To Airbnb or Not to Airbnb: Maryland Lawmakers Look to Close Loophole Allowing Airbnb Patrons to Evade Sales Taxes

State lawmakers are currently considering a law that would require Airbnb[1]to collect a six-percent sales tax for bookings made through its online platform.[2]Known as the “Airbnb bill,” the law would close a loophole that allows Airbnb hosts to forgo collecting Maryland’s sales tax on rentals made through the online platform.[3]If the law is passed, Airbnb would have to itemize the six-percent sales and use tax on its invoices, collect the taxes at the time of booking, and forward the proceeds to the State—just like traditional brick and mortar hotels.[4]While the Airbnb bill is described as a parity measure,[5]it may risk shortchanging resourceful hosts who rely on Airbnbs for income, and receding the State’s tourism revenue.

Technically, Maryland’s Airbnbs have always been required to collect the sales and use tax.[6]However, because Airbnbs are not governed by the same permit or registration requirements as traditional hotels, it is almost impossible for the State Comptroller to regulate collection of the taxes.[7]This is in large part due to Airbnbs privacy policies, which shield hosts’ personal information beyond their first names making them essentially unidentifiable.[8]Moreover, Airbnb does not compel its hosts’ compliance with State tax laws.[9]

Critics of the bill urge that the new law may stifle enterprising homeowners who only offer rentals as a way to generate supplemental income.[10]One Airbnb host that enforces Maryland’s six-percent sales tax points out that once guests realize she charges the tax they often cancel their reservation.[11]Proponents of the bill include large brick and mortar hotel chains and smaller bed and breakfast owners; they argue the bill strikes at fundamental fairness by leveling the playing field.[12]In 2018, hotels paid $125 million in taxes from rentals.[13]Despite operating in the same industry, many Airbnb rentals escaped taxation. Supporters also argue it would be an enormous revenue raiser. In 2018, Maryland Airbnb hosts raked in roughly $57 million of income,[14]which would have translated to approximately $3.4 million in tax revenue under the new law. While Maryland’s proposed legislation may add to State coffers, naysayers forecast declines in tourism and, thus, tangential revenue losses.[15]

In 2018, Maryland grossed $49.4 million from tourism-related taxes, an uptick from $46.7 million in 2017.[16]From 2016 to 2017, tourism revenue increased by about four percent.[17]Maryland’s tourism revenue seems to be in lockstep with Airbnb growth, revealing a direct correlation between both markets. A few factors explain this correlation. For one, it is possible that Airbnbs are filling hotel demand gaps, in turn allowing for more tourism. In Maryland, hotel demand outpaces supply by nearly two percent.[18]In addition to providing more lodging, an Airbnb is generally about twenty-five dollars cheaper per night than a hotel.[19]Next, Maryland’s goal of advancing its image as an attractive leisure destination for vacationers is complemented by Airbnb;[20]studies show that Airbnb’s key demographic is “leisure-oriented” travelers.[21]Given the link between these markets, a decline in Airbnb bookings may yield a reduction in tourism revenue as well.

Maryland’s recent Airbnb bill tracks other opportunistic States that have passed laws to regulate the booming business[22]of online hosting platforms.[23]To avoid alienating Airbnbs (and hosts) and reducing tourism revenue, legislators should consider amending the bill to incorporate a minimum-threshold tax. For example, if a host’s annual rental income falls below a designated percentage, the host would assess a lower tax rate. However, once a host’s annual rental income exceeds the designated percentage, the host would begin assessing the full six-percent tax for subsequent transactions. If passed, the new law will take effect on June 1, 2019— just in time for summer.[24]While Maryland lawmakers seem quick to cash-in on Airbnb check-ins, legislators should consider potential risks of undermining the bill’s own revenue and impartiality objectives.


Todd Milligan is a third-year law student who joined Law Forum after transferring to UB and completing the write-on competition during the first two weeks of his first semester at UB. After graduation, Todd will sit for the Maryland Bar Exam in July 2019. In the fall of 2019, Todd will be attending Georgetown Law to obtain his LL.M. in Taxation. Todd aspires to become a U.S. Tax Court judge in the future.

