Maryland Legislators Propose Sweeping Reforms to Criminal Justice System

Maryland’s criminal justice system may seem complicated and intimidating to a person who has been arrested or charged with a crime. It is important to remember, however, that you may be able to assert any number of valid defenses. For instance, there exist both substantive and procedural criminal defense strategies. Substantive defenses are aimed at negating an element of the crime (e.g., lack of intent), while procedural defenses focus on the circumstances surrounding the investigation of the alleged crime. For example, law enforcement activities must follow established legal procedures and any investigation may not violate an individual’s constitutional rights. For these reasons, anyone arrested or charged with a crime is strongly encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Despite the availability of various defense strategies, keep in mind that many crimes, whether categorized as a felony or a misdemeanor, carry a statutory minimum sentence. With respect to certain drug-related offenses, critics have argued that minimum sentences often exceed the nature of the crime, result in prison overcrowding, and waste taxpayer dollars. In an effort to address these concerns and many others, Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan, recently announced recommendations by the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council. According to the Governor’s press release, the recommendations are intended to safely reduce Maryland’s incarcerated population, control corrections spending, and reinvest in more effective, less expensive strategies to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

Additionally, House Speaker Michael E. Busch has pointed out that the recommendations offer a unique opportunity to achieve better and fairer results from Maryland’s criminal justice system. A recent news article reported that a new multipart criminal justice reform bill has been prepared and is based on the JRCC’s recommendations. Legislators suggest that the proposed law would send drug offenders to treatment programs and scale back mandatory minimum sentences.

The article further reports that Maryland state prisons have more than 20,000 offenders, costing the state $1.3 million each year. It seems that while the bill has supporters from both parties, there are certain sticky issues that have raised concerns. Critics of the bill cite the proposal to increase the threshold for a felony from $1,000 to $2,000 as an example. Proponents of the “justice reinvestment” bill suggest that it would decrease Maryland’s inmate population while ensuring that minorities facing a drug possession conviction are afforded a fairer sentence. The legislation would also make drug treatment and rehabilitation the standard protocol for low-level drug possession offenses – as opposed to time in jail.

In a somewhat related turn of events, it has been reported that President Obama is expected to grant clemency to another group of drug offenders in the near future. According to a recent news article, this is part of an ongoing effort to offer relief to inmates across the country who were sentenced to severe terms during the nation’s “war on drugs.”

It will be interesting to follow the progress of this new bill and how it will affect the criminal justice system in Maryland. Criminal cases, from the moment of arrest to sentencing, are extremely serious and precarious matters. To be sure that your rights are protected throughout the entire process, you are encouraged to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Anthony A. Fatemi has extensive experience handling criminal defense cases throughout Maryland.  Our office can work diligently to develop a strong strategy to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

Related Blog Posts:

New Maryland Laws Affecting Criminal Cases Went into Effect October 1st

Maryland Court Denies Motion to Suppress – Affirms Finding of Probable Cause

Maryland’s Highest Court Reviews Legality of Criminal Sentence Below a Binding Plea Agreement

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