Criminals in Maryland are treated too leniently, say three Carroll delegates who plan to introduce bills in the 1991 General Assembly to make lawbreakers pay more dearly for offenses.
Delegate Richard C.Matthews, R-Carroll, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is leading the effort to crack down on crime, working on legislation thatwould toughen penalties for drunken drivers, shoplifters and parentsof convicted juveniles.
Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, is researching legislation that would toughen parole eligibility standards and strengthen trespassing and breaking-and-entering laws.Delegate Richard N. Dixon,D-Carroll, plans to draft a bill limiting the appeal process for death-row inmates.
The proposed bills are among a number of initiatives being considered by Carroll's six delegates for the session starting Wednesday. Other possible bills would address long-term nursing care, the impact of mining upon residential property, farmers' rights,sewage sludge storage and car insurance and traffic citation issues.
Only a small percentage of bills requiring major changes in law pass each year. Many are refined over several years of compromise.
Matthews, who traditionally pushes for tougher criminal penalties anddrunken-driving laws, plans to reintroduce two bills killed by the Judiciary Committee last year. One would authorize judges to impose civil fines of up to $5,000 on parents whose children are convicted of drug offenses. Another would impose an additional $25 fine for those convicted of drunken driving to be earmarked for the purchase of breath-testing equipment for police.
He also is considering reviving legislation he introduced several years ago that would make it tougherfor defense lawyers to have evidence suppressed in trials because oflegal technicalities. The "exclusionary rule" would help increase conviction rates, Matthews said.
Matthews, a Hampstead tire shop owner, also is seeking to protect business owners. He is researching legislation that would allow business owners to use "deadly force" in certain threatening robbery situations. Four other states have similar laws protecting homeowners. Another proposal being considered, similar to a Pennsylvania law, would require convicted shoplifters to pay a$150 fine and reimburse businesses for the value of unrecovered merchandise.
Dixon said he's working on a bill that would restrict thenumber of appeals allowed and the length of the appeal process for those sentenced to the death penalty "so people aren't appealing five years later. Ultimately, the sentence should be carried out." Dixon predicted the bill, which he said could save taxpayers money in judicial and jail costs, would be debated over several years.
Haines wants criminals convicted of certain felonies to serve at least 50 percent of their sentences, rather than the current mandated 25 percent, before being eligible for parole. Those convicted of capital crimes should not be eligible for parole, he said. The drawback to such legislation is Maryland's already overcrowded jails.
Responding to farmers' complaints about trespassing and a recent rash of break-ins in North Carroll, Haines said he will investigate creating more severe penalties for those crimes.
Other bills in the works would:
* Presume quarry companies liable for damages to water supplies and residential property within a scientifically determined "sphere of influence." Dixon and Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, have tried for three years to pass the bill, inspired by Wakefield Valley homeowners.
* Create a long-term nursing- care insurance policy. Sponsored by Elliott, the bill would permit senior citizens to maintain more assets than currently allowed upon entering a nursing home and tosave the state money in medical-assistance costs.
* Require the licensing and regulation of all-terrain vehicles to reduce trespassing. Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, has introduced the bill the last four years.
* Establish "right-to-farm" legislation to protect farmers from nuisance complaints from surrounding residents. Haines is considering such a bill.
COMING WEDNESDAY: The county's delegation discusses major issues expected during the upcomingsession; a preview of the bills requested by the County Commissioners and other groups; a look at Delegate Richard Matthews and Sen. Charles Smelser, Carroll's senior legislators; a profile of three county students who will serve as pages.