit Courts, Registers of Wills, and Motor Vehicle Administration (Enhancing Organ Donation Rates Act) - This bill requires the MVA to offer customers the choice of whether or not to have a donor designation (heart) indicator on their license if they decide to become a donor during the driver licensing and identification card application processes.
For the complete list of new vehicle-related laws, visit http://www.mva.maryland.gov/about-mva/legislation/2015.htm