In our last post, we began speaking about Governor Hogan’s recent veto of two criminal reform bills. As we mentioned, one of those bills would have extended decriminialization to both smoking marijuana in public and possessing marijuana-related paraphernalia. Hogan’s veto was based, as we said, on concern over the message the bills would send to the public, particularly with respect to marijuana-impaired driving and the ability of officers to target individuals caught smoking and driving.
The other veto was for to a bill we wrote about back in March which would have: generally eliminated the ability of police officers to seize property believed to be involved in a crime when that property is worth less than $300. The proposal would also have shifted the burden of proof in certain asset forfeiture cases to the state, required that notice be provided to the owner of seized property, and prohibited state law enforcement agencies from participating in the Equitable Sharing Program unless the property owner faces federal criminal charges or consents.
Governor Hogan’s rationale for vetoing the asset forfeiture bill is that it would limit the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate drug crimes. In other words, the limitations the bills would have placed on law enforcement were the basis for the vetoes. Public safety was cited as the basis for refusing to make the law more consistent and protect property owners from abuse of the asset forfeiture process.
As some have pointed out, Hogan was clear that his vetoes were specifically requested by police unions. Whether or not these vetoes are representative of the trajectory of criminal justice reform during his time in office remains to be seen. Those who support criminal justice reform in Maryland, though, are justifiably concerned that Hogan will continue playing into the interests of police unions.
In our next post, we’ll conclude this discussion by offering some final comments, particularly with respect to marijuana-related cases.