Maryland newspaper theft law



Theft of free-distribution newspapers by those who object to the newspaper's content is a frequent problem for the college student media. Although the SPLC believes that newspaper thieves can be prosecuted in most jurisdictions under existing theft laws, in 1994 Maryland became the first state to pass a law explicitly criminalizing the taking of free newspapers. The legislation was in response to a rash of thefts in 1993 at several colleges throughout the state as well as the repeated taking of a free community weekly in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Title 27 Maryland Code sect. 345:

(a) In this section "newspaper" means any periodical that is distributed on a complimentary or compensatory basis.

(b) A person commits the offense of theft when that person willfully or knowingly obtains or exerts unauthorized control over newspapers with the intent to prevent other individuals from reading the newspapers.

(c) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than 60 days or both.