March 2012 Archives

Maryland Robbery Suspect Sentenced To Prison

March 26, 2012

952313_gavel.jpgThe last of five suspects involved a string of Baltimore area armed robberies was recently sentenced to prison. Maryland federal district judge Benson E. Legg handed down the 10 and a half year sentence, which also included a 3 year term of probation when the prison term expires. Judge Legg is the same federal district judge who just last month declared a controversial Maryland gun law unconstitutional (MARYLAND GUN LAW FOUND UNCONSTITUTIONAL).

The robberies occurred during the summer of 2010 in various Maryland locations including Baltimore, Loch Raven, and Chambersburg. According to a U.S. Department of Justice press release the suspects conspired to commit the robberies in order to obtain money and prescription drugs. While it is unknown exactly how many robberies the five suspects were involved in planning or carrying out, the U.S. Attorney secured guilty pleas for the suspects in two separate robberies. The first robbery occurred at a Chambersberg, Maryland bank in July of 2010. Only two of the five suspects actually took part in this first robbery. One of the suspects was arrested on the scene while the other fled and escaped. The other three suspects were alleged to have taken part in the planning of this robbery.

The second robbery took place in September of 2010 at a Baltimore area pharmacy. Three of the suspects took part in this robbery; two entered the pharmacy armed with guns but were not successful in stealing anything of value, while the other suspect waited outside in the getaway car. One of the suspects actually fired his gun during the attempted pharmacy robbery. Of the three suspects involved in the botched armed robbery, two were able to escape while the other was arrested on scene by Baltimore police.

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Should Maryland Counties Allow Online Filing of Police Reports?

March 19, 2012

1280072_keyboard-1.jpgCrime victims in Baltimore County are now able to file police reports online, instead of reporting the crime to an officer in person. Baltimore County police say the online system will have various benefits for victims of minor crimes and for the police department. Crime victims will be able to quickly generate reports for incidents such as theft and destruction of property, which insurance companies typically require before a claim can be filed. The Baltimore County police will also be able to conserve resources by not dispatching officers to minor crime scenes. Other reports that may now be filed online in Baltimore County include hit and run car accidents, lost property, and abandoned motor vehicles.

The online filing system, which was on display for the first time in late February, does not accept reports for violent crimes such as assault and battery, sex crimes, gun crimes, or drug crimes. The online system also has a 30 minute delay; crime victims must wait until 30 minutes after the incident occurred to file a police report online. The delay was put in place to encourage crime victims to use 911 in the case of an emergency, and in the cases where police may still have a chance to apprehend a suspect. Upon initiating an online report, the Baltimore County system requires crime victims to answer a series of questions to determine whether the incident is eligible for online reporting. Certain factors may prohibit an online report from being filed such as if the stolen property is valued at $15,000 or more.

Baltimore County is not the only jurisdiction in Maryland that currently allows the filing of online police reports. Ann Arundel County allows police reports for vandalism, identity theft, trespassing, theft of property up to $5,000, noise violations, loitering, and disorderly conduct to be filed online. Howard County has an online crime reporting system similar to Ann Arundel's system, but also adds crimes involving animals, and crimes involving solicitation. Baltimore City is currently in the process of discussing a resolution to allow online reporting as well.

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Will Modifying Maryland Gun Laws Affect Violent Crime Levels?

March 14, 2012

1100296_target_with_bullet_holes.jpgRecently a controversial Maryland gun law was declared unconstitutional in federal court. The decision left gun supporters and opponents alike arguing over the possible impacts on violent crime such as robbery, burglary, and even murder. The law required all Maryland residents to prove a "good and substantial reason" to be able to legally carry a handgun outside of the home in order to be granted a gun permit. The lawsuit began when a Baltimore man sued the state of Maryland in federal civil court after his application to renew his handgun carry permit was denied. The Baltimore man was joined in the lawsuit as plaintiff by the Second Amendment Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the right to bear arms. The plaintiffs prevailed, and provided the case is not successfully appealed, the Maryland legislature must modify this gun law.

Federal district judge Benson E. Legg's ruling will most likely be upheld, which will undoubtedly force Maryland to issue more handgun carry permits. The question up for debate is whether a change in Maryland gun law will actually effect the number of gun crimes and other violent crimes in the state. Both sides of this heated issued will be presented, but only time will tell if gun law modification will have any effect on crime and arrest levels in Maryland.

Gun advocates applauded the federal court ruling as a major victory not only for citizens of Maryland, but for citizens of all states. If upheld, the ruling sets a major precedent that states may not unduly burden a law abiding citizen's right to bear arms outside of the home, unless the state can show a substantial interest in doing so. Supporters of the recent ruling argue that Maryland has far more restrictive gun laws than the majority of the states, and changing these laws would simply put Maryland in line with the rest of the country.

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Maryland Gun Law Found Unconstitutional

March 13, 2012

1249005_glock_29_replica_1-1.jpgA federal judge has found a controversial Maryland gun law unconstitutional pursuant to a recent ruling. The key issue of the handgun law is the section that requires Maryland residents to show a "good and substantial reason" to carry a gun outside of their home in order to receive a permit from the state. A civil lawsuit challenging the firearm law was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, and judge Benson Everett Legg presided over the case. The plaintiffs consisted of multiple parties including the Second Amendment Foundation, a non-profit organization which promotes gun possession and ownership rights, and a Baltimore County resident.

