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Md. bill would require victims be told why charges were dropped

Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick. (Bryan P. Sears)

Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick. (Bryan P. Sears)

Prosecutors who decline or withdraw charges against an alleged sexual assaulter would have to tell the alleged victim why, under legislation brought before a Senate committee Tuesday.

Sen. Ron Young, the bill’s chief sponsor, said the prosecutors’ explanation is necessary to prevent further traumatizing those victims brave enough to come forward and “relive their attacks” only to have their attackers not be brought to justice.

“It’s very frustrating to someone when they are assaulted, they make a charge, they come forward, it’s dismissed and they have no satisfaction of even knowing why,” Young, D-Frederick, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “The victim has the right to speak with the prosecutor.”

Current law requires prosecutors to tell alleged victims upon request the terms of any plea agreement, judicial action and proceeding that affects their interests, including a dismissal of the charges or a decision not to prosecute. Prosecutors may but are not statutorily required to explain why a charge was not pursued.

Under Senate Bill 555, a prosecutor would have to meet with the alleged victim of sexual abuse if he or she requests the meeting and explain why charges were either not filed or withdrawn. The meeting would occur in person, by phone or other means requested by the alleged victim.

By having this meeting, alleged victims “at least get an explanation of why, so they at least have that satisfaction if not the satisfaction of it (the case) being brought to justice,” Young said.

Ashley Young, of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, praised what she called “common-sense legislation” to show compassion for abuse victims..

“It provides for basic human decency,” she told the Senate panel.

“Survivors deserve to know” why a case was not pursued, added Young, who is not related to the senator. “It does give them some modicum of closure and at least they feel respected.”

Del. Karen Lewis Young, D-Frederick and the senator’s wife, is chief sponsor of the cross-filed House Bill 270.

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