Linkedin page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tm2/

Advertisements

Baltimore City Sues Owners of Pimlico and Laurel Park in Effort to Prevent Movement of Preakness Stakes

On March 19, 2019, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh filed a lawsuit, on behalf of the city, against the owners of Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, the Stronach Group, in an effort to prevent them from moving the Preakness Stakes and from using state bonds to improve Laurel Park.[1]The city is also seeking to have ownership of Pimlico Race Course given to them through condemnation.[2]  The city’s concerns stem from the fact that the Stronach Group has not committed to keeping the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico past the year 2020, while continuing to seek funding to improve Laurel Park, allowing Pimlico to fall into disrepair.[3]

Under Maryland law, the Preakness Stakes can only be moved from Pimlico, “as a result of a disaster or emergency,” and the lawsuit alleges that the Stronach Group is attempting to subvert this law by moving the Preakness Stakes to a different racetrack without a disaster or emergency.[4]  The lawsuit also alleges that the Stronach Group is attempting to create their own disaster by underinvesting in Pimlico and continually improving Laurel Park.[5]  The city pointed to the fact that the majority of the state aid that the Stronach Group has received over the last few years has been invested in Laurel Park and not Pimlico.[6]  The city also claims that an undermaintained infrastructure at Pimlico would begin to fail, which would cause the crowds and horse racing to suffer.[7]  Baltimore claims that if the Preakness moves to Laurel Park it will harm the surrounding neighborhoods at Pimlico, which are poorer than the neighborhoods surrounding Laurel Park.[8]  Baltimore City would like to gain control of Pimlico in order to keep the Preakness Stakes there and to preserve the history of having the race there every year.[9]

In response to this lawsuit, the Stronach Group’s lawyers wrote a letter to City Solicitor Andre Davis asking for withdrawal of the lawsuit and stating that it is devoid of legal basis.[10]  They claim that the city does not have the authority to bring this lawsuit and that only the state may do so.[11]  If not withdrawn the Stronach Group will seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.[12]

Over the past few years there has been a growing discussion and push for the Preakness Stakes to be moved from Pimlico to Laurel Park.  Moving this race would have huge economic repercussions for the neighborhoods surrounding Pimlico and Baltimore City as a whole.[13]  If the Preakness Stakes are held in Laurel, there will be no need for the tourists and patrons to enter Baltimore City and a large portion of the revenue that the Preakness Stakes generates for the city will be lost.  Not only would moving the race to Laurel be devastating to the city economically, but it would be devastating historically as well. Pimlico has hosted the Preakness Stakes since its inception in 1873 and is one of Baltimore’s most time-honored traditions.  If Baltimore City is successful with this lawsuit it would not only allow them to keep the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, but it could potentially lead to a large renovation of Pimlico in an effort to demonstrate that it can still be a viable location for the Preakness Stakes moving forward.  It could also have large repercussions for Laurel Park because the Stronach Group may not wish to continue its investment in the race track without the ability to move the Preakness Stakes there.


Zachary Kluttz recently graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Recreational Use Soon to be Legal: Maryland Lawmakers Introduce New Marijuana Legislation

Lawmakers in Maryland have introduced new legislation which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.[1]This decision follows the legalization of medical marijuana in Maryland and a nationwide movement which includes ten states and the District of Columbia who have already legalized recreational use of the substance.[2]Maryland is currently one of thirty-one states that have legalized either recreational or medical use of marijuana.[3]The nation’s view of and attitude towards marijuana is quickly changing as legislatures work to adapt their current marijuana laws and attempt to draft new legislation to meet the seemingly inevitable complete legalization of the “drug.”[4]House Speaker Michael Busch believes that legalization of recreational use of marijuana is “the future,” and plans to invest the tax revenue generated from marijuana sales into the state’s educational system.[5]

The proposed bill which would legalize the recreation use of marijuana was introduced to the Maryland House of Representatives by Delegate Eric Luedtke and to the Maryland Senate by Senator Will Smith Jr.[6]The bill would allow adults, ages twenty-one and older, to possess, consume, grow, and purchase cannabis.[7]Possession restricts would be established through the proposed legislation, allowing individuals to be in possession of one ounce of the flower form of cannabis and five grams of the concentrated form.[8]A Goucher College study, conducted in 2018, found that 62% of Marylanders “support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.”[9]

