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Maryland Criminal Law Blog

Maryland teens warned against underage drinking this prom season

  • 11
  • April
    2014

Spring is a special time for Maryland high school seniors, as they begin to look ahead to major events such as prom and high school graduation. Although the upcoming weeks are sure to bring a great deal of celebration and joy, it is important for parents to remember that this time of the year is also a high-risk period for youngsters. Experts say that underage drinking and other dangerous behaviors peak during prom season, as students are tempted to make questionable decisions about alcohol consumption. These choices could land the teens in the juvenile law system, where they may face serious penalties.

Authorities in Maryland say they are taking extra steps to protect young people from alcohol and drug abuse, but the decision ultimately comes down to the students themselves. These youngsters need to understand the risks that accompany alcohol use, especially when it is related to underage drinking and driving. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control show that young people are far more likely to get in car wrecks than their older counterparts. Even more disturbing is the fact that about one in four teens has ridden with an intoxicated driver during the most recent month.

Cyberbullying a computer crime? Some think so

  • 02
  • April
    2014

Cyberbullying is becoming a topic of concern for Maryland families and others throughout the nation. Until now, though, many of the negative comments that are sent through the Internet have not been categorized as computer crimes. Advocates in several states are trying to change that, as youngsters and adults work together to criminalize cyberbullying in Colorado. This effort could spill over into other jurisdictions, including Maryland.

A new bill has been introduced in the Colorado legislature that would make cyberbullying a crime. Lawmakers say they want to protect kids in the area from online bullies who exploit social media platforms for inflicting serious distress. Those legislators say that many kids have thought about suicide because of the impact that cyberbullying has had on their lives.

Maryland man could face felony for shooting neighbor's dog

  • 27
  • March
    2014

A Maryland resident is facing potential felony charges for animal cruelty after allegedly shooting a neighbor's dog. The man is not accused of burglary or breaking and entering in connection with the incident, though he could face similar penalties if he is formally charged for his role in this shooting. The defendant in this case said that he shot the dog after it rushed at him in a threatening manner.

News reports show that the man posed for a "selfie" with the deceased dog, and he then posted the photograph on Facebook, a popular social media site. The man had also posted other threats on that site, indicating that he would shoot the dog if it entered his yard on the day in question. Now, community members who saw those posts are calling for the man to be indicted on a felony charge for his involvement in the dog's death. They say they are also concerned because the man allegedly discharged his weapon within close proximity to a daycare, which is operated next door to his house.

Woman facing penalties after probation violation

  • 21
  • March
    2014

A Maryland woman has allegedly violated the terms of her probation by visiting a bar from which she had been banned. The woman, from Pomfret, had admitted to killing a motorist in a drunk driving accident in 2011. Now, she could face additional penalties because of the probation violation, which allegedly occurred throughout January of this year. She was arrested and subsequently released after posting a $50,000 bail.

Official reports show that the woman, age 42, struck a 52-year-old motorcycle rider in August 2011 after she failed to yield on U.S. 301. The driver was found with blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit in the state. After pleading guilty to charges of negligent vehicular manslaughter, the woman was sentenced to three years on probation.

Maryland bill would criminalize new types of computer crimes

  • 12
  • March
    2014

A new bill has been introduced in Maryland that would protect online victims from various forms of Internet-related violence. The measure would create specific punishment for those convicted of Internet crimes including "rape by proxy," a certain type of cyberstalking. Lawmakers say that the bill has been introduced in response to outcry from several victims of the crime. The new measure would make rape by proxy a felony, and defendants could receive up to 20 years' prison time for the offense.

Rape by proxy is a relatively new phrase. The term refers to a growing problem in which offenders will commit Internet fraud by assuming the identity of their victims online. In one recent case, a man pretended to be his ex-wife, for example. That man posted several advertisements soliciting sex from strangers. Those posts included pictures of the ex-wife and her children, and their home address was included.

Changes could lead to underage drinking during spring break

  • 07
  • March
    2014

Proposed legislation in one of America's most popular spring break locations has sparked concern throughout several communities. Scores of Maryland students travel to Florida for spring break, and they could have easier access to alcohol if the new legislation is passed. The measure would make it legal to purchase hard alcohol at a grocery store, a move that some opponents say would encourage underage drinking throughout the year.

