MARYLAND — Stealing free newspapers will soon be a crime in Maryland. Gov. William Donald Schaefer signed a bill in late May that prohibits individuals from taking “complimentary” newspapers if their intent is to “prevent other individuals from reading the newspapers.”
Violation of the law, which takes effect in October, is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $500 and a jail term up to 60 days.
State legislators proposed the law after several newspaper thefts in Maryland, including thefts of student newspapers at two University of Maryland campuses and Johns Hopkins University, according to the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C.
“Too many school administrators have treated newspaper theft as an insignificant prank, if they reacted to it all,” Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said in a statement. “I hope this legislation will serve as a wake-up call to those who have forgotten the importance of free expression on college and university campuses.”
Goodman added that although Maryland is the only state to pass a law aimed at eliminating newspaper thefts, other states can prosecute newspaper thieves under existing state laws.
A Student Press Law Center report found that 35 student newspapers reported thefts during the 1993-94 school year.
(Md. Ann. Code art. 27, sec. 345)
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