ACLU_MD: RT @ACLU: What does $10K buy in #Alabama? Less-than-truthful testimony used to sentence someone to the #deathpenalty: http://t.co/irU1GaPML5
May 22, 2013 04:30 PM
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May 22, 2013 03:30 PM
2012 Legislative report
Freedom to Marry
Victory! Thanks to the hard work of so many, including the ACLU of Maryland, Equality Maryland, the Marylanders for Marriage Equality Coalition, and many others that have labored for years to make this happen, we won the historic legislative fight to establish the freedom to marry for same-sex couples! As members of the Board and Steering Committee of the Marylanders for Marriage Equality Coalition, we played active roles in lobbying for passage of the bill and in engaging activists. But the fight is not over! We are now working with our coalition partners to defend the Civil Marriage Protection Act (HB 438) against a likely referendum.
The ACLU supported Gender Rights Maryland and Equality Maryland in the struggle for protections for transgendered individuals. The movement to secure rights for transgendered people is gaining ground on a county by county basis, however the State legislature did not vote on the bill, SB 212, that would have extended to transgendered people rights against discrimination in public accommodation, housing, and employment. While severely disappointed that it was unable to come to a vote, we will continue to persevere and fight to protect Maryland's transgendered community from discrimination
Social Media Privacy - Employers
Victory! Your privacy and free speech online got a huge boost this session! The ACLU was a strong advocate for a first-in-the-nation social media privacy bill that bans employers from asking employees or job applicants for their social media passwords. The Social Media Privacy Bill (HB 964/SB 433) was an ACLU priority and received a great deal of attention during the session both in Maryland and nationally. Sponsored by Delegate Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) in the House, with significant support from Co-Sponsor Delegate Shawn Tarrant (D-Baltimore City), and Senator Ronald Young (D-Frederick) in the Senate, it passed with overwhelming support of both the House and the Senate and was recently signed into law by the Governor. The Maryland bill is serving as a model to several other states that have since introduced similar legislation and there is now Congressional interest as well.
Social Media Privacy - Schools
Senator Ron Young (D-Frederick) and Delegate Shawn Tarrant (D-Baltimore City) introduced, SB 434/HB 746, a social media privacy bill concerning schools. This bill would prohibit public and private colleges and universities from requiring a student or applicant for admission to provide the institution with access to their personal internet or electronic accounts. Unfortunately, the bill received an unfavorable report from the House Appropriations committee despite passing the Senate unanimously. The ACLU supported the bill and will likely work further with the sponsors in preparation for next session.
Read our testimony on the social media privacy bills for schools
Audio Recording on MTA Vehicles
The ACLU was successful in opposing a bill that would have allowed audio recordings of passengers on all MTA vehicles. The House and Senate committees which heard the bill both gave it an unfavorable report.
Parole and Probation Reform
Victory! Conservatives and liberals in Maryland came together on a number of bills aimed at reducing over-incarceration and spending less money on our bloated criminal justice system. The ACLU worked with sponsors, Delegate Michael Hough (R- Frederick and Washington Counties) and Senator Christopher Shank (R- Washington County), as well as partners which included ACLU's national criminal law reform project, the Vera Institute, and the Department of Public Safety on HB 670/SB 691. The bill that passed has been demonstrated in other states to reduce recidivism by providing an incentive system to encourage low risk probationers and parolees to earn compliance credits through good behavior, ending their supervision early and avoiding behavior that lands them back in jail. The bill was passed by both houses and is awaiting the Governor's signature.
Marijuana Possession Sentencing Reform
Arrests and convictions for the nonviolent drug offense of marijuana possession is a costly practice that is a significant factor in the overrepresentation of minorities in the criminal justice system nationally and in Maryland. The ACLU supported the successful effort this year to begin the process of reforming marijuana possession laws. HB 350/SB 214, sponsored by Senator Jaime Raskin (D-Montgomery) and Delegate Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) reduces the maximum jail time for possession of 10 grams of marijuana from 1 year to 90 days, reduces the fine from $1000 to $500, and provides for a stay of judgment if a conviction is appealed so that the individual won't be jailed while awaiting an appeal.