In order to predict the impact of the recreational legalization of cannabis on Maryland, leaders from the General Assembly have asked for assistance from a “work group” to report investigate these impacts.[10]The work group will complete its investigation and report its findings before December 31, 2019, making it available for the legislative session to begin in 2020.[11]The group is placing specific emphasis on analyzing licensure, taxing the sales of cannabis, impacts on the criminal justice system, as well as any public health concerns.[12]As stated earlier, the recreational legalization of marijuana seems to be the inevitable future for both Maryland and the country as a whole. With educational systems that are struggling for state funding, especially in Baltimore City, marijuana could be a saving grace for its ability to generate tax revenue for the state. Jurisdictions within the State will have to be flexible with the new legislation in the application of the new laws in the criminal justice system, especially in law enforcement settings. The proposed legalization of recreational marijuana also comes on the heels of Marilyn Mosby, the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, announcing that the jurisdiction would no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases.[13]Regardless of its challenges and minority opposition, the recreational legalization of marijuana seems to be a positive move for Maryland in an attempt to generate tax revenue for its educational systems and pressure from an inevitable wave of nationwide change.


Taylor Koncen recently graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law.  He was an Associate Editor on the University of Baltimore Law Forum.  His previous publication through the University of Baltimore Law Forum was a synopsis of the Court of Appeals decision in Green v. State.  Vol. 48, No. 2.  His interests outside of law school include playing and watching lacrosse and hockey.

Prescription for Hearsay

A criminal defendant, charged with possession of controlled dangerous substance is permitted to introduce evidence of a prescription at trial.[1]In order to be considered non-hearsay, the prescription must be used to establish a statutory defense and be accompanied by authentication.[2]The Court of Appeals of Maryland suggested that the authentication can come in the form of testimony from a prescribing physician, the physicians custodian of records, or the testimony of the defendant, among other things.[3]Ultimately it is still left up to the jury to determine the credibility of the evidence.[4]

In May 2014, the police officers executed a search warrant at the home of Defendant Steven Young.[5]Mr. Young was detained and Mirandized.[6]Mr. Young offered a statement to the police that there were controlled dangerous substances in the home.[7]Upon inspection the Police found, Heroin, Methadone, OxyContin, and Xanax.[8]Young was arrested and charged with possession of controlled dangerous substances and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.[9]Young attempted to file a motion to suppress the evidence of the drugs asserting that he and his wife had valid prescriptions.[10]At trial, the State moved for a motion in limine looking to exclude the prescriptions as hearsay.[11]The trial court granted the motion and Young was convicted.[12]

On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed in part and reversed in part.[13]The appellate court found that a valid prescription can provide a basis of a statutory defense to the charges of possession and possession with intent to distribute Methadone, Xanax and, OxyContin.[14]

On review, the Court of Appeals of Maryland, affirmed the lower court’s ruling.[15]The Court found that a valid prescription falls under a verbal act exception to the hearsay rule.[16]In finding this the Court expressed the importance of the prescription in establishing a statutory defense for possession and possession with intent to distribute.[17]In its opinion, the Court suggested several possible methods for authentication previously mentioned.[18]

This holding is important because it will allow in future criminal trials, the Defendant to offer a statutory defense for possession of controlled dangerous substances by showing that they have a prescription. This defense will obviously not extend to possession of illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. However, it can make a significant difference with medicinal marijuana becoming more prevalent in Maryland.


Shawn Haught, Jr. is a 3L at the University of Baltimore and will graduate in May of 2019. Shawn is a second year staff editor on Law Forum. Shawn is from Anne Arundel County, Maryland and currently resides there. Shawncurrently works at Hassan, Hassan & Tuchman, P.A. a small personal injury law firm in Baltimore City. 

“Hey Siri, Should this Defendant be Awarded Bail?”: Artificial Intelligence in Modern Maryland Bail Considerations

As electronics continues to flourish with only the passage of time, we can expect that areas of our lives will begin to be unrecognizable when compared to the past.  From computers the size of classrooms, to having a computer, phone, camera, media player, and entertainment system in your pocket, several areas of emerging technology and innovation are intended to make our lives easier.  But what areas of our lives do we want to keep a “human touch”? The care of children? The medical field and bed-side manners? The government?  One unexpected, and potentially troubling, area where artificial technology is seeing implementation is the criminal justice system.

