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MSBA
United States District Court for the District of Maryland
2021 Member
ABA
Bar Association of Montgomery County, Maryland

Immigration law, like most areas of the law, has certain hard-and-fast deadlines. For example, the age cut-off for obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status, which is one potential basis for obtaining a green card, is the applicant’s 21st birthday. Sometimes, an applicant may be pushed to the brink of that deadline through forces outside their control. For those applicants who find themselves facing unavoidable last-minute applications, recent court decisions may offer some good news. As with any sort of immigration filing, a skilled Maryland immigration lawyer can provide invaluable assistance as you pursue an SIJ application… whether or not you’re up against the deadline.

To receive SIJ status, a juvenile must file USCIS Form I-360 and establish that he “has been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents making reunification with those parents impossible” and that return to his native country is not in his best interest.

Generally, the basis for meeting the first of these required criteria is a declaration of dependency by a state court judge. This creates a major challenge for some SIJ applicants: they must meet a strictly enforced deadline (the date of their 21st birthday) but they also are at the mercy of factors outside their control; namely, the speed at which the state court adjudicates its dependency case docket.

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Courts, as well as the legal community, are keenly aware of the challenging job that police officers have, Officers daily make split-second decisions while seeking to keep the neighborhoods they serve safe. They also, however, are charged with “respecting the dignity and Constitutional rights of persons they confront.” Sometimes, even skillful officers acting in good faith can step over the line and stop and/or search someone without a proper legal basis. When that happens and criminal charges come from that stop, knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense lawyers are here to vindicate the rights of those accused people.

This is especially true in neighborhoods that are home to high levels of crime, as a recent weapons case from Southwest Baltimore demonstrates.

Two city police officers, while on foot patrol in a high-crime area, spotted a man who they thought was acting suspiciously. Essentially, what they knew was this: the man, L.B., walked with his right arm swinging “freely” while he kept his left arm “braced against his side.” While the man was inside a convenience store, they spotted a “bulge in the front of his waistband.”

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For many immigrants, obtaining their green card likely included significant time, a substantial amount of money, and a lot of paperwork. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that simply obtaining a green card often isn’t the final chapter in your immigration journey. If you decide to remain in the United States for more than a decade, you’ll typically need to obtain a replacement green card, which is its own bureaucratic (and time-consuming) journey. Whether you’re seeking your initial green card or a replacement green card, an experienced Maryland green card lawyer can help you as you navigate the process to avoid errors that can cause needless (and potentially costly) delays.

When your initial green card is approaching its expiration, you have to file an “Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Green Card),” or U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-90. While getting your initial green card takes a lot of time, the wait time for a renewal green card after you file your Form I-90 typically is shorter, but still often spans several months. To accommodate the possibility that your initial green card might expire while you’re waiting for the government to approve your Form I-90 and provide you with a new green card, you had an extra 12 months from the date of your Form I-90 receipt notice (a/k/a Form I-797, Notice of Action.) To travel abroad, reenter the U.S., or obtain new employment, you simply present your expired green card alongside your Form I-90 receipt notice.

Recently, though, Form I-90 processing times began stretching beyond the one-year mark, creating a need for the USCIS to take action. That action came on September 28, when the USCIS announced that, effective September 26, it was automatically expanding the extension period for those permanent residents waiting on the government to process their I-90 forms.

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For many people, “let’s meet up for a drink” is a frequent first-date proposal. Mixing alcohol and dating may be common but also presents risks, particularly when it comes to sexual contact and disputes regarding consent. If you find yourself facing charges for something that was actually a consensual sexual encounter, be sure to retain a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense lawyer right away. Whether or not alcohol was involved, the right legal team can help you put on the effective and complete defense you deserve.

J.J. was one of those sex crime defendants. In August 2020, law enforcement officers in Anne Arundel County pulled over a woman they suspected was driving while intoxicated. When the officers approached her, the woman was upset and told them about her date with J.J.

According to the woman, she blacked out during the date and, when she regained consciousness, she found J.J. sexually attacking her. The man, however, maintained (and testified) that the entire encounter was completely consensual. The state brought charges of second-degree rape, third-degree sexual offense, fourth-degree sexual offense, and second-degree assault.

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Countless numbers of people enter this country — some illegally — to escape persecution, torture, and possible death in the country they left behind. For those people, the option may exist to defeat a removal order and remain in this country if they can credibly establish that the threat exists and meets the criteria the law requires. If you find yourself in that position, it’s vitally important to have on your side a knowledgeable Maryland deportation defense lawyer who understands the law in all its intricacies and knows how to make your case.

