Monday, September 30, 2013

New Laws in Maryland Effective October 1, 2013

Approximately 692 new laws will become effective in Maryland beginning on October 1, 2013.  Some of the notable changes are aimed at reducing the number of accidents involving distracted driving, reducing injuries resulting from unrestrained occupants, and those addressing gun laws and cyber-bullying.   

Maryland’s cell phone use ban now makes it is a primary offense for drivers to use hand-held cellphones while driving, including both talking and texting.  This new law expands the previous ban on hand-held cellphones while driving as police will now be able to stop a driver solely for using a cell phone – no other offense is needed.   Fines for first-time violators will be $75, $125 for a second violation, and $175 for a third or subsequent violation.

Maryland’s Seat Belt Law has increased fines for seat belt violations from $25 to $50 per unbelted passenger.  This means all passengers must wear seat belts.  As a result of this law, the vehicle operator will receive a separate ticket for each unbelted passenger under the age of 16.  This is also a primary offense as tickets can be issued for drivers and front seat passengers even if no other violation is observed to warrant a stop.

The mandatory use of child safety seats now applies to all children under the age of 8, with the exception of children who are 4 feet 9 inches or taller.  This change removes the previous weight exemption of children weighing more than 65 pounds.

There are also significant changes to the gun laws in Maryland, as the 2013 Firearm Safety Act goes into effect.  If you wish to purchase a handgun in Maryland, you will have to submit fingerprints, obtain a handgun qualification license and take a gun safety and proficiency course.  Handgun magazines are now limited to ten rounds, and the sale of 45 different types of assault weapons are now banned.

An additional new law to note includes Gracie’s Law, a misdemeanor offense which now makes it a criminal offense to use an interactive computer service, like Twitter or Facebook to cause “serious emotional distress on a minor”, or to cause a minor to fear for his or her physical safety or life.  This law is named after a 15 year old Woodbine, Maryland teen who committed suicide in 2012 after being bullied on Twitter.  If found guilty of this crime, an offender can face up to a year in prison and a $500 fine.  

Article contributed by Tara A. Barnes

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