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Maryland may toughen laws against repeat offenders

If the governor of Maryland has his way, the state is about to get a lot tougher on repeat offenders. The proposed changes, which are to be presented next year, are being referred to as “truth-in-sentencing” legislation.

The governor feels that a large part of the problem with Baltimore’s escalating violent crime rate is that repeat offenders are being treated too leniently. Seasoned criminals, in essence, already know that the justice system is going to treat them fairly lightly, so they don’t fear the consequences of their criminal behavior.

This leads to a revolving door system, with prisons just temporarily holding even the worst repeat offenders for a brief time before putting them right back out on the street. While the governor has yet to explain his proposals in detail, one thing is clear: He wants repeat offenders to serve minimum terms and to actually serve that full period behind bars.

That would definitely be a new approach — many repeat offenders know the system well enough to know that a sentence is rarely what it seems. Defendants can take steps to gain leniency from the judge. For example, taking anger management classes and going to counseling for drug addiction can sway a judge into passing out a sentence that is mostly suspended. A five-year sentence, for example, might be whittled down to nothing more than time served while waiting for the judicial hearing and probation for the remainder of the suspended sentence.

In addition to making the sentences against repeat offenders tougher, state officials also agree that other methods can help control the problem of violent crime, including:

  • Aggressive prosecution of gun law violations
  • Pursuing more cases in federal court, which already has stiffer penalties
  • Improving job opportunities and educational opportunities

It remains to be seen how much the governor will get his way come next year, but the city’s population should be braced for some rough times, legally, ahead.

If you’ve been charged with a violent crime in Maryland, don’t take your chances in the current political climate and the increasingly dim view toward defendants — consider the advice and guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “After Baltimore crime meeting, Hogan proposes ‘truth in sentencing’ legislation,” Luke Broadwater, Aug. 29, 2017

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