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Hogan introduces legislation to crack down on violent crime, establish judicial transparency

A pair of emergency bills circulating in the Maryland General Assembly call for tougher penalties on violent crimes while establishing judicial transparency when it comes to sentencing criminals for those offenses.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced the introductions of Senate Bill 5, the Judicial Transparency Act of 2021, and Senate Bill 6, the Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2021, late Monday afternoon to address the rise in violent crime that has gripped the state.

“People are being shot nearly every single day in Baltimore City, and we have an obligation to do something about it right now,” Hogan said in a news release. “[Monday], our administration has introduced emergency legislation to require tougher sentencing for violent offenders, specifically those who continue to commit violent felonies with guns, and to bring greater transparency to the sentences handed down by judges for all violent crimes.”

The bills would reform sentencing guidelines for violent crimes and institute a yearly judicial review process conducted by the General Assembly, Hogan said, while urging their adoption.

“An overwhelming majority of Baltimore City residents, and all Marylanders, strongly support these bills,” Hogan said. “We have all waited long enough. City leaders, the city delegation, and all members of the General Assembly must finally work with us to make our neighborhoods safer and to get these violent shooters off the streets.”

Senate Bill 6, if passed, would prohibit a district court from authorizing the pre-trial release of a defendant charged with arson, burglary, child abuse, and committing a crime with a destructive device, controlled substance, or manslaughter by vehicle.

Under the bill, the court would not authorize pre-trial release if the defendant has been previously convicted of a violent crime, including offenses with guns, prohibition of assault rifles, using a machine gun to commit a crime or use in a menacing manner, or possession of a firearm after a previous drug conviction.

The bill also would include guidelines for violent crimes by offenders with a mental disorder, or a prior conviction, or have altered a handgun’s serial number.

In addition, under the bill, the state could appeal a court’s decision if the trial court excluded evidence offered by the state or require the return of alleged seized property that is in violation of the Constitution. However, the appeal would have to be filed within 15 days of the court’s decision, before jeopardy would be attached to the defendant, and a decision by the court must be rendered within 120 days.

A homicide case would be excluded if the state appeals the final decision of the court. If that decision is affirmed, then charges against the defendant would be dismissed and the state could not prosecute on those charges, or related charges, stemming from the same incident.

The bill also would set sentencing guidelines for firearms-related offenses, making them a felony. For a first offense, a defendant would be sentenced to not less than five years to no more than 20 years in prison. A second offense would carry a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and not more than 20 years. Sentencing could not be issued below the minimum mandate, could not be suspended, and the defendant would not be eligible for parole until the minimum sentence has been served.

Under the proposed legislation, a person committing a crime with an assault weapon, a rapid-fire trigger activator, or magazine that contains more than 10 rounds, would be charged with a felony and sentenced to no less than five years and no more than 20 years for a first offense. Each subsequent offense would carry a sentence of no less than 10 years and not more than 20 years and could not be suspended.

Senate Bill 5 would define violent crimes, including rape, murder, carjacking, and assault, and provide for a report to be generated annually by Jan. 31 and given to the General Assembly.

The report would include, under the bill, any changes in sentencing guidelines, reviewing judicial compliances with sentencing guidelines, and including compliance by crime and judicial circuit. The report would feature the crime the defendant was convicted of, the sentence imposed, the sentencing guideline range, disposition of the case, and the court and judge who handled the action.

This article was originally posted on Hogan introduces legislation to crack down on violent crime, establish judicial transparency

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