Required Automobile Security – Transportation Article 17-104

Under Maryland law (specifically Md. Code Ann. TA ยง 17-104), an owner of a vehicle must maintain required security (almost always insurance, in rare cases a self-insured bond substitute) during the registration period for the vehicle.

Three trial issues present themselves regarding any prosecution of this charge. While it’s non-jailable, defense counsel who face this charge along with others at trial should keep this in mind.

Article 20 of the Md. Declaration of Rights holds that the trial of facts where they arise is one of the “greatest securities” of the people. This provision has been interpreted to require the trial of criminal charges, including non-jailable traffic misdemeanors, in the county/Baltimore City where they arose. If a motorist receives this citation in July 2013 for a lapse that occurred in another Maryland jurisdiction previously, the citation may lack proper venue which in this case may be fatal. At a minimum, the government may have a hard time proving the geographical nexus during the alleged lapse.

The second involves the proof of the violation itself. Certified records from the MVA are admissible but the registration record at hand will not always be certified, not will there likely be a proper chain of custody for a non-certified record. Further, the defendant retains his constitutional confrontation rights and that may get the MVA paperwork thrown out.

Finally, there is a 1-year statute of limitations for most misdemeanors in Maryland. A violation charged more than a year after an alleged failure to maintain security may fail due to that statute.

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