If it’s October, it must mean new laws in Maryland. This year saw the passage of the usual slew of new laws affecting your life. This post provides a summary of the new laws most likely to affect you. We explain what you need to know, and what is interesting in the new laws.
MARIJUANA: Perhaps the biggest new law is Maryland’s move towards decriminalizing marijuana. Pot is NOT legal in Maryland. But the crime of marijuana possession is now a fine instead of possible jail time. It is being treated a lot like traffic tickets. The first and second offense will be a fine. For a third offense, you must appear in court. We provided all the details on the marijuana law over the summer in a former blog post you can read here.
TRANSGENDER DISCRIMINATION: Transgender people now have protection from discrimination in the workplace, school, housing, and in their choice of bathrooms.
What is interesting about this is how you define what makes a person transgender. If you think about it, you have to define this status to figure out when the law applies. And defining what is, and what is not, transgender has proven to be a somewhat tough task. The state did not want to limit the law only to people who have had the actual operation. But nobody wants a definition so broad that some guy can just throw on a wig and use the woman’s bathroom.
Maryland defines the term “gender identity” as the gender related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth. Gender identity is demonstrated as the consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.
Who decides that? A judge or jury, of course. As cases are filed and wind their way through the appellate courts, there will be some interesting case law developed to decide when a person can actually claim he or she is transgender.
PROTECTIVE ORDERS: Maryland dropped the burden of proof to get a protective order from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of the evidence”. The burden of proof is the amount of evidence you need to prove your assertion. At the end of the trial, there will always be evidence for each side. How much evidence do you need to meet your burden of proof?
When we try to explain the burden of proof to jurors, we often say “preponderance of the evidence” is like 51%. If you feel like the Plaintiff made their case by at least 51-49, then you rule for the Plaintiff. Clear and convincing is a higher standard. It is more like 75%. (And “beyond a reasonable doubt”, used in criminal cases, is more like 95%.) Theoretically, one person’s word against another will never meet the “clear and convincing” standard. And in domestic violence cases, that may be all you have.
So now it is easier to win that protective order, because you don’t have to show as much proof to get it. You still have to convince a Judge you need one, but not by such a high standard.
Also, second degree assault was added to the list of acts for which you can get a protective order. A separate law increased the penalty if you commit domestic violence in front of a child.
MOVE OVER: Maryland’s so called “move over law” was broadened to include tow trucks. Maryland has required slowing down and moving over for emergency vehicles on the road since 2013. We told you what you need to know about the first Move Over Law here. Now you have to do the same for tow trucks.
JAKES LAW: This law imposes a one year jail term for any driver texting or talking on a handheld phone who causes an accident which resulting in injury or death.
AMAZON TAX: Amazon.com opened a warehouse in Baltimore. Now that they have a physical presence in the state, you have to pay 6% sales tax on any purchases made at Amazon, just as if you walked into their physical storefront.
There are others, of course, but these are the new laws most likely to affect you. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email and ask.