Criminal cases involve a great deal of knowledge: knowledge of the facts of the case, of the relevant laws, and of trial strategy. In some cases, making agreements with the prosecution and concessions in court can be beneficial to the overall advancement of your interests. In other cases, though, such choices can harm you if you want to contest those issues at a later point. A woman convicted of burglary found the Court of Special Appeals unwilling to hear her sufficiency-of-the-evidence arguments on appeal because the actions she’d taken in the trial court created a waiver of her right to advance this argument.
A man who was convicted of a drug crime took his case all the way to Maryland’s highest court to seek a reversal of his conviction. In this man’s case, the problem with the state’s case was that the prosecution lacked clear proof that the marijuana-odor evidence that was at the heart of its case was obtained through a legal police search. In cases in which the evidence is unclear regarding whether a police search was legal or an illegal Fourth Amendment violation, the court must resolve that uncertainty in favor of the accused person.
When you are facing a criminal trial, the U.S. and Maryland constitutions give you certain clear rights. One of these is the right to be present at your trial. When a court violates your rights, the law may give you certain options as a result of this constitutional violation. In the case of one man arrested in Montgomery County, a judge’s decision to declare a mistrial on a drug charge while the man was involuntarily away from court due to a medical emergency resulted in jeopardy attaching. This meant that the man’s constitutional protection against double jeopardy prevented him from facing another trial on that charge, according to a recent Maryland Court of Appeals ruling.
Maryland’s highest court recently threw out the drug and gun possession conviction of a man, due to the lack of reasonable suspicion on the part of the officers who searched him. The Fourth Amendment requires that law enforcement officers have a reasonable degree of suspicion before they can search your person. Simply being out late at night in a high crime area and responding to a police stop by behaving nervously and awkwardly are not, by themselves, sufficient to give officers the required level of suspicion needed to frisk occupants of a vehicle with a broken taillight.
A Colorado man who was arrested after appearing in Maryland as a material witness in another man’s murder trial was unable to reverse his conviction and life sentence through the appeals process. The man lost his appeal because, even though he possibly had a valid claim that his arrest violated a state statute, he failed to raise the issue of that violation during his trial. By waiting until his appeal to bring up the violation, the man was too late, according to a recent opinion by the Court of Special Appeals. The outcome presents a clear illustration of the importance of identifying all issues in your case and presenting them in the timeframe required by the law in order to avoid the problem of waiver.
Both the U.S. Constitution and Maryland law prohibit a person from facing double jeopardy, or being tried for the same crime twice. As a part of this protection, if you go to trial, and the trial judge declares a mistrial over your properly invoked objection, you cannot be tried again unless a “manifest necessity” existed for granting that mistrial. In a recent murder case, the Court of Special Appeals decided to uphold a trial judge’s decision finding the existence of such a necessity, meaning that the state was, in this situation, allowed to re-try the man for murder after his previous trial ended in a mistrial.
Regardless of the number or the severity of the crimes charged by the state, the law imposes certain protections against improper overcharging by prosecutors and over-sentencing by courts. In one recent case decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, a man convicted of sexually abusing a girl across a four-year period could be charged under the Maryland statute that makes carrying on a continuing course of sexual abuse of a child a crime, but the law only allowed the state to charge him with one violation of this crime, not 10 violations, since his continuing course of abuse involved only one victim.
In three separate rulings, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals tossed out the life-without-parole sentences imposed against three men. The cases show the special circumstances that are involved in sentencing any youthful offender in a murder case. In each case, the offender was under 18 years old at the time of the crime, and, in each case, the sentencing judge did not do a meaningful analysis of the offender’s youth and potential for rehabilitation before issuing the sentences. Based upon recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, a court may only sentence an under-18 offender to life without parole after first concluding that the offender’s acts showed a rare degree of “irreparable corruption.”
Each of the men who won their recent appeals had been convicted of first-degree murder. Aaron Holly, along with a 24-year-old man, was convicted in the shooting death of a Baltimore County woman in a botched robbery. Marcus Tunstall, while in the company of an older man, shot three people in a string of drug-related robberies. Kenneth Alvira and two 19-year-old men carjacked a woman. As part of the carjacking, the driver was stabbed and died from her wounds. Holly and Tunstall were 17 at the time of their crimes; Alvira was 16.
An appeals court in Maryland recently issued a decision that many privacy advocates have extolled as a landmark ruling and a great victory for the privacy rights of citizens. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling excluding evidence in a murder case that was obtained through the warrantless use of a “Hailstorm” device, which is a type of cell phone surveillance tool. The opinion expressly stated that people have “an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in real-time cell phone location information.”
When you are put on trial for a criminal offense, the constitution guarantees you certain rights. One of those constitutional guarantees extended to accused people is the right to confront accusers. But what happens when a language barrier exists, and an interpreter is involved? That was the situation for a Baltimore man accused of multiple counts of sexual assault. The man’s trial produced a conviction, but the Maryland Court of Special Appeals threw out that conviction due to violations of the man’s constitutional rights. The man, who is deaf, was not allowed to examine at trial the sign-language interpreters who were involved in translating his statement to police. That ruling denied the man a fair trial and required a reversal of the conviction.
The case stemmed from the alleged sexual abuse of several female students at the Maryland School for the Deaf between 2008 and 2011. In December 2012, police questioned Clarence Taylor about the abuse. Taylor was deaf and did not speak English, nor did he understand spoken English. During Taylor’s five-hour police interview, communication was facilitated through the use of a pair of American Sign Language interpreters. Using a system known as “relay interpretation,” the police detective would ask her question, and the two interpreters would translate that information into sign language. Taylor signed his responses, and the interpreters translated them into English.