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You probably are familiar with the concept of plea bargains in criminal cases. What you may (or may not) know is that when the prosecution and defense reach a plea agreement, the judge isn’t obliged to follow the deal’s terms. So, even once you have worked out a plea deal with the prosecution, it is essential to be prepared for every possible outcome, including the judge not going along with the deal. In other words, you need skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel that can have you prepared for all possibilities.

A recent case from Baltimore County was an example of this scenario. The background to the case was a domestic dispute. H.H. had allegedly gotten into an argument with his girlfriend at her home and, after being escorted out by other men, threatened to “shoot up” the home. A few hours later, three men arrived at the residence, burst through the rear door and shot up the home. Based on these events, the state charged H.H. with 52 counts, including two attempted murder charges, several assault charges and multiple gun crimes.

H.H. pled guilty, as part of a plea deal, to one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault, and the state nolle prossed the other charges, meaning that it declined to prosecute those other 51 counts. The sentence to which H.H. agreed was 15 years with all but three years suspended. The judge sentenced H.H. not to 15 years with all but three years suspended but to 25 years with all but 13 suspended. In other words, the judge tacked on an extra 10 years. The man asked to withdraw his plea and receive a new trial, but the judge refused.

In science, there exists something called the “butterfly effect.” The butterfly effect involves circumstances in which a small change in an initial state can result in massive difference in a later state. The concept got its name from scientists who asked the question: can a massive storm in one part of the world be traced back to a butterfly flapping its wings in another corner of the globe? In other words, sometimes very small distinctions or differences can, in the long run, have dramatic impacts on future outcomes. That’s true in the law, too, where very seemingly small things can sometimes be the difference between acquittal and conviction, which is why it pays to have a knowledgeable Maryland criminal attorney on your side for your defense.

Consider a man named C.W. C.W. was facing a very serious felony charge when he stood trial in Montgomery County. In order to obtain a conviction, the state had to show that C.W. inflicted “severe physical injury” on his alleged victim. In Maryland, the law defines severe physical injury as “a physical injury that either “creates a substantial risk of death” or “causes permanent or protracted serious disfigurement, loss of the function of any bodily member or organ, or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”

At the end of C.W.’s trial, the judge gave the jury its instructions. The judge, following a “pattern” jury instruction, informed the jury that they should convict if the prosecution sufficiently showed that the alleged victim suffered an injury with a substantial risk of death, that caused “permanent or protracted serious disfigurement,” or “causes loss or impairment of a member or organ of the body or its ability to function properly.”

In any criminal case, there are varying forms of success. Obviously, the primary target the defendant seeks is an acquittal. However, even if the result of a trial is a conviction, there are still battles to be won, such as ensuring that your case does not result in you receiving a sentence that is illegally severe. Whether you are at the point of battling for an acquittal or battling for a fair sentence, you need an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney who knows how to fight for you.

The case of K.V. shows how important this can be. K.V. was a man on trial for multiple felonies based upon events that occurred when K.V. was 17 years of age. Allegedly, K.V. was a member of a group that carjacked a 26-year-old man in Baltimore. K.V. was the member who took the wheel of the stolen car. With K.V. behind the wheel, others took the vehicle owner and put him in the car’s trunk, where they reportedly shot him five times. Later, the group set the car on fire.

Of the numerous criminal charges that K.V. faced, two were kidnapping and armed carjacking. The accused was eventually found guilty on all charges and the trial judge issued separate sentences for each of the crimes involved.

In this country and in this state, people are afforded certain rights, including the right to be free from being stopped by the police for no reason. That freedom is very important because, sometimes, a large amount of evidence that would otherwise be admissible in a criminal trial may be excluded if it was the result of an illegal stop. In other words, the “motion to suppress” can be one of the most important tools in your arsenal in a criminal case. To make sure that you’re only facing the evidence that the police acquired through legal and constitutional means, be sure that you have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney one your side.

