A Circuit Court judge this week ruled that the Baltimore city-wide gun registry is unconstitutional, stating it is “unconstitutionally vague and overly broad.” This doesn’t necessarily mean the registry will go away any time soon; a city spokesperson states that though they are considering all legal options, this represents only one judge’s opinion.
The gun registry was started in 2007 and was modeled after a similar one in New York City. It requires those convicted of a weapons offense within the city to register with the police department, providing their name, aliases, address, and other contact information. The registrants are required to keep this information updated twice yearly and are subject to police checking their listed residence to ensure they are actually living there.
According to the judge, the law doesn’t make the conditions of the registry clear, setting the offenders up for failure. He states that the rules aren’t just vague, they are unknown and require offenders to “go to the bowels of the Police Department to learn what constitutes the law and then instantly comply with its requirements or be found in violation of the law.”
Other opponents of the registry, including the public defender’s office, have stated they are concerned the police may use the registry to gain cooperative informants from the offenders who are listed, coercing them into helping with other cases or risk arrest for violation of the registry.
The judge himself states the registry could be implemented, but the methods didn’t give sufficient notice or information to the public. Prosecutors, on the other hand, state that offenders are repeatedly told of the rules and regulations of the registry several times throughout the criminal court process.
While the ruling won’t do away with the registry, it will impact those offenders seen in that specific courtroom. Likewise, if his colleagues agree with his rationale, other judges could apply the same standard. Challenges are likely to continue in coming months and years.
The city does what it can to reduce gun violence. Just a few weeks ago we blogged about the Mayor making a trip to Annapolis again to request tighter gun laws, including a mandatory minimum for those arrested with a loaded, illegal firearm.
If you are arrested on a gun charge in Baltimore, you will be met with some fairly strict laws and consequences. Both at the state and the local level, gun offenders are not treated lightly here. Contact our offices today for a consultation on your case and to see how we might be able to help.