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Here’s a look at Maryland’s new laws in the books

Dozens of new laws take effect Saturday in Maryland, on topics ranging from marriages to gun safety to highway driving. WYPR state government reporter Rachel Baye spoke to Matt Tacka about some of the new laws.

Tacka:

Let’s start with the new marriage law. What is changing?

Baye:

What changes is the legal age to marry. Until now, Maryland allowed people to marry as young as 15. Now you have to be 17.

For context, the sponsor of this law, Howard County Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, tried to raise the age of marriage for seven years before finally getting the bill passed this year.

The new law includes several measures designed to protect 17-year-olds from forced marriage. I let Atterbeary explain:

Atterbeary:

A judge must decide after a hearing…that it is in the best interests of the child, for this 17-year-old, to marry. The child must be assigned a lawyer to represent his interests. It has to be the 17-year-old who petitions the court, whereas before…one of the parents could just go to the clerk of the court and say, hey, I want my child to get married.

Baye:

Interestingly, the law also allows 17-year-olds to divorce. Until now, you could get married at 15, but not divorce before 18.

Tacka:

I understand that you pointed to another new law that deals with the protection of children. Tell me what it does.

Baye:

It’s called the Protection from Child Questioning Act. He also failed for several years in the legislature before finally passing this year.

Simply put, the law prohibits police from interviewing children without the presence of a parent, guardian or attorney, except in specific situations where there is an immediate public safety concern.

I spoke with Senator Jill Carter of Baltimore City, who sponsored this legislation. She said children who are interrogated without one of these adults present will often be pressured into making false confessions.

Carter:

One of the situations that I remember talking about on the floor of the Senate was that of a 16-year-old youth from Harford County at the time, who was detained for months and months and months until it being revealed that his commission of the crime was an impossibility. But he had falsely confessed.

Tacka:

On crime, you mentioned a new gun safety law. What is changing?

Baye:

This law requires stores that sell firearms to have certain security measures in place to prevent gun theft.

It caused controversy in the legislature. Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it, saying the new requirements would be too onerous for gun dealers.

But legislative leaders said they worked with industry to come up with rules they could support. And ultimately, the legislature overruled the veto along party lines.

Tacka:

Changing gears, there’s a new law that changes the rules for drivers. Explain what this does.

Baye:

Drivers in Maryland are already required to move into a lane or slow down when passing an arrested police officer, first responder or tow truck. Under the new law, other broken down or stopped vehicles along the road are added to this list.

This is the sponsor, Senator Jeff Waldstreicher of Montgomery County.

Waldstreicher:

We keep getting people killed on the side of the road, because, you know, they got a flat tire, because their transmissions failed. Maryland was one of the few states that did not have a comprehensive “Slow Down, Move” law for all disabled vehicles.

Tacka:

I know there are a lot of laws coming into force. Any others you want to highlight?

Baye:

There are really too many to name. They deal with issues of privacy, taxes, affordable housing — all kinds of things. The practice of declawing cats is restricted. Another increases the amount of money you get for serving on a jury.

Tacka:

Thanks Rachel.

The WYPR press team will have more on the new laws on Monday during the morning edition.



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