As fall quickly approaches, Marylanders are bracing for new laws to go into effect.  The following are just some of the new Maryland laws and regulations that will go into effect on October 1, 2013.

Gun Laws.  In response to several mass killings that occurred in 2012, Maryland passed The Maryland Firearm Safety Act, widely considered to be the most far reaching set of gun control laws in the country.  This Act contains a series of regulations collected from more than 3 dozen proposals to the General Assembly and will prohibit the sale of 45 weapons, limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds (down from 20 rounds), and require that buyers of firearms submit to both fingerprinting and safety classes in order to obtain a handgun qualification license.

Additionally, the Maryland Firearm Safety Act places new restrictions on the ability of mentally ill individuals to possess a firearm.   Under the law, a person may not possess a regulated firearm, rifle, or shotgun if the person:

  • suffers from a mental disorder as defined in § 10-101(f)(2) of the Health–General Article and has a history of violent behavior against the person or another;
  • has been found incompetent to stand trial or not criminally responsible in a criminal case;
  • has been voluntarily admitted for more than 30 consecutive days to a facility (i.e., a public or private clinic, hospital or other institution that treats individuals who have mental disorders);
  • has been involuntarily committed to a facility; or
  • is under the protection of a court-appointed guardian of the property or guardian of the person, except for cases in which the appointment of a guardian is solely a result of a physical disability.

If a hearing officer determines that an individual cannot safely possess a firearm, the hearing officer must order the individual to surrender any firearms in the individual’s possession and refrain from possessing a firearm unless the individual is granted relief from firearms disqualification.

Accommodations for Pregnant Workers.  The Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers Act requires that employers with 15 or more employees provide reasonable accommodations to employees who experience a disability as a result of pregnancy.  Under the law, if the employee requests a reasonable accommodation the employer needs to explore all possible means of providing that accommodation, including:

  • changing job duties;
  • changing work hours;
  • relocating a work area;
  • providing mechanical or electrical aids;
  • transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position; or
  • providing leave.

Medical Marijuana.  October 1st will mark the opening of the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission, established by HB1101 to develop a hospital-based medical marijuana program.  This law establishes a process whereby teaching hospitals would be able to participate in programs and provide medical marijuana to their patients.

Grace’s Law.  In response to the continued rise in online bullying, the Maryland General Assembly passed “Grace’s Law”, a law that 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 with the intent (1) to kill, injure, harass, or cause serious emotional distress to the minor or (2) to place the minor in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.

Under the law, an “interactive computer service” means 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. A violator is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to imprisonment for up to one year and/or a $500 maximum fine.

The bill is named in honor of Grace McComas, a 15-year-old from Howard County who, after repeated and vicious harassment online by a neighbor, committed suicide in April 2012.

Use of Wireless Communication Devices While Driving.      Effective October 1st, use of (1) a wireless communication device by a minor operating a motor vehicle; (2) a handheld telephone by an adult driver while operating a motor vehicle with a provisional license or learner’s permit; (3) a handheld telephone by an operator of a school vehicle that is carrying passengers and in motion; and (4) the fully licensed driver’s hands to use a handheld telephone, while the vehicle is in motion, will all be considered primary offenses in the State of Maryland.  The laws repeal the provisions of previous laws that limited enforcement to a secondary action when a driver is detained for another violation.

For adult drivers and school bus operators, the bills increase the maximum fine for a first offense from $40 to $75. For a second offense, the fine increases from $100 to a maximum of $125. The bills establish a maximum penalty of $175 for a third or subsequent offense and also specify that points may not be assessed against the driving record of any offender over 18 years of age unless the violation contributes to an accident.

Death Penalty Repeal.  Effective October 1st, individuals charged with first degree murder, if found guilty, are subject to penalties of life imprisonment or life imprisonment without parole.  Senate Bill 276 repealed the death penalty and all provisions relating to it, including those relating to its administration and post-death sentence proceedings. This new law requires a person found guilty of murder in the first degree to be sentenced to imprisonment for life or imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.

Furthermore, the bill also specifies that if the State has already properly filed a notice of intent to seek a death sentence, that notice must be considered withdrawn. In such instances, the State must also be considered to have properly filed notice to seek a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Finally, the new law specifies that the Governor may change a sentence of death into a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

The Koenig Law Group, LLC will continue to monitor and report on these, as well as other legislation as it becomes available.