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E-Alert Case Updates

Maryland Legislature Adopts New Laws, Effective October 1, 2013

by Wayne C. Heavener, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (

On October 1, 2013, a number of recently-passed laws went into effect in Maryland. In total, the Maryland General Assembly passed 766 bills, which enact over 300 laws. Several of those laws met with great controversy, and impact the everyday lives of Marylanders. The following are several of the most “high profile” laws passed by the Assembly.

Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (amended, added, an repealed various sections of the Criminal Law, Health General, Natural Resources, Public Safety, and State Government Articles):

Passed as Senate Bill 281, the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 stands as one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed in the 2013 session. This Act modifies and expands the regulation of firearms in the Maryland, and includes new licensing requirements and prohibitions on certain classes of firearms. In addition to expanding the list of banned assault weapons to include any “assault long gun,” the Act places a 10-bullet limit on removable magazines. The Act creates a new handgun licensing plan under the administration of the Department of the State Police, and requires any handgun license applicant to submit a complete set of fingerprints and complete a safety training course. The Act has already become the subject of two lawsuits in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Doe v. O’Malley, No. 13-cv-2861 (D. Md.) and Tardy v. O’Malley, No. 13-cv-2841 (D. Md.). On October 1, 2013, Judge Blake, who presides over both cases, denied plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order asking the court to delay the enactment of the law on constitutional grounds.

Death Penalty Repeal (amended and repealed various section of the Correctional Services, Criminal Procedure, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Criminal Code, Health General, and Transportation Articles):

The Death Penalty Repeal Act was passed as Senate Bill 276. The Act serves to repeal the death penalty, along with procedures and requirements relating to the death penalty. A person found guilty of murder in the first degree must be sentenced to life imprisonment, with or without parole. In cases where the State of Maryland has already filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, the notice is effectively withdrawn and converted into a notice to seek life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Act does not apply to the five (5) men currently on death row; however, it is within the governor’s power to commute their sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Maryland is the 18th state to abolish the death penalty.

Misuse of Interactive Computer Service (Grace’s Law) (amended the Criminal Law Article, and codified as MD. CODE ANN., CRIM. LAW § 3-805):

Passed as House Bill 396, Grace’s Law prohibits a person from using an interactive computer service to maliciously engage in a course of conduct that inflicts serious emotional distress on a minor, or places a minor in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. The Law takes its name from Grace McComas, a 15-year old Maryland girl who committed suicide in 2012 after prolonged harassment over the internet. Grace’s Law is meant to curb instances of “cyberbullying.” The Act defines “interactive computer service” as an information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including a system that provides access to the Internet and cellular phones.

Use of Wireless Communication Device — Prohibited Acts, Enforcement, and Penalties (amended the Transportation Article, and codified as MD. CODE ANN., TRANSP. § 21-1124, 21-1124.2, 27-101):

Passed as Senate Bill 339 and House Bill 753, this Law serves to make using a cell phone while driving a primary offense. The Law repeals language making cell phone use a secondary offense, and prohibits “[a] driver of a motor vehicle that is in motion may not use the driver’s hands to use a handheld telephone other than to initiate or terminate a wireless telephone call or to turn on or turn off the handheld telephone.” MD. CODE ANN., TRANSP. § 21-1124.2(d)(2). The Law increases the maximum fine for the first offence from $40 to $75, but points may not be assessed against the driver’s license unless the violation contributes to an accident. A court may waive a penalty for a first offense if the offender provides proof that he or she has acquired a hands-free accessory that will allow the person to operate a motor vehicle as required under the new Law.

Medical Marijuana — Caregiver Affirmative Defense and Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission (amended and added various sections of the Criminal Law, Health General, and State Finance and Procurement Articles):

Passed as House Bills HB 180 and 1101, and Senate Bill 580, the Maryland legislature provided an affirmative defense to caregivers in a prosecution for the possession of marijuana or related paraphernalia, and created a Commission to implement programs for the compassionate medical use of marijuana. Under the Caregiver Defense, it is a defense to show that marijuana or drug paraphernalia was intended for medical use by an individual with a specified debilitating medical condition for whom the defendant is a specified caregiver. The Caregiver Defense is inapplicable where the defendant was either using marijuana in a public place, or in possession of more than one ounce. House Bill 1101 created the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission, the purpose of which is to issue a request for application for academic medical centers to operate medical marijuana compassionate use programs. Because an approved academic medical center may only use marijuana received from the federal government or a licensed grower, the Commission also is required to license a limited number of medical marijuana growers in the State.

Cannabimimetic Agents — Prohibition (amended Criminal Law Article, codified as MD. CODE ANN., CRIM. LAW §§ 5-101 and 5-402):

Passed as House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 109 this Law adds cannabimimetic agents to Maryland’s list of prohibited Schedule I controlled dangerous substances. Cannabimimetic agents are chemical substances that affect the body in a similar manner to marijuana. These drugs are also referred to as “designer drugs,” “K2/Spice,” or “synthetic marijuana.”

Shark Fins — Restrictions on Possession or Distribution (amended the Natural Resources Article, and codified as MD. CODE ANN., NAT. RES. § 4-747):

Passed as House Bill 1148 and Senate Bill 592, this Law prohibits the sale and possession of raw, dried, or otherwise processed detached fin or tail of a shark. The law makes an exemption for persons carrying particular State or federal licenses, along with museums, colleges, and universities possessing shark fin for display or research purposes. The Law does not include smooth-hounds or spiny dogfish. The Law also directs the Department of Natural Resources to adopt regulations in order to enforce the prohibition.