Maryland Changes Laws Related to Evidence of Habitual Offenses

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Sponsored Content: Maryland’s Republican governor and Democratically-controlled legislature heralded the passage of a swath of new laws in a celebration early last month. Many of these laws are designed to increase education funding in the state and provide new opportunities to students. However, one stands to significantly impact the ability of prosecutors to obtain guilty verdicts against sexual offenders.

The law, which was championed by retired Sen. Jim Brochin, has been an important cause of his for the last 14 years. However, the #MeToo movement that developed over the last year provided the sort of broad support needed to ensure the law’s passage.

“This bill provides prosecutors with the ability to introduce into evidence a defendant’s pattern of behavior as it relates to sexual assault,” said Kush Arora, a Maryland sexual assault attorney with the law firm Price Benowitz, LLP.  The introduction of previous convictions for the same crime with which a person is charged has long been disallowed in criminal trials. The concern is that showing a jury that an individual has, in the past, been convicted of the same crime with which they are now charged, will greatly prejudice the jury and make it easy to convince oneself that if the individual had done it before, they would do it again.

This law would allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of previous convictions only in limited situations, such as when a minor is involved or when the defendant tries to utilize consent as a defense. The introduction of the evidence is also not automatic; a judge must determine whether it may be admitted even in these situations.

Laws such as these, that provide prosecutors with new tools, can be incredibly useful in the prosecution of repeat sexual offenders. However, prosecutors must be prudent in their use of this new authority. Allowing the admission of previous similar conduct creates the serious possibility of conviction of an innocent person because juries will undoubtedly view that evidence as very convincing – especially considering the limited situations in which that evidence may be introduced.

The protection of all individuals from sexual predators is of utmost importance. But so is the proper dispensation of justice, and a law like this must carefully administered in order to ensure such proper dispensation.

About the sponsor: Montgomery County criminal defense attorney Kush Arora has dedicated his legal career to criminal defense work in the District and Circuit Courts of Maryland. Attorney Arora has been recognized by the National Association of Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers. This sponsored content is provided by Maryland criminal lawyer Kush Arora with Price Benowtiz, LLP.

The material published in this article is sponsored content and not a product of the Baltimore Fishbowl editorial team. Any opinions expressed in this material do not necessarily represent the views of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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