A pilot program for using GPS to monitor certain criminal defendants in Washington County might end this year because a bill proposing an extension was defeated in a House committee last week.
However, state Sen.Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, is trying to streamline a similar bill in the Senate in hopes of keeping the program alive.
The Maryland General Assembly passed a measure in 2010 authorizing the GPS pilot program in Washington County. Judges may require that defendants who violated a protective order be supervised 24 hours a day through electronic means.
The program took effect Oct. 1, 2010, and is scheduled to expire Sept. 30, 2012.
A bill sponsored this year by Shank in the Senate and the Washington County delegation in the House would extend the program until Sept. 30, 2015.
The bill also proposes expanding the program.
Currently, electronic supervision is limited to the duration of the protective order that was violated. The bill would let a judge order supervision to last for the period of probation connected to a defendant’s conviction of first- or second-degree assault.
According to a tape of a Feb. 16 Judiciary Committee hearing, there was some confusion about what the new bill would do. Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, said the bill might need a clarification.
During the hearing, Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Calvert/Prince George’s, the committee chairman, asked how many people are being monitored in the county through this program and was told there are none now.
According to Washington County Sheriff Douglas F. Mullendore, two people have been monitored in the county through the GPS program.
The committee voted 12-8 not to advance the bill.
Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, who voted in favor of the bill in committee, said Wednesday of the opponents, “Their logic was it’s just not very consequential.”
Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, who voted no in committee, said Wednesday that he didn’t support expanding GPS tracking to crimes that didn’t involve domestic violence.
But Mullendore said the bill only applies to domestic violence cases.
Shank said Wednesday that he will try to change the Senate version of the bill to limit it only to extending the pilot program. Kelly said he’d support that.