This Maryland gun law in question prohibits the carrying of a handgun outside of the home whether the handgun is carried out in the open, or concealed. In fact, the only way to legally carry a handgun outside of the home is to receive a permit from the Secretary of the State Police. An applicant must meet a variety of strict requirements in order to be granted such a permit from the Maryland police secretary's office.

An applicant for a hand gun permit in Maryland must not be a convicted felon, not have been convicted of a misdemeanor for which the term of imprisonment is greater than one year, and must not have been convicted of any drug crime. The Maryland law also prohibits drug addicts, alcoholics, and anyone who has shown a propensity for violence or instability from obtaining a handgun permit. The controversial section of the law though, and the section that lead to the lawsuit being filed is the ambiguous "good and substantial reason" requirement.

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Should Maryland Decriminalize Marijuana And Other Drugs?

March 10, 2012

407664_vancouver_hemp_rally_1_jpg.jpgEach year thousands of defendants are arrested in Maryland for possession of marijuana and other drugs such as cocaine and and prescription pills. The costs of enforcing Maryland marijuana laws and other drug laws were revealed in part one of this post. In part two we will discuss the possible positive effects of decriminalizing marijuana in Maryland.

Decriminalization does not necessarily mean that drugs would be legal, rather it simply means that those caught possessing marijuana or other decriminalized drugs would not face criminal sanctions such as jail time. Penalties could still be imposed, including fines, and tickets similar to parking infraction tickets. Decriminalization must occur at the state government level and at the local level in order to be effective.

To initiate decriminalization of marijuana the Maryland Legislature would elect take its drug laws off the books, forcing local governments such as Baltimore City or Baltimore County to instruct its police officers to stop making drug arrests. If local governments have their own drug laws, they could choose to continue to enforce them unless the Maryland legislature enacts specific legislation prohibiting this. Ideally decriminalization would be a joint state and local effort, but Maryland state law would prevail in case of a conflict.

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DUI Charges Filed Against Truck Driver in Baltimore Chemical Spill

March 8, 2012

ink-spill2.jpgMaryland Police have charged a truck driver with DUI after the driver crashed his tractor trailer on interstate 95 in Baltimore. The apparent drunk driving accident occurred on February 15, on an overpass above interstate 895. Investigators do not know the exact cause of the crash, but the driver likely lost control causing the truck to turn over in the left lane of 95, just north of the Baltimore harbor tunnel. The allegedly intoxicated truck driver was carrying thousands of gallons of a water based chemical additive used in making concrete. Maryland police have yet to release the blood alcohol content of the accused driver, nor did the police divulge whether the driver submitted to a breath or blood alcohol test.

The chemical spilled from the truck was deemed on the scene to not be toxic, although gallons of diesel fuel were also spilled in the crash. According to Maryland police, the crash resulted in the temporary closure of both interstates, leading to major delays for drivers passing through one of Baltimore's busiest stretches of highway. The closure lasted almost 7 hours while police and environmental crews worked diligently to clean up the spill and assure the highway was safe to reopen. The chemicals and the diesel fuel reportedly were seen dripping off the overpass and on to cars traveling to and from Baltimore city.

Police were still investigating the accident at the time that the driver was arrested to determine the exact cause of the crash. Other charges were filed against the driver in addition to driving under the influence of alcohol according to the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. The driver was ticketed for negligent driving, failure to obey lane direction, and a federal trucking regulation that prohibits drinking alcohol prior to operating a commercial vehicle.

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Are Maryland Marijuana Laws More Harmful Than Actual Marijuana?

March 6, 2012

1206038_dutch_weed-2_jpg.jpgEach year Maryland police officers make thousands of drug arrests, costing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and yet there continues to be no visible evidence that the war on drugs is decreasing the amount of drug users in Maryland. Police officers focus a large portion of their time and effort making arrests for possession of cocaine, heroin, and prescription medication throughout Maryland, and especially in Baltimore City. Perhaps the most staggering data comes from the amount of marijuana arrests that Maryland cops make, and the money spent to make these marijuana arrests.

Maryland police officers made almost 25,000 marijuana arrests in 2007 which averages to roughly 440 people arrested for marijuana per 100,000 people in the general population. This according to drugscience.org is the fourth highest cannabis arrest ratio in the country. About 90 percent of these arrests were for possession, while the other 10 percent were for trafficking, sale, or dealing.

More alarming is the amount of money and resources Maryland spends on enforcing its marijuana laws. While Maryland does not have the strictest marijuana laws in the country, millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on police protection, the judicial system, and the corrections department to enforce these laws. Simple possession of marijuana in Maryland is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail for a first time offender. Sale and trafficking of marijuana are both felonies with much larger maximum jail sentences. Sale carries up to 5 years in jail. and may carry a mandatory jail sentence, while trafficking can carry up to a 40 year jail sentence and heavy fines.

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