In line with a national trend, numerous counties in Maryland seem to be embracing artificial intelligence, or “AI”, in to bail determinations for individuals arrested and charged with a crime.[1]  Currently, a total of ten counties in Maryland have begun to calculate what have been called “risk scores” for defendants in criminal cases, which is intended to indicate the likelihood of reoffence or failure to appear for trial if the defendant were released on bail.[2] The factors that are included in the scoring of a defendant are their criminal history, their general demographic data, like gender and age, and information about the crime they are being charged with where bail is at issue.[3]When analyzing this data, certain indicators have a “point value” that increase or decrease the score for a defendant.[4]  For example, serious crimes like rape and murder have a value of 9 points, and female gender has a value of -1 point.[5]

Once these scores are calculated, they are compared to categories that have been pre-determined based on the score: a score of less than 6 are recommended for release without supervision, a score of 6 to 12 is suggested for pretrial release with supervision, and scores of 13 or more are recommended to stay in jail pending their trial.[6]   This recommendation is then presented to the judge, along with all other relevant issues, for the judge’s consideration in bail determinations.[7]  It is important to note that the AI’s report and recommendation is not the deciding factor and the judge still has discretion to rule for or against awarding bail.[8]

Unfortunately, there is an understandable fear that racial bias will creep in to the algorithm used by the AI, much like it has in other areas of criminal justice.[9]  Although race is not a factor that the AI considers, it does consider areas that are plagued with racial disparity to this day, like homeownership, employment, and criminal history.[10]  As such, there is worry that individuals of a minority race who are disproportionately impacted by racial bias in other areas of their life will suffer for those biases in the criminal justice system for bail determination.  Even more troubling, the only way to check that the tool is not impacted by any racial bias would require extensive testing, which would cost the state money, and enough of a pool of the population to check for significant differences in outcome based on race.[11]

On its face, the implementation of technology to give a completely objective determination based on real statistics is not a bad idea.  In effect, it would be the removal of any racial bias or prejudice, whether known or latent, that a judge may have in their bail determinations.  But the criminal justice system is never that easy. So long as there are areas of everyday life where racial disparity thrives without being checked, there will always be the possibility that those bias will be picked up, unintentionally, by the AI.  This is because the AI is not able to distinguish between legitimate and tainted data, and therefore may negatively impact defendants in bail determinations.


Harry Snoots is a third-year law student at the University of Baltimore.  He serves as a Staff Editor with University of Baltimore Law Forum, Treasurer with the University of Baltimore Chapter of the American Constitution Society, and is a Student Attorney with the University of Baltimore Bronfein Family Law Clinic.  Before coming to law school, he attended Salisbury University and graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Philosophy.   During summer sessions, he works with Mid-Shore Pro Bono, a regional legal non-profit, as an intern and volunteer in Easton, MD. He is currently employed as a law clerk for FreeState Justice, Inc., a legal non-profit that seeks to serve the LGBTQ+ community in their unique legal issues.  His interests include family law and emerging topics of law for families and parents, including surrogacy, IVF, and parental rights for LGBTQ+ families and the associated rights.

Untitled

His LinkedIn profile can be found here: www.linkedin.com/in/harry-snoots.

Will Baltimore Be Able to Continue Its Crusade Against Opioid Manufacturers?

In January of 2018, Baltimore City filed a lawsuit against two opioid manufacturers, McKesson Corp. and Purdue Pharma, as well as several Maryland-based distributors of drugs produced by these companies.[1]Baltimore City joined a long list of states and counties within Maryland who have filed lawsuits against these manufacturers.[2]Baltimore City claimed that the defendants were fraudulently glossing over the potential dangers of using their opioid based drugs in their marketing practices.[3]More specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the companies knew of the addictive and dangerous nature of the drugs they produce and market and downplayed the risks that these drugs pose to people’s health. This left the public unable to understand the addictive nature of the drugs and the effects they can have on their health.[4]The lawsuit further accuses the defendants of marketing their products in a way that encouraged the use of their products to treat chronic pain, and that the manufacturers have supplied a quantity of opioids that exceeds the needs of any legitimate market.[5]This lawsuit against opioid manufacturers is an effort to combat the rise in opioid related overdoses and deaths in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties.[6]However, the opioid manufacturers are fighting back.

