Peace Orders and Protective Orders: On Friday, I presented a bill that will help those people who are seeking protection from domestic violence. My bill, HB 333, would lower the standard of proof needed to get a final protective order hearing from “clear and convincing evidence” to the a showing of a “preponderance of evidence.” Maryland is the only state to require “clear and convincing evidence” to get a final protective order - a high burden of proof for victims of domestic abuse to meet.
Judges can award thousands of dollars after finding liability in a civil lawsuit by a preponderance of the evidence - but - a victim of violence who meets the same preponderance of the evidence standard can not be awarded a protective order because they don’t reach the higher standard. That’s why I drafted HB 333, and I’ll be working to get that bill passed this year.
Work Groups: Every session the Speaker of the House appoints work groups to work through complex issues during the legislative session. The work groups seek to draft legislation after meeting with a wide range of affected groups. I am pleased to announce that I have been chosen to participate in two work groups; the Richmond Work Group and the Marijuana Regulation Work Group.
Marijuana Regulation Work Group: There are forty-five bills that have been introduced that relate to marijuana. Some bills seek to expand Maryland’s Medical Marijuana program, others seek to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, and others would completely legalize and regulate marijuana. This week, this work group has heard from Maryland’s Medical Marijuana Commission and experts on legislation that other state’s have passed regarding Marijuana. We will be discussing further steps that the Legislature might take this year, and I look forward to our work.
Richmond Work Group: Before I get into the details of this work group, it might help to give some background. Meet John Larceny. John goes to the store and shoplifts various items. The police catch John as he’s leaving the store with various items. They take John to the nearest police station, process him, and then take John before a Commissioner. Right now, the Commissioner reviews the facts of the case to determine if the police officer had probable cause for an arrest, advises your friend of their rights to a lawyer, and either decides to release your friend on their own recognizance, set a cash bail for your friend, or order that your friend be remanded to custody with no bond (in serious cases). Then, within 48 hours, if the defendant wants a review of that bail, he can request a bail review with a judge.
Recently, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in Richmond vs. DeWolfe that it is unconstitutional for an indigent defendant to appear before a District Court Commissioner without representation by the public defender. The cost of new public defenders needed as a result of this decision is significant. Some counties are also considering whether to send State’s Attorney’s to Commissioner’s hearings, raising the costs for local jurisdictions as well.
The Richmond Work Group started meeting this week. We are reviewing the spectrum of various legislative responses to this Court decision to look at ways to lower the costs of the Richmond decision without impacting the Constitutional rights of defendants. We are hearing from stakeholders in the pretrial services process, including the representatives of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Judges, State’s Attorneys, Public Defenders, State and local correctional services and law enforcement.
Re-election: Last, but not least, I officially filed for re-election to the House of Delegates yesterday! I appreciate the support that I've already received from many of the 20,000 doors I've visited over the last three years. It has been an honor and privilege to serve the people of the 46th District. Together, we have accomplished so much during this session: sensible regulation of firearms, over a billion dollars in school construction money for Baltimore City, and marriage equality. There’s still more work to do to strengthen public safety, improve our schools and raise the quality of life of all Marylanders.
That’s why this June 24th I’d appreciate your vote as I run for re-election to the House of Delegates. Between now and then, there are still more doors to be knocked and work to be done. I’d appreciate your help with my campaign - e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Again, I want to express my sincere gratitude for giving me the opportunity to represent you in the General Assembly. I appreciate your engagement in the legislative process, and I look forward to serving you.
Thanks for all of your help,