Del. Dan Cox (R-District 4) has joined other local state politicians when it comes to reviewing lengthy portions of state code.
Cox was one of three state delegates appointed by House Speaker Adrienne Jones in June to serve on a state task force that will review crime classification and penalties. The task force is in response to a bill Cox introduced this past session.
That bill states that the task force will review the state’s criminal and civil codes, and see if there are offenses that should be reclassified, for example, from a felony to a misdemeanor. The task force will submit a final report of recommendations to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office by the end of 2020.
Cox said he was thankful to have been appointed to the task force, and said he is specifically interested in looking at how “mens rea” applies to certain laws statewide — and reclassifying any criminal laws that seem too harsh.
Mens rea is the concept that a criminal knows the intent of wrongdoing when committing a crime, not just the action of the crime itself.
There are multiple scenarios where this concept might mean certain punishments have to be changed, Cox said. One example was when a veteran who received a Purple Heart piled logs on his Eastern Shore property.
Per county law, the man was not allowed to stack logs on his property, because he didn’t have the necessary permit, Cox said. He didn’t know about that law, but still served 30 days in jail.
“What I’m trying to mention is the mens rea has important protections built into that,” Cox said. “I think that will improve the criminal code for all Marylanders.”
There is also a need to make common-sense changes to the code, Cox said — adding that it is a felony to attack a dog, but a misdemeanor to attack a nurse.
But Cox said he’s also interested in exploring possible administrative overreach from local jurisdictions regarding the state civil and criminal codes.
“It’s a good opportunity to look at how we might lessen some of the burdens on businesses and individuals, and increase and tighten up some of the laws with regards to some of the serious issues,” Cox said.
The task force will also feature three state senators, along with numerous other state officials, mostly in the legal field.
Cox said the state’s Department of Legislative Services is still setting the schedule for when the task force will meet.
He said he envisions that certain people on the task force will be delegated to look at specific parts of the state code.
Livable Frederick public hearing added before final vote
Before the County Council votes on the county’s proposed comprehensive planning document, the public will have one final chance to weigh in.
According to a news release, county attorneys advised the council to have one more public hearing on Livable Frederick before the final vote, citing state land-use law.
That public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, at Winchester Hall in Frederick.