Some of the high-profile new laws approved in Maryland this year will take effect on Wednesday. Here are some of the most prominent.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: The possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana will be a civil offense rather than a criminal one. Civil penalties include $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense. The law requires teen offenders to be evaluated for treatment.
TRANSGENDER DISCRIMINATION: Transgender residents will have protection against discrimination on matters relating to housing, employment, credit and use of public accommodations. The law defines gender identity as the gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person's assigned sex at birth. The law says gender identity is demonstrated as "consistent and uniform assertion of the person's gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person's core identity."
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: People who commit domestic violence in front of a child could face an added penalty of up to five years in prison. The standard of evidence for obtaining a final protective order will be reduced from "clear and convincing" to "a preponderance of the evidence."
Maryland had been the only state in the nation that used the higher standard of proof for final protective orders. Also, second-degree assault will be added to crimes for which a person can obtain a final protective order.
CORRECTIONS: Several new laws aim to address prison security after 44 people, including 27 corrections officers, were indicted in a contraband- and drug-smuggling scheme involving a gang inside the Baltimore City Detention Center. One raises the maximum penalty for smuggling in a cellphone to five years imprisonment and a $3,000 fine.Another lets prison authorities immediately suspend guards without pay, if they're caught smuggling in certain contraband, including cellphones, weapons or drugs.Other laws apply to new staff members. The state will now have the right to require lie detector tests for job applicants.
ON THE ROAD: Drivers will be required to move into an open lane away from tow trucks attending to roadside emergencies, or to slow to a reasonable and prudent spend that is safe, just as they are required to do when approaching police and other emergency vehicles stopped on the road side.
A separate law creates added penalties for drivers who cause accidents resulting in death or serious injury while text messaging or talking on hand-held cell phones. Offenders will face penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of $5,000. -nbc washington