The new legislation would allow big-box stores and grocery stores to include a liquor aisle next to other, traditional items. Currently, big-box stores are permitted to sell liquor, but customers are required to use a separate entrance. Law enforcement professionals say that this move could be problematic, especially with a popular vacation time approaching. Florida's spring break culture could cause college students and high school students to face serious penalties if they are found in possession of alcohol.

Maryland law seeks expungement for burglary, other felonies

  • 28
  • February
    2014

Maryland politicians are pushing for the approval of a law that would allow people to erase certain elements of their criminal records. Several measures have been proposed, with some seeking to allow most felonies, including burglary, to be expunged entirely. Other proposals would allow the expungement of misdemeanors. Current law allows only nuisance misdemeanors to be cleared from a criminal record. One example of a nuisance misdemeanor is public urination.

The proposed changes echo modifications that have been made in other jurisdictions. Change may be on the way for Maryland and other states, especially after statements from the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that were released in mid-February. Holder is pushing to lessen some of the consequences associated with conviction for felony charges. He is encouraging changes that would prohibit employers to ask about felon status on certain job applications, for example, and Holder also said he wants convicted felons to be able to vote.

Experts: Computer crimes will rise without security measures

  • 21
  • February
    2014

Computer security experts who analyzed the recent cyber intrusion against retail giant Target during the holiday season say that such Internet crimes are likely to become more common. A growing number of industry professionals say that alleged computer criminals are becoming more tech-savvy than ever. People who commit computer crimes are more likely to break through the outdated computer security systems used by U.S. companies. The hackers that struck Target during the holiday season made off with 40 million card numbers. About 70 million customers' personal information was also pilfered in that attack, with some Maryland residents affected.

Analysis shows that only about one in 10 businesses in the U.S. are prepared to foil cybercrime with industry standard security measures. Some have even criticized those protections, saying the industry's best practices guidelines do not provide adequate shielding against aggressive computer crime and identity theft. Researchers say that a growing number of criminal defendants are likely to surface as more people attempt to bypass archaic security systems. To truly protect themselves, most retailers would have to enforce rigid security systems that involve complicated protections against sensitive data. That could mean that credit card information would be held on embedded computer chips instead of the black magnetic tape found on most domestic charge cards.

Probation violation for man who smoked weed before meeting?

  • 14
  • February
    2014

Two men were arrested in Worcester County, Maryland, in early February after their companion admitted to smoking marijuana before a probation meeting. The incident, which occurred on Jan. 30, led to the arrest of a 21-year-old and a 24-year-old, both of whom were sitting in a vehicle outside the Office of Parole and Probation. Their 25-year-old friend told his probation officer that he had smoked in the vehicle before going to his appointment. News reports do not indicate whether that man has been charged with a probation violation in connection with the incident.

After the man told his probation officer that he had just smoked marijuana in a car with his friends, deputies were dispatched to the parking lot to find the vehicle. Those officers found the two defendants in a vehicle that smelled strongly of marijuana. The older occupant is from Millsboro and the younger back-seat passenger is from Georgetown. Authorities say that they searched the vehicle, reportedly discovering a pipe and a bag of marijuana. Both of the individuals in the vehicle were arrested and charged with drug possession and possession of paraphernalia.

Maryland county works to implement underage drinking prevention

  • 07
  • February
    2014

Maryland leaders in Frederick County are working toward reducing underage drinking by implementing a variety of community measures. Representatives from the police department, health department and other groups have formed the Frederick County Alcohol Prevention Initiative Coalition, designed to target those establishments that allow underage drinking to occur. Officials say that prevention is the key to reducing underage drinking rates.

Not only can underage drinking lead to teens being involved in the juvenile law system, it can also cause injuries, underage drinking and driving accidents and even fatalities. Young drivers may be more dangerous when intoxicated, said one police representative, largely because the children do not know how to "handle" alcohol in their bodies. Teens who engage in underage drinking may end up facing long-term consequences, along with social and family concerns.