A recent case from Baltimore is yet another example of an illegal stop and the ways in which a defendant can use that illegality to his advantage. The case began after an officer observed M.W., who allegedly matched the description of an armed robbery suspect. A second officer arrived and conducted a pat-down search of M.W., checking for weapons. M.W. told the officer he had marijuana in his possession. The officer searched some more and found cocaine on the man. The officer then arrested M.W. and further searching uncovered a Glock handgun and 12 live rounds of ammo.

The state charged M.W. with gun and drug crimes. At his trial, M.W. asked the judge to suppress his statement that he was in possession of marijuana and all the evidence that the police uncovered after that statement. The basis for that argument was that the police didn’t have the required degree of reasonable suspicion necessary to stop M.W.

Expert witness testimony can be an extremely important part of the evidence offered as part of your defense in a Maryland criminal case. The law says that the expert must be qualified, his methodology must be competent and that his testimony must be about something that is beyond the scope of knowledge of the average lay person. If the evidence does those things, then it is generally admissible. Understanding how to use experts and to get the most from their testimony is just one of many ways in which an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney can help you or a loved one facing trial.

A recent case that originated in Worcester County is an example of how expert evidence can work and how its improper exclusion can help get the accused a new trial. The man standing trial, K.S., had been the police chief in a small southeastern Maryland city. The chief was on trial for official misconduct. The state’s prosecutors claimed that he conspired to cover up a man’s possible drunk driving incident because both the driver and the chief were members of the same Masonic lodge.

As part of his defense, the chief wanted to offer the testimony of two expert witnesses. Those witnesses would have testified about “the considerations and objectives that impact a police chief’s exercise of discretion during an investigation.” This testimony would have backed up the chief’s defense argument that his handling of his lodge brother’s case was “reasonable under the circumstances and consistent with the routine discretion that a small-town police chief exercises.”

One of the most important aspects of any defense in a criminal trial is successfully getting evidence that is not admissible under Maryland’s court rules excluded. Inadmissible evidence, particularly certain types of hearsay evidence, can potentially be damaging to your defense, which makes it extraordinarily important to keep that evidence away from the jury when it comes time for their deliberations. That, of course, requires properly opposing the evidence’s admission and then taking the necessary actions if inadmissible evidence is included in your trial. For these and other essential elements of an effective defense, be sure to retain an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

D.W.’s criminal case, which arose from an altercation at a Montgomery County public park, was one where hearsay evidence was a very important piece of the puzzle Allegedly, a drunken D.W. engaged a group of females and small children in unwanted conversation and, eventually, hit a 13-year-old girl in the face. The group returned home and called 911. A Montgomery County police officer interviewed the alleged victim, and did so with his bodycam on.

As a result of the incident, the state charged D.W. with second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and disorderly intoxication. D.W.’s defense, which asserted that the hit was an accidental strike arising from D.W.’s attempt to “play fight,” focused heavily on inconsistencies in the state’s case. Did D.W. punch the girl or hit the girl with a stick? Did he or didn’t he apologize immediately after the impact for striking the girl? Did he say that the strike was an accident?

When you find yourself as the defendant in a criminal trial, your very freedom often hangs in the balance. As a result, it is vitally important to be sure you have a Maryland criminal attorney on your side who knows how to put together an effective defense. “Effective defense” means many things, including making sure that potentially harmful expert witness evidence that is inadmissible is kept out of your case and prevented from causing you to endure a conviction as a result of an unfair trial process.

Expert witnesses can be very powerfully impactful on your case, whether they are prosecution experts negatively impacting your case or defense experts favorably influencing your case. Juries may often see experts as particularly credible and give their statements a high degree of weight. That means that, whenever possible, you should take advantage of opportunities to exclude expert evidence offered by the state. There are multiple different ways that an expert’s evidence can be inadmissible. E.M.’s sex-crime case was an example of one such scenario.

