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Senate Passes Bill to End Statute of Limitations Bill on Use of Handgun in a Crime of Violence or Felony

03.17.2014

On Monday, the Maryland Senate passed a bill that will help prosecutors pursue criminals who use a handgun in commission of a crime of violence.

Current Maryland law requires law enforcement officials to charge the crime, Use of a Handgun in the Commission of a Crime of Violence or Felony within a year of the crime being committed. However, often times, suspects of gun crimes cannot be identified until well after a year passes, rendering law enforcement officials unable to charge the crime at all.

The primary sponsor of the bill, Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery) hailed the victory as one that "goes after criminals, not law abiding gun owners."

"Those who use guns to commit violent crimes shouldn't be able to avoid prosecution because of a technicality in law," said Frosh.

As a result of SB 248, Maryland may initiate a prosecution for a violent crime involving a handgun within the time allowed to prosecute the underlying crime. In 2013, according to the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing, there were 2,038 violations of the law prohibiting the use of a firearm in the commission or a crime of violence or felony and only 318 convictions.

The bill will be of particular help to law enforcement officials who work on cold cases. According to Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, her office has been precluded from charging Use of a Handgun in the Commission of a Crime of Violence or Felony at least eight times in the past two years because of the current statute of limitations.

The existing law makes it extremely difficult to carry out complex investigations because of the short statute of limitations. Most murder investigations, particularly those involving DNA evidence, take well over one year to investigate and solve, rendering the current gun possession charge useless. This will also help law enforcement pursue ongoing leads in cold cases where the crime was committed with a firearm.

"This is a common-sense bill that will hold criminals who use guns to carry out crimes fully responsible for their actions. The work of Chairman Frosh and the all the members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee will help us fully prosecute criminals who carry out violent crimes with handguns," said Alsobrooks.