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Washington County Officials Push for Repeat Offender Bill

"We feel there is a need to make a change in the law based on what occurred and what's been occurring with other crimes. There are multiple offenses taking place in our community and the individuals are just continuing, continuously being released over and over again," said Chief Mark Holtzman, Hagerstown Police Department.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Washington County law enforcement officials testified in Annapolis on Wednesday in favor of a Senate Bill 260 that would change the way repeat offenders of serious crimes are processed in the court system.

The bill was prompted by several cases including an incident that happened in February 2013. Jenerette Dixon, a convicted murderer who was out on parole, was granted a criminal summons and released after molesting his step-daughter. Just a short time later, police say he stabbed her and was charged with attempted murder after a two hour standoff with police.

It's a case police say might have been avoided, if Dixon appeared before a judge before being released from jail.

"We feel there is a need to make a change in the law based on what occurred and what's been occurring with other crimes. There are multiple offenses taking place in our community and the individuals are just continuing, continuously being released over and over again," said Chief Mark Holtzman, Hagerstown Police Department.

The bill is a combined effort with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Hagerstown City Police and the State's Attorney's Office to increase public safety and keep repeat offenders off the streets.

"That's the big issue. If somebody's committed a crime, we don't want them getting out constantly. And we've had some cases where they've gotten out four and five times before they've actually been incarcerated. That's not effective for our community, its resource intensive for law enforcement to continue to arrest those individuals," said Sheriff Mullendore, Washington County Sheriff's Office.

It's a state-wide bill that would put restrictions on what the District Court Commissioners can do and delay offender's hearing by one day.

"People who have a higher likelihood of re-offending shouldn't be given a chance to get out on personal recognizance, or even low bond by a district court commissioner. They should be brought before a judge at a proper bail review hearing where more facts can be put on the record and an official who has more experience in these matters can decide whether that is a good risk or not," said Brett Wilson, Assistant State's Attorney for Washington County.

"It means it’s closing a loop hole in the criminal justice system that we think will strengthen the safety of our community," said Holtzman.

Currently, the bill is in committee but officials hope it'll go to vote this session.

Officials say Senate Bill 260 is just one of many discussions about the overall whole sell changes to the District Court Commissioner system in Maryland.

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