The state had charged the man with sex crimes related to contact with a minor. The state called a licensed social worker to testify about child sex abuse, grooming and a victim’s delayed reporting of abuse. E.M.’s legal team did not object to the social worker’s status as an expert. Instead, the defense used its cross-examination opportunity to quiz the social worker about false assertions of child sexual abuse, thereby raising seeking to raise a possible reasonable doubt regarding the truth of the alleged victim’s allegations. The social worker indicated, while on the witness stand, that only 2% of child sex abuse allegations were false.

There are many things that may be worth challenging in court in your criminal case. You may need to contest improperly admitted evidence or you may need to dispute a legally erroneous sentence. Many of these things may require you to make that challenge to the trial judge and, if not successful in the trial court, again on appeal. Raising these challenges in the right way is very important in order to make sure your appeal is not thrown out on procedural grounds, such as a “failure to preserve” an issue for appeal. All of these things are among the many reasons why an in-depth knowledge of proper trial practice is so important, and why you should retain a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney for your case.

Some family gatherings are cheerful events. Regrettably, not all are; some become contentious and even violent. A father gathering in Silver Spring was an example of the latter. A dispute erupted into a physical altercation between two men at the party. D.P., the son of one of the combatants, pulled a gun and started shooting. One man was grazed on his elbow and another was hit, with the bullet lodging near his stomach.

The state brought charges against D.P., including two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of “use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.” At trial, the state’s evidence was strong. The prosecution had five witnesses who testified that they saw D.P. pull a small gun from his waistband and begin shooting at one man and then firing numerous more shots into the backyard. The state also had two forensics experts who gave testimony that all of the bullets found at the scene were consistent with having come from the same .38 handgun.

In a criminal case, it is important to have skilled Maryland defense counsel on your side to help you make sure that you’ve advanced all available arguments regarding errors made by the prosecution and/or by the trial court in your case. Sometimes, the best possible outcome, if you’ve been convicted, is a reversal of that conviction. In other cases, the evidence is just too extensive, and a reduction of your sentence is the best possible result. Even if you can’t get a reversal of your conviction, that does not mean that your case is not still worth fighting for – it is. Sometimes, a successful argument seeking a reduction in a sentence may cut many, many years off the total time you might have otherwise spent incarcerated.

As an example of this notion, take E.B.’s case. The underlying event leading to E.B.’s trial was a domestic dispute. Based on the girlfriend’s statement to police, they obtained a search warrant for E.B.’s residence and, inside, they found the knife used in the alleged attack and some clothes E.B. allegedly cut off the girlfriend’s body during the dispute.

The state charged E.B. with first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. During the state’s closing argument, the prosecutor referenced the knife and asked the jury, “Can you imagine being choked and having this thing put at your neck?” The jury convicted the man on both assault charges and the reckless endangerment charge.

In many criminal defense cases, the difference between a conviction and an acquittal can come down to what evidence got presented to the jury, and what evidence did not. In that regard, one of the more important parts of your criminal defense can be your request that asks the judge to suppress evidence obtained through an illegal search. Both the federal and Maryland constitutions give citizens the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and it is often vitally important to a person standing trial to use that right to his or her maximum impact. Whether it is arguing your motion to suppress or some other aspect of your defense, an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney can help you make the arguments you need in the most effective way possible.

For an example of this issue of illegal searches, consider the facts of one Baltimore man’s recent case. While patrolling northwest Baltimore, two police officers spotted a gray sedan that was allegedly speeding and weaving through a two-lane street. The officers concluded they had grounds to make a stop for erratic driving, speeding and unsafe lane changing. So they did.

During the stop, one officer spotted an orange prescription bottle with no lid in a cup holder. The officer leaned into the vehicle, moved the bottle around and spotted five white pills inside and a name on the bottle that belonged to neither the driver nor the passenger. The officer kept investigating inside the center console and found a Styrofoam cup with bullets for a .38 handgun. At that point, the officers arrested the driver, A.W., and began searching the entire vehicle. They found a .38 in the back seat under some clothes and a bag containing suspected cocaine in the driver’s pants pocket. The bottle contained five Oxycodone pills.

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