2015 End of Session Wrap Up: Public Safety and Corrections

This post summarizes the status of Public Safety and Corrections bills that MACo took a position on during the 2015 Regular Session.

Civil Immunity – Emergency Medical Care for a Drug Overdose: HB 898/SB 546 and HB 368/ SB 214 establish immunity from civil liability for law enforcement and first responders trained and certified to administer medications or treatment in response to an apparent drug overdose. Opioids, heroin in particular, continues to be a serious threat to public health and public safety across the State. These bills protect law enforcement and first responders administering naloxone, a life-saving medication that reverses an opioid overdose. MACo supported these bills as part of its legislative initiative to provide counties with broad tools to tackle the drug crisis.

Final Status: SB 546 and HB 368 passed the General Assembly and await action by the Governor.

Pretrial Release – Charge by Summons: HB 494 proposed reforms to Maryland’s pretrial system that are intended to reduce the burdens on the pretrial system and increase efficiencies through the increased use of citations and charge by summons by police officers. However, provisions of the bill undermined potential benefits and may actually force longer stays in local jails for many arrests. MACo supported with amendments the bill as originally introduced and MACo opposed the bill in the Senate in response to House amendments. Ultimately, the bill sponsors offered amendments during the Senate hearing that alleviated much of MACo’s concerns.

Final Status: HB 494 passed out of the House but received an unfavorable report by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Police Body Cameras:

HB 627/SB 482 as originally introduced established a comprehensive set of requirements for law enforcement officers and law enforcement agencies in regards to body-worn cameras. HB 308 authorized law enforcement agencies to use body cameras and requires set forth certain policies for their use, but was far less prescriptive in its local government requirements than HB 627/SB 482. MACo testified in support of the bills with amendments seeking local flexibility for camera use and record retention protocols, and limits on public records requests.

HB 533 as originally introduced sought an exception to the wiretapping and electronic surveillance law to make it lawful for a law enforcement officer to intercept an oral communication with a body camera or other specified device. MACo did not take a position on HB 533.

In a late session move, SB 482 and HB 533 were amended to mirror each other. The bills now create an exception to the wiretapping and electronic surveillance law and require the Police Training Commission to develop and publish policies for the use of body-worn cameras. Additionally the bills create a commission to study the implementation and use of body-worn cameras.

Final Status: HB 627 and HB 308 received unfavorable reports in the House Judiciary Committee. HB 533 and SB 482 passed the General Assembly and await action by the Governor.

Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council: HB 388/ SB 602 establish the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council in the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. The Council will develop a statewide framework of sentencing and corrections policies to further reduce the State’s incarcerated population, reduce spending on corrections, and reinvest in strategies for increased public safety. The Council will report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on or before December 31, 2015. MACo testified in support of this bill.

Final Status: HB 388/SB 602 passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by the Governor during the April 14, 2015 bill signings.

Juvenile Transfer Determinations: Under current law, certain juveniles charged as adults are held in adult jail pre-trial. However, if it is in the interest of the child or society, the circuit court may transfer the juvenile to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. This is known as a reverse waiver. HB 618/SB 172 requires, with certain exceptions, that while a reverse waiver is pending, a juvenile be held in a juvenile facility rather than the adult jail. MACo testified in support of this bill.

Final Status: HB 618 and SB 172 passed the General Assembly and awaits action by the Governor.