By: Ashlyn Campos
The 2016 Legislative session passed numerous bills into law. Senate Bill 1005 (“S.B. 1005”) was one that found permanence in the Maryland legal landscape. S.B. 1005 was drafted on the recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council (“JRCC”). This council was developed as a section of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. The JRCC was created for the purpose of using a data-driven approach to develop a statewide policy framework of sentencing and corrections policies in order to reduce the State’s incarcerated population, reduce spending on corrections, and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.
Based on statistical findings from 2015, the JRCC detailed a list of statutory recommendations, which evolved into S.B. 1005. A notable recommendation from the council included the changes in criminal penalties for drug related offenses. The bill repeals mandatory minimum penalties and reduces certain statutory maximums for drug offenders convicted of possessing or distributing a controlled dangerous substance (“CDS”).
S.B. 1005 reduced the maximum criminal penalty for possession of a CDS. Possession crimes are now misdemeanors subject to: “(1) for a first conviction, imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $5,000; (2) for a second or third conviction, imprisonment for up to 18 months and/or a fine of up to $5,000; and (3) for a fourth or subsequent conviction, imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.” S.B. 1005 also repealed the mandatory minimum penalties for repeat drug offenders, but authorized double penalties for offenders who are habitually convicted of drug-related crimes and also have a prior conviction for a crime of violence.
S.B. 1005 exemplifies the Maryland Legislature’s attempt to implement the goals formulated by the JRCC. S.B. 1005 reduces punishments for non-violent drug offenders and doubles punishments for violent drug offenders. This illuminates the goal of the council to increase public safety and reduce the State’s incarcerated population. Maryland practitioners should be apprised of the goals of the legislature and the JRCC when representing clients because it will assist them in formulating legal arguments that judges may find persuasive.
Dep’t Legis. Serv., The 90 Day Report- A Review of the 2016 Legislative Session, 436th General Assemb., 1st Sess., at E 1 (Md. 2016).
 Id., at E 17.
 Id., at E 1-2.
Dep’t Legis. Serv., The 90 Day Report- A Review of the 2016 Legislative Session, 436th General Assemb., 1st Sess., at E 3 (Md. 2016).