An example of this sort of deportation defense was the immigration case of a man named Adan. He was a Guatemalan man who had entered the United States illegally (for a second time) in 2018.

Again, Adan faced removal. At that time, he declared his fear that, if he returned to Guatemala, he would face persecution and/or torture at the hands of the gangs who tried to recruit his son and with whom he fought regarding the son.

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Sometimes, law enforcement officers engage in clever maneuvers to get suspects to talk and provide information that incriminates them. There are certain ways to avoid falling into these traps. One is to make sure that you avoid making a statement to — or in the presence of — an officer without having first consulted an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer and, two, whenever possible, to get those potentially incriminating statements suppressed.

The crux, of course, is that the statements you make without counsel can be highly damaging. Consider the assault case of S.B., who led police on a high-speed chase through two counties.

After officers disabled the man’s vehicle with spike sticks, they attempted to arrest him. However, the man successfully fought off officers for several minutes before they, aided by a Talbot County sheriff’s K-9 unit, finally subdued and arrested him.

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As most lawyers — and a lot of other people who interact with the legal system can tell you — the law has many quirks, peculiarities, and loopholes. Sometimes, those nuances may work to your benefit. Other times, though, they represent potential pitfalls to be avoided. These loopholes represent just one more serious reason why, if you’re a non-citizen facing possible criminal charges here, it pays to have a Maryland attorney on your side who’s familiar with both immigration law and this state’s criminal laws.

A lot of states have something called “probation before judgment” (PBJ). This is when a criminal defendant is placed on probation before a judgment is entered in their case. If that person complies fully with the terms of his/her probation, then no conviction is entered on his/her criminal record.

Delaware has PBJ. Virginia does as well. Maryland also does but, for the unwary non-citizen, Maryland law contains a potentially catastrophic loophole, which some state legislators are seeking to close.

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Hearsay evidence is generally inadmissible. Hearsay evidence also can be incredibly harmful to an accused person in a criminal case. It can fill in crucial gaps in the state’s case or work to bolster the credibility of a key prosecution witness. Hearsay evidence doesn’t just exclude itself; it requires a well-timed and well-articulated motion by the defense. When it comes to accomplishing this and other crucial goals of your defense, make sure you have a skilled Maryland criminal defense lawyer advocating for you.

The theft and assault case of a Baltimore-area woman is a good example. S.S. was on trial for assault and for stealing $300-$500 of merchandise at a party supplies store.

The case arose after the store’s assistant manager allegedly spotted the accused woman stuffing numerous party favor balls into a “really big purse.” The manager confronted S.S. at the store’s exit, at which point the accused allegedly kicked the manager in the leg. Later, S.S. allegedly punched a cashier in the face.

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If you are someone who is in the United States and is undocumented, you know that you may be at risk of “removal,” a/k/a deportation. You should also know that the law has several forms of relief from removal. Your case might make you eligible for “cancellation of removal,” or for “administrative closure,” allowing you to remain in the country. Obtaining these or other forms of relief requires an in-depth knowledge of immigration law and procedure, as the processes are often intricate and complex. That’s why you should retain an experienced Maryland immigration lawyer when you’re facing deportation.

An undocumented Honduran man named Jesús faced that potential reality. In 2014, his wife, who was a United States citizen, filed a Form I-130, known as a “Petition for Alien Relative,” which the federal government approved in November 2015. This is the procedure for obtaining a Green Card for a family member of a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.

If, as Jesús was, you’re already in the U.S. and facing deportation proceedings, then you may also need to pursue what the law calls “administrative closure.” This is a process, used by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and immigration judges, that effectively suspends your deportation proceeding indefinitely.

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A lot of people who face criminal charges have, at some point in the past, had interactions with the criminal justice system. However, when you’re on trial, the law requires that the state build a case against you based on the crime charged, not on whether or not you did less-than-perfect things in your past. That’s why the law generally says that “prior bad acts” can’t be used in your trial. Understanding this and all the other legal rules that exist to protect you from an unfair prosecution is part of having a truly powerful defense. It’s also a crucial reason why it’s well worthwhile to have a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side.

W.W. was one of those people. In 2017, he allegedly assisted a District Heights woman with modifying her mortgage. He told her he would serve as her lawyer and obtain the modification she sought. Over the course of that business relationship, he collected $3,495 for various expenses.

W.W., however, was not an attorney, and the woman’s home eventually ended up in foreclosure. The state charged W.W. with engaging in a theft scheme of more than $1,500 but less than $25,000.

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