DeWolfe v. Richmond bill
This case, which was recently decided by the Maryland Court of Appeals, held that attorneys have to be appointed for individuals at the time of the initial bail determination and the bail review hearing. The legislature passed legislation (HB 261/SB 422) that restricted appointments to the bail review hearing only. While narrowing the Court of Appeals decision, it will still be a substantial improvement to the current practice where many defendants do not get an attorney until well after bail review. Significant additional criminal justice reforms were included in the current bill as well: limitations on the issuance of arrest warrants by Commissioners based on citizen complaints; an increase in the offenses that must be and can be charged by criminal citation; restriction on using statements made by a defendant at the initial bail determination against him/her; establishing a task force to study the laws and policies related to public defender representation; and the requirement for the adoption of model policies, data collection and reporting requirements to ensure that the issuance of citations is race-neutral. This bill also codified the ACLU's participation in a Task Force to Study the Laws and Policies Relating to the Representation of Indigent Criminal Defendants by the Office of the Public Defender. The Task Force will issue an interim report to the legislature by November 1, 2012 and a final report the following year.
In addition, the ACLU supported reforms that would reduce pretrial detention by allowing officers to charge more individuals through citations instead of arrests (HB 119) and restricting the issuance of arrest warrants by District Court commissioners (HB 95). These concepts were incorporated into the DeWolfe v. Richmond bill as discussed above.
Fiscal Note Reform
The ACLU of Maryland worked alongside our National Legislative office to support a bill (HB 709/SB 679) which would have strengthened criminal fiscal notes by including more in-depth analysis and racial impact statements. Unfortunately, it did not receive a good committee assignment and received an unfavorable report in the Senate Rules Committee. The sponsor plans to re-introduce the bill next session.
Read the national ACLU report on fiscal note reform: Improving Budget Analysis of State Criminal Justice Reforms: A Strategy for Better Outcomes and Saving Money.
Parole Approval for Life Imprisonment
The ACLU of Maryland and coalition partners, the Justice Policy Institute, and Walter Lomax of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, supported SB 492 and SB 584, two bills which would have removed the Governor's authority over the parole approval process for two categories of individuals sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole: juveniles and felony murder accomplices. The bill would have depoliticized the process so that individuals with meritorious claims approved by the parole commission could be released. Currently, the Governor has not approved any of the parole applications before him in either his first or his current term. While the bills were not successful, we believe that the two bills were influential in the Governor's recent decision to commute the sentences of to two individuals that fell within these categories.
Death Penalty Repeal
We supported the effort led by Maryland CASE to abolish the death penalty in Maryland. Unfortunately, the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee gave unfavorable reports on the bill, HB 949/SB 872.
Criminalization of HIV Transmission
The ACLU successfully opposed HB 622/SB 60, companion bills which would have imposed draconian penalties for the knowing transmission of HIV, even if it were with a lack of intent to transmit. There are no criminal penalties for the transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases. Nationally, efforts are underway to decriminalize HIV transmission.
Girls Parity in the Juvenile Justice System
For the past two years Sonia Kumar, Liman Fellow and attorney with the ACLU's Juvenile Justice Project, has led the effort to draw attention to the gross injustices facing girls in Maryland's juvenile justice system. The report by the Department of Juvenile Services in response to our legislation last year was deficient in indicating what services and programs were needed to achieve parity with boys. Following briefings on the report in both the Women's Caucus and the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, DJS made improvements to the report. This addendum includes the missing information as to which services are currently only provided for boys. Additionally, strong budget language was added that will require DJS to come up with a detailed plan to improve girls' services once the budget is approved.
Flash Mob Bill
The ACLU opposed HB 46, a bill that would authorize all individuals that act "in concert" to commit a theft to be charged with the total value of the theft. This bill arose out of two incidents last summer in Montgomery County in which teens went into convenience stores together and shoplifted candy bars and soda. Under this bill, they could have possibly been charged as felons and faced significant jail time for this non-violent act. The bill was quickly defeated by committee vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
Read our testimony on the bill