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Washington County lawmaker touts search warrant measure before House panel

February 05, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — A bill filed in both legislative chambers seeking to change state law so that a county’s sheriff or the chief of a county’s primary law enforcement agency is notified before a warrant is served within its jurisdiction by an officer from another agency was discussed by state lawmakers Tuesday.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing was an opportunity for Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, to make a case for the bill.

“It was a very productive hearing … I think we have the potential to do something here to help the residents of the whole state,” Parrott said.

A version of the bill has also been filed in the Senate by Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

The bills are a reaction to a November incident in Sharpsburg, where the Maryland State Police served a no-knock search warrant but initially did not inform the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

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Agitated residents held two meetings with a Maryland State Police representative last year over what they called an overwhelming show of force, and have pressed county lawmakers to address the issue in the legislature.

In the incident, the state police were looking for a resident named Terry Porter, of 4433 Mills Road near Sharpsburg, who turned himself in a day after the incident.

He has been charged with several counts of illegal possession of firearms.

Parrott said at the hearing that the incident could have been handled “in a much more efficient manner had they let the sheriff know … unfortunately that did not happen.”

Ray Givens, a county resident who was at the hearing, told the committee: “I will tell you this, if he [the sheriff] had been notified, what happened in Sharpsburg that day would not have happened to the citizens of that town.”

But a representative of the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association told lawmakers Tuesday that there was no need for the law to be changed.

William M. Katcef, an assistant state attorney with the Anne Arundel County State Attorney’s Office who spoke on behalf of the association, said any change in the law was “unnecessary.”

He said that the proponents had not been able to give a proper justification to change the existing law.

“There’s an awful lot of search warrants that are served,” Katcef said, adding that the law cannot be changed for one incident that “went bad.”

“I am against the idea because I don’t think there is any need to change it,” he said.

Parrott said after the meeting that the Maryland Office of the Public Defender mostly supports the bill.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will have a hearing on the bill at a future date during the current session of the Maryland General Assembly.

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