The FIRST STEP Act, which President Trump signed into law in December 2018, was lauded by civil rights advocates in Maryland and around the country as a meaningful step toward a more equitable criminal justice system. The law offers relief to federal prisoners who were convicted of nonviolent offenses, but the overwhelming majority of the nation's inmates are held in state rather than federal detention facilities.
Many criminal defense lawyers in Maryland and across the country have counseled their clients to use alphanumeric passcodes or passwords for their mobile devices. As people come to depend on their mobile devices for all aspects of their daily lives and communications, they may also be concerned about the potential for them to be opened by law enforcement without their consent. In the past, multiple courts have ruled that police cannot force people to disclose their mobile phone passcodes. This is considered to violate the constitutional right against forced self-incrimination.
Most criminal defendants in Maryland will face misdemeanor charges. Although convictions on misdemeanors will not result in penalties as harsh as those for felony convictions, the long-term results could limit people's chances for employment as well as access to student loans or government benefits.
Legislation aimed at reforming parts of the criminal justice system passed the Senate 82-12 after revisions were made. It would allow some federal inmates from Maryland and other states to obtain a reduced sentence and other benefits. Those who work or participate in other qualifying programs can receive credit toward their sentence. The idea is that prisoners would be more productive while in custody and less likely to offend again once they are released.
Politicians from Maryland and throughout the country have supported the First Step Act. If passed through Congress, the legislation would work to shorten federal prison sentences and alter rules that tend to unfairly harm minorities. For instance, it would make sentencing more equitable for those convicted of crimes related to crack cocaine and powdered cocaine. However, it is important to note that the Department of Justice would still have the final say as to whether a person would qualify for an early release.
Some people in Maryland who are serving a jail or prison sentence may have their sentences shortened or receive other benefits if a bill known as the First Step Act passes through Congress. One thing the bill will do is address the disparities in sentencing between people convicted of drug-related charges involving cocaine and those involving crack.
The use of electronic monitoring devices doubled between 2005 and 2015, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. These devices use GPS to monitor a person whether he or she is in Maryland or any other state. They are considered to be more humane than simply locking an offender behind bars. For those who have been required to use an ankle bracelet, however, it is often described as akin to being incarcerated.
Black defendants may face racial bias in Maryland and across the country at bail hearings regardless of the race of the judge involved. This is the conclusion of a study conducted in Philadelphia and Miami that examined over 250,000 court cases in which bail was at issue. Both black and white judges were, according to the study, more likely to detain black defendants until their court hearings, a step that can have a negative impact on the perception of the defendant and the likelihood of conviction. In addition, black defendants were charged an average of $7,281 more for bail than white defendants.
Research shows that criminal eyewitness identifications tend to be unreliable, meaning defendants in Maryland and elsewhere could be wrongfully convicted if such evidence is used in a trial. As a result, many police departments are finally changing the way they conduct police lineups.
According to the Supreme Court, a warrant is necessary to access a cellphone's location history. This is considered a major victory for the privacy rights of Maryland residents and all Americans. Its 5-4 decision in Carpenter v. United States is also seen as widening the scope and updating the Fourth Amendment. Under the Stored Communications Act, police could obtain cell site location information, or CSLI, as long as it could reasonably be used to find data relevant to an investigation.