Maryland House Republicans announce bills aimed at violent crime

Republican leaders in the Maryland House of Delegates released six bills they said are needed to deal with violent crime in the state.

In a news conference this week, House Minority Leader Nic Kipke and House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga outlined the legislation.

Citing Baltimore City’s homicide rate, Kipke said, “Maryland is in the midst of a violent crime crisis.”

He added that Baltimore County saw a dramatic spike in killings as well, with 50 homicides last year — the most on record.

The Stopping Dangerous and Violent Offenders Act of 2020 would require that a person convicted of certain violent crimes would have to serve a minimum of 90% of their sentence. Current law requires that violent offenders serve 50% of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Another bill would require local governments to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers for people who are convicted of violent crimes, terrorism or participation in criminal gangs and who are in the country illegally.

The Gun Theft Is a Felony Act of 2020 would make theft of firearms a felony, boosting the minimum sentence to two years, and the maximum to five, for the first offense. Currently, stealing a firearm is a misdemeanor under state law.

Another measure would require that crime victims or their representatives certify that they have been notified when a plea agreement is offered. The legislation lets the victim offer their opinion, which would be entered into the court record.

Szeliga said that the Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2020 would provide transparency on the sentencing process. The bill would allow cameras in the courtroom during the sentencing phase of a trial in adult court. Judges would be able to deny the request if the victim objects.

And the Truth in Plea Deals Act of 2020 would require that sentences in plea deals align with sentencing guidelines.

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