In September 2018, and again on January 3, 2019, the pharmaceutical companies attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed.[7]In September, attorneys for the pharmaceutical companies argued that some of the city’s claims were preempted by federal law, that the actions of the manufacturers’ were not proven by the city to be the proximate cause of the injuries alleged in the lawsuit and that the manufacturers’ conduct did not present a public nuisance.[8]A ruling has not yet been issued on these motions to dismiss.[9]On January 3, 2019, the opioid manufacturers brought another set of motions based on their claims that pleading and causation issues exist with the lawsuit filed against them.[10]Baltimore City countered that the pleadings contained tremendous detail and that each manufacturer knows what it is being accused of.[11]They also claim that flooding the market with highly addictive opioid drugs like these leads to the foreseeable creation of a secondary market for the drugs and that it is foreseeable that the city will end up bearing the costs and burdens of combatting this market.[12]Again, the judge deferred his judgement on the motions to a later date.[13]

If this lawsuit is able to move forward it could greatly help Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. Opioid overdoses and deaths have been on the rise for the past several years, and it is becoming an epidemic. If manufacturers are limited in the quantities they are able to release, then this would cut down on the number of opioids available in the secondary market and through doctors. This in turn should help reduce the number of overdoses and deaths from opioids due to the sheer lack of availability. Baltimore City has been looking for a way to do this and this lawsuit could be exactly what they’ve been searching for. Holding opioid manufacturers accountable for the number of opioids they’re releasing to the public will hopefully cause them to be more restrictive. Again, this would lead to less availability of opioids and hopefully a decline in opioid related overdoses and deaths.

School children are getting more than just an education! How Maryland is responding to increased reports of elevated lead in drinking water

On April 9, 2018, legislation took effect that mandates all public and nonpublic schools that receive drinking water from a public utility test for the presence of lead in the drinking water once every three years.[1]  Schools that receive drinking water from a private source, such as a well, are governed by federal regulations that impose similar requirements.[2]  As of December 2018, all elementary schools in the State of Maryland built prior to 1988 have completed the first round of testing.[3]  The first round of testing yielded 31,532 total draw samples.[4]  Of that, 1,087 samples exceeded the Action Level permitted.[5] 42.5% of the 1,087 samples that exceeded the Action Level permitted came from drinking outlets in the submitting schools, as opposed to non-drinking outlets.[6]  Maryland schools have struggled to deal with elevated level of lead in drinking water for quite sometime.  For example, all but nineteen (19) public schools in Baltimore City provided drinking water through bottled jugs rather than the water system even before the required testing as a result of contaminated water.[7]

When House Bill 270 (“HB 270”), the legislation that was ultimately enacted on April 9, 2018, was first proposed, the purpose was to ensure that all schools are in compliance with newer regulations regarding drinking water and plumbing and to ensure drinking water was safe for consumption by children.[8]  Considering the significant number of samples that contained lead, one might be wondering what the protocol is for handling an elevated sample?  According to the Maryland Department of the Environment “Testing for Lead in Drinking Water – Public and Nonpublic Schools Training Manual,” if a school receives an elevated lead report the school must immediately close access to that source of water within 24 hours of receiving notification of the elevated level and sufficient drinking water alternatives must be provided for faculty and students.[9]  Once proper measures are taken within the school, the school must also provide written notice to parents and guardians regarding the elevated lead levels and post a notice to the school’s website.[10]  But further, the legislation outlines appropriate remedial measures to ensure that access to the lead-infused water ceases and that students and faculty have access to clean drinking water.

Appropriate remedial measures outlined in the same training manual published in 2018 include installing and maintaining filters at the drinking outlets, the repair or replacement of the plumbing or drinking outlet itself, reconfiguring plumbing, or providing approved water bottles if necessary.[11]  Once remedial measures are taken, the school must submit another water sample for testing in order to ensure compliance and decreased lead levels.[12]Some schools that received elevated drinking level reports are following suit of Baltimore City and providing pre-filtered water from bottled jugs if the cost and efforts associated with repairing or replacing plumbing is too significant.

