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Lawmakers consider penalties for violent crimes in front of kids

Scores of children in Maryland and other states are exposed to violent crimes every year. Even though they may not be directly victimized, children who see a violent crime incident -- such as a domestic violence assault -- may be haunted by the experience for the rest of their lives. Now, Maryland legislators are considering legislation that would increase penalties for violent crime that is committed in front of a child.

So far, it appears that the legislation has not faced much resistance, especially in light of the horrific stories and testimony that has surfaced since the measure was proposed. Adult victims who have survived violent episodes have told lawmakers about their experiences, and their children have often been by their sides. The legislation would not only apply to family violence of the domestic variety -- it would also extend to cases in which strangers commit violent acts against each other in an area visible to a child.

Advocates for child safety and health say that prosecutors and judges do not always understand the impact that violent crimes can have on a developing mind. Children are far more likely to suffer from serious conditions such as addiction as adults if they are exposed to such a violent episode. This new legislation would give judges the option of tacking an additional five years' time onto the prison sentences for those who are already accused of violent crimes.

The passage of this law could have serious ramifications for a variety of offenders. Although it has not yet been approved, it may proceed into law in short order. Criminal defendants may benefit from speaking with a Maryland defense attorney to help them learn more about the potential impact of this additional penalty on a prison sentence.

Source: The Washington Post, "Maryland considers making violent offenders do more time if a child sees the crime" Theresa Vargas, Mar. 08, 2014

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