MSBA advocates on behalf of the legal profession at all levels of the state throughout the year. As part of its efforts, MSBA actively shapes practice-related legislation and public policy in Annapolis by drawing on the vast range of expertise from our members.
MSBA sections play a significant role in analyzing the impact of proposed legislation on a practice area and providing recommendations to the MSBA Laws Committee, as well as providing testimony on behalf of the section when appropriate. MSBA thanks the many dedicated MSBA members who contribute to this process.
This week, MSBA provides an update from the Criminal Law Section’s Legislative Committee. Members meet weekly to discuss new bills and represent a variety of important perspectives, including practitioners with defense, appellate, and prosecutorial experience. The Committee is chaired by former Delegate Doyle Niemann, who represented District 47 for twelve years.
- Doyle Niemann, Committee Chair and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, Assistant State’s Attorney
- Christine Dufour, Office of the Public Defender, Felony Trial Attorney and Government Relations Division
- Erica Suter, University of Baltimore, Innocence Project Clinic Director, Defense Attorney
- Carrie Williams, Maryland Office of the Attorney General
Committee Update and Bill Positions
The Legislative Committee for the Criminal Law and Practice Council works on a consensus basis. With representatives who have experience in defense, prosecution and appeals, finding agreement takes a willingness sometimes to step back and look at the bigger picture. While we each may handle cases that particular pieces of legislation might impact, the question we try to ask ourselves is whether there is some common ground between our different roles, as well as what is in both the public good and the best interests of the legal profession.
Of course, the variety of perspectives we bring – and the limited ability we have to actually change bills – means we usually are not in a position to take on the “big” bills that propose widespread change. The ongoing discussion about juvenile justice reform is a good example.
Where possible, we do try to suggest amendments to make bills better. For example, we tend to question whether new laws that fill a gap should be classified as felonies given the long-term consequences that designation can have long after a case is over and any punishment imposed so long as there remains jurisdiction in an appropriate venue.
This session, as in most, numerous bills have been introduced that impact the criminal law practice area, including bills involving criminal sentencing, juvenile justice, expungements, and updated criminal definitions. The Committee reviews the bills and seeks to find a consensus between the various positions represented on the Committee and in the Section. The Committee only takes position on bills where there is a consensus and where the subject of the bill is generally within the scope and interest of the Section’s nearly 800 members.
The Committee has already submitted testimony on over a dozen bills and will continue to monitor and provide feedback to MSBA and legislators. Among the bills considered so far
- HB148/SB328 – Stalking – Definition – Support
- HB153/SB33 – Sexual Crimes – Repeal of Spousal Defense – Support
- HB161 – Exploitation of Vulnerable Adult or Elderly Individual – Undue Influence – Support
- HB206/SB465 – Vehicle Laws, License and Permits – Support
- HB209/SB22 – Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practices Repeal – Support
- HB267/SB298 – Threat Against Public Health Official or Hospital Staff Member – Support
- HB272/SB324 – Intercepted Communications – Penalty – Support
- HB284/SB20 – Out of Court Statements – Child Victims – Support with a Limiting Amendment
- HB427 – Executive or Legislative Proceedings – Obstruction – Support
- HB437/SB57 – Public Safety – Communications with Public Safety Answering Points – Support with Amendment as to Penalty
- HB481 – Decriminalization of Drug Paraphernalia for Administration – Support
- SB16 – Expungement – Mistaken Identity – Support
- SB112 – False Ballot Drop Boxes – Support with an Amendment as to Penalty
- SB285 – Campaign Signs – Prohibitions – Oppose