The new legislation was necessary and long overdue, similar to the plumbing and water systems many schools water flows from.  In the first bout of testing, nineteen (19) schools in Anne Arundel County alone found elevated levels of lead in their drinking water causing concern for many parents and educators.[13]  Some of the schools that noted elevated lead levels were able to remediate the issue with a simple flush of the schools’ water system and re-testing, while other counties grapple with installing filtration systems.  When Delegate Steve Lafferty, who introduced this legislation, heard the results of the first round of testing, he said, “I was hoping to see that nobody had any problems . . . but this was exactly the purpose. Let’s see if there are problems and correct them now!”[14]


Amy L. Valdivia will receive a Juris Doctorate from the University of Baltimore School of Law in May 2019, with a concentration in criminal law.  Ms. Valdivia grew up in Essex, Maryland and currently resides in Harford County. For the past two years, Ms. Valdivia has served as a Student Attorney for the Innocence Project, where she investigates innocence claims and represents wrongfully convicted individuals.  Prior to law school, she received a B.S. in Justice Studies from James Madison University.  Ms. Valdivia is excited to announce that following the Bar exam she will begin her career as an Assistant Public Defender for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. Ms. Valdivia may be reached at amy.valdivia@ubalt.edu with questions or comments.

All thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own.

_2

She may be reached at amy.valdivia@ubalt.edu with questions or comments.

Please Let Me Hide: New Protection for Participants in the Address Confidentiality Program

On January 1, 2019, a new Maryland statute went into effect that would increase more protection for domestic violence and human trafficking victims who are participants in the Maryland Address Confidentiality Program (“ACP”).[1]Under this new statute, private entities and any persons must accept the use of substitute addresses by the participants and it prohibits any person from knowingly and intentionally seeking and obtaining the actual address or telephone number of participants.[2]

In 2006, the legislatures created the ACP in hopes of shielding victims of domestic violence and human trafficking from being found by their assailants.[3] The ACP provides free substitute addresses for participants to use, and allows the Secretary of State to accept service and mail on behalf of the participants.[4] Additionally, the ACP have implemented protections against the release of records by the Motor Vehicle Administration, Voter Registry, and school registration processes.[5]  However, the 2019 statute was enacted to create more protection to the participants after the Secretary of State released a report in December of 2017 that highlighted the flaws of the ACP.[6]

The report found that the actual locations of the participants would be exposed if they were to purchase any property since land records were open to public.[7]  Furthermore, private entities had the right to reject substitute addresses or refuse services to participants who did not disclose their actual addresses.[8]In order to remedy these flaws, the new statute protects participant’s land records by allowing the Secretary of State to only release those records if requests are bona fide.[9]  Furthermore, the new statute requires private entities or any persons to accept the substitute addresses as actual addresses.[10] This includes credit card companies, insurance companies, banks, and school entities.  This new measure of protection allows participants to purchase real property, seek private loans, and expands their rights to protect their information.

The ACP is a nation-wide program that is provided by individual states. Currently, there are 36 states that have implemented the ACP in varying degrees to protect individuals that have been categorized as victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, victims of stalking, etc.[11]Practitioners, private entities authorized to do business in Maryland and residents of Maryland should be aware of the ACP and the rights of these participants. Moreover, requests to locate or deliver items to participants of ACP must be addressed to the Secretary of State.[12]These requests will be examined thoroughly and any individual attempts to locate or discover personal information of a participant are not allowed under the new statute.[13]Lastly, individuals that are victims of domestic violence or human trafficking should understand that the ACP is a free government program they can apply for directly or through domestic violence assistance groups.[14]


Klara Kim is a 3L at the University of Baltimore and will graduate in May of 2019.  She is the President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and the President of the International Law Society. She is also the Community Service Director for the Student Bar Association. For the 2018-2019 academic year, she is a student attorney for the University of Baltimore Tax Clinic and plans to pursue a career in tax law.

Klara HT pic

She can be reached at klara.kim@ubalt.edu.

Considering a Change to Electric Vehicles? Maryland’s Efforts to Promote PEVs

With the advent of Prius, Volt, Tesla, and other electric vehicles, more and more citizens are beginning to capitalize on the cost savings and environmental advantages plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) bring to the market. Similarly, many States, conscious of the overwhelming public support, have made efforts to promote the market for PEVs usually through incentives, grants, or rebates.1 Aside from these direct efforts, many States have also helped spur the construction of power-charging stations, so much so that more than 16,000 charging stations now exist throughout the United States.2 Presently, Maryland has nearly 600 charging stations and over 1,500 publically available charging outlets.3

