Bill aims to outlaw felony murder for people under 25 in Maryland
Maryland House Democrats are trying to outlaw felony murder charges for people under 25 years old, arguing that brain development isn't complete until that age.
Felony murder allows anyone involved in a dangerous crime to be charged with murder if someone is killed during the commission of that crime.
For example, if a person is robbing a gas station and their accomplice panics and kills the attendant, they both can be charged with murder.
Montgomery County Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield says that's not right and people should be charged only for the crimes they commit.
"It requires you to really be able to foresee the future," says Del. Crutchfield. "To be able to go into an environment and say, ‘Well I believe, or I can think, or I can reason that a murder might occur.’ And so what we're looking at is the fact that neurologically children don't necessarily have that ability to do that."
Four states have gotten rid of felony murder altogether. Crutchfield and eight Democrat co-sponsors want to eliminate felony murder for people under the age of 25 because their brains are not fully developed.
The current penalty for felony murder is life in prison without parole. Crutchfield says that disproportionately impacts Black and brown people.
According to the bill, 79% of murder arrests were Black or African-American in 2020 despite comprising only 31% of the population.
Republicans and law enforcement oppose the bill, arguing that now is not the time to limit prosecutors' tools in going after violent crime.
"The fact that people under the age of 24 years old who plan out a carjacking or a drug deal or a bank robbery or a home burglary and in that incident somewhere they kill somebody, take a life that we want to make sure for their safety that they aren't charged with first-degree murder is lunacy," says Hartford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler.
In Maryland, you can vote if you're over the age of 18, and in five cities, you can vote in municipal elections as young as 16 years old.
Right now, the bill is only supported by Democrats but that could be enough to get it through the House Judiciary Committee and the House floor, which would need to happen by March 20.