Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) is proposing a package of legislation aimed at enforcing laws against rape, drug and sex trafficking crimes, as well as guaranteeing more rights to the victims of these crimes.
Hogan’s package, called the Justice for Victims Initiative, focuses on making it easier to catch repeat offenders of drug and rape crimes by allowing prosecutors to use a defendant’s prior history of sexual-assault convictions or drug convictions as evidence in court. According to the Baltimore Sun, Hogan stated, “Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also supporting victims and the community in the process of healing.”
In defense of his package, Hogan cited the case of Sarah Foxwell, an 11-year-old Maryland girl who was kidnapped and killed by a convicted sex offender in 2009. “This predator should have been behind bars and taken off the streets long before Sarah ever became a victim,” Hogan declared, according to WTOP.
Other proposals designed to help crime victims include giving local social service agencies greater ability to report sexual-abuse offenses to law enforcement and allocating $5 million to provide up to a year of transitional housing for crime victims, many of whom face homelessness and isolation upon being cut off from their support systems. In a press release on January 12, Hogan stated, “[The proposed package] … will help protect the most vulnerable among us, improve services for victims of crime and help us reduce the number of future victims of crime.”
Hogan also has proposals to address the problem of drunk driving. He plans to introduce legislation that will make drunk driving a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison after three or more repeated driving under the influence (DUI) offenses.
Although the initiative has met mostly positive responses from Maryland elected officials, some Montgomery County residents are not sure that Governor Hogan is approaching these crime issues correctly.
On the issue of raising the punishment for drunk driving offenders after their third DUI, Gary Mitchell of Kensington said: “I’m not sure moving the maximum penalty from 4 years to 10 years is where the focus need to be. Maybe that there should be much stronger intervention after the first DUI rather than waiting for them to commit three offenses.”
Others feel that Hogan’s efforts are just measures for the criminals they punish. “I think that any statute that more heavily punishes repeat drug and sex offenders is positive, especially when the acts help to empower the victims,” Kara Esther, a sophomore at the University of Maryland-College Park, said.
Hogan plans to present the package to the Maryland General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session. His proposals are expected to have mostly bipartisan support and demonstrate a renewed focus on crime that Hogan hopes will reveal his legislative priorities for 2017.
Article by MoCo Student Staff writer David Gordon of Walter Johnson High School