Maryland’s most significant effort in promoting electric vehicles can be seen through the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (“EVSE”) Rebate.4 Under the EVSE, residents, governments and businesses can acquire a state rebate for purchasing or installing an electric vehicle charging station.5 Maryland has budgeted $1.2 Million annually to fund the program through the end of 2020.6 Those eligible for the EVSE rebates can expect to receive anywhere from $500 to $5,000, however, the rebates are issued on a first-come, first-served basis and are only available up until the annual budget is depleted.7 Furthermore, purchasers of PEVs are eligible for both Maryland’s excise tax credit, apportioned according to the battery capacity of the PEV, and a Federal income tax credit up to $7,500 for qualified PEVs.8

Aside from the benefits offered directly by the State, Maryland utility providers, such as BGE and Pepco, offer incentives for individuals who install residential charging stations.9 These incentives require the utility providers to install a time-of-use meter at one’s residence.10 Once the time-of-use meters are installed, those utility providers will bill consumers according to the amount of electricity utilized by the charging stations.11 Although, the average cost to charge PEVs depends on the particular power station being utilized and the specific PEV at hand, a typical PEV can reach a full charge within 6-8 hours at a total cost of under $5.12 When compared to the costs required to refuel gas vehicle, the cost-savings benefits inherent with PEVs becomes immediately apparent. Furthermore, owners of PEVs can enjoy unfettered access to HOV lanes throughout Maryland, regardless of the number of vehicle occupants, after applying for a special permit with the Maryland Vehicle Administration upon proof of ownership.

In sum, these policies and programs display Maryland’s support and embrace of the electric vehicle industry. Consequently, Marylanders considering the change to PEVs should feel confident about their investments in light of these State-granted incentives and the increasing number of electric-charging power stations available throughout the State. Nonetheless, as the electric vehicle industry continues to progress and the price of PEVs becomes more affordable, Maryland provides an ideal environment for those willing to capitalize on this environmentally friendly industry.


Christian Zeleny is a 3L at the University of Baltimore and will graduate in May of 2019. Christian is from Anne Arundel County, Maryland and currently resides there. For the past five years, Christian has worked on a part time basis at Blackford & Flohr, LLC, a law firm located in Severna Park, Maryland. When Christian is not at the law firm or the law school, he is most likely spending his time on the soccer field, coaching and training youth soccer players, as an employee for Coerver United.

Police have no Special Relationship with 911 Callers

Recently the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that under the public duty doctrine that Police Officers do not have a special relationship with 911 callers.[1]Police Officers owe a duty of care to the public as a whole, and without a finding of a special relationship the individual Police Officer cannot be found liable for torts in their official capacity.[2]

In the early hours of February 19, 2014, Nicole Enoch called the police.[3]Police Officer Ben Crumlin responded to the call but was unable to make contact with Ms. Enoch at her apartment; there was no answer at the door and the door was locked.[4]As a result Office Crumlin left the scene. Several hours later, Ms. Enoch’s body was found outside of the apartment building, dead, apparently the result of either a fall or push from the roof of the building. [5]Ms. Enoch’s mother Ms. Howard, on behalf of her deceased daughter filed suit against Officer Crumlin, alleging negligence and wrongful death. [6]The circuit court dismissed the claims against Officer Crumlin on the ground that the Officer owed no duty to Ms. Enoch enforceable in tort.[7]

The public duty doctrine establishes that duties imposed on public officials that are duties to the public as a whole are unenforceable in tort.[8]That is, unless a party can show that there was a special relationship established between the official and the individual.[9]This doctrine is designed to protect public officials from fear that their discretionary decisions can result in personal liability.[10]In order to show a special relationship between the public official and the individual the individual must show that the Officer “affirmatively acted to protect the specific victim or a specific group of individuals like the victim, thereby inducing the victim’s specific reliance upon the police protection.”[11]The Court of Special Appeals held that no such special relationship exists when Police Officers respond to a 911 call of a person that they have never had contact with before. [12]

This distinction is important because it further insulates the Police from an unnecessary duty of having to make contact with every 911 call that may come through, even if the call is innocuous and a waste of Police Resources. Many jurisdictions are fraught right now with understaffing, violence, and a drug epidemic that has strained resources. Imposing a tort liability for failure to make contact with a 911 caller, even when reasonable means are employed, would result in further strain and would be a disservice to the public as a whole.


Shawn Haught, Jr. is a 3L at the University of Baltimore and will graduate in May of 2019. Shawn is a second year staff editor on Law Forum. Shawn is from Anne Arundel County, Maryland and currently resides there. Shawncurrently works at Hassan, Hassan & Tuchman, P.A. a small personal injury law firm in Baltimore City.