If it’s October, you can bet Maryland has some new laws. October 1 is when most new Maryland laws take effect.
As per usual, we have the rundown of the new Maryland laws that are likely to affect you the most. Share this with friends and family. Everyone should know this stuff.
Rear Facing Child Car Seats Mandatory
Children must be kept in a rear facing car seat until 2 years old. That was always the best safety recommendation, but now it is the law. This law brings Maryland in line with 16 other states that already require rear facing car seats for our youngest citizens.
The only exception is where a child is too big for such a seat. If your child meets or exceeds the manufacturer’s limits for weight and height of a rear facing car seat, you can move to a more traditional, front facing child safety car seat, regardless of their age.
Violations of this new Maryland law may result in a written warning. The state is not looking to punish parents with high cost fines. They just want it known that rear facing car seats are required, in the hopes that people will voluntarily comply.
Marriage Age of Consent is now 17
Yesterday, a 15 year old could get married in Maryland. I bet that shocks you. Now you cannot get married unless you are at least 17. And if you are 17 and want to get married, the law now forces you to jump through a lot of legal hoops and get a Judge to sign off.
Previously, you could get married at 16 if your parent or legal guardian consented, and at 15 if your doctor also said it was OK. I don’t have any idea why this old fashioned law has lingered for so long.
Before you say “who the heck gets married at 15 or 16 in this day and age?”, I did once represent a 16 year old girl in a divorce. Her mother married her off to the mother’s drug dealer. The drug dealer was much older, but I can’t remember how old exactly. I want to say he was in his 30’s or 40’s.
I’m not kidding. It was sickening. I did that case pro bono (without charge) and was very, very happy to free this young girl from that creep she was married to. I hope she is doing well today.
Apparently, Maryland has also become a destination of sorts for child weddings due to our unusually lax age of consent laws. According to the State Delegate pushing this bill, we had 3500 child weddings over the course 10 years. That is nuts! I cannot believe it took so long to change this.
Basically, this law still allows you to marry before you are 18, but only after you hire a lawyer and get a court order, along with the consent of every parent or guardian. They built in a lot of “adult supervision” to make sure a case like the one I mention above can’t happen again. I don’t think you will see very many 17 year old’s getting married anymore, because of these legal hurdles, even though it is technically legal.
Maryland did not outright prohibit marriage before age 18, but they made it a lot more difficult. I don’t know why Maryland doesn’t just prohibit marriage until you are 18, but I guess there are reasons I don’t fully understand.
Move Over for Disabled Vehicles
Maryland has had a “move over” law for years. That law requires you to move over a lane if you drive past an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. We explained Maryland’s move over law here.
Starting today, you also have to move over for a disabled vehicles displaying warning signs (like flashers). You must move over a lane only if it is safe to do so. Don’t cause an accident trying to change lanes suddenly just to comply with this law!
Stalking by Electronic Means
Current law doesn’t clearly say electronic stalking is illegal. So the state is clarifying that and the definition now includes stalking “in person, by electronic communication, or through the use of a device that can pinpoint or track the location of another without the person’s knowledge or consent.”
This is a long overdue good step. I have represented people who were stalked by tracking devices, among other things. Such a thing should have been illegal a long time ago.
New Definitions for Harassment & Sexual Harassment
Maryland will expand the definition of harassment and sexual harassment. This clears up some loopholes that have been used in the past to defeat such claims. The following will now qualify under the law:
- Unwelcome and offensive conduct that need not be severe;
- Instances when submission to unwelcome and offensive conduct are made a term or condition of an individual’s employment, whether explicitly or implicitly;
- Instances when submission to or rejection of unwelcome and offensive conduct is used for the basis of an employment decision and, based on the totality of the circumstances, conduct that unreasonably creates a working environment that a reasonable person would perceive to be hostile or abusive.
This is a good law, but it is going to be very hard to prove these details in practice. I bet a lot of new appellate case law comes out of this stuff.
Small Estate Fees Waived
If you have a small estate to process (under $50,000 if you are not a spouse, and under $100,000 if you are the surviving spouse) the filing fees are now waived. You can file that for free. The fees on large estates will be raised to make up for that.
More Training for Judges
Judges handling child custody disputes where there is an allegation of abuse will now receive additional training on how to handle those cases. This is a good idea.
Frankly, I think they need to create a totally separate family law court so you always have judges in these cases who get special training and understand the very emotional issues that go with that territory. But we aren’t there yet.
Conclusion & Next Steps
There are a lot of other random laws that mostly effect specific people in specific situations or professions, but the ones above are most likely to affect you as a citizen of the state.
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