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It is that moment that is so common to TV police-and-prosecutors shows… and so very frustrating to those fictional law enforcement officers. It happens when the suspect the police are questioning looks the officers in the eyes and says, “I’m not talking without my lawyer here.”

If you are facing police questioning as a potential suspect in a criminal case, one of the most important things you, just like that fictional suspect, can do to help yourself is to bring that questioning to a temporary halt by invoking your right to counsel. Law enforcement officers are trained professionals skilled at manipulating suspects into giving them the answers they want to hear. Your knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney is familiar with all of these techniques and with how to protect you in an interrogation setting.

Your right to counsel is one of the strongest rights provided to you by the Constitution. On TV, suspects often make clear requests to the effect of “I want a lawyer.” In real life, suspects may feel nervous, intimidated, overwhelmed, or scared and often speak less clearly. As a recent case demonstrates, even if you don’t speak with the precision and clarity of an Ivy League law professor (or a trained Hollywood actor,) that lack of plainness does not take away the effectiveness of an invocation of your rights.

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For many people, traffic checkpoints operated by police trigger feelings of frustration and annoyance. For others, then can be a source of stress and anxiety. If you are arrested during a police checkpoint, there may still be cause for hope. The law in Maryland imposes some restrictions on what does or does not qualify as a valid checkpoint in terms of complying with the Fourth Amendment. If your checkpoint doesn’t pass that test, then the evidence secured as a result of that checkpoint may be excluded from your criminal case. To find out more about what you can do in your case that arose from a checkpoint, be sure to talk to an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

C.J. was a man ensnared in something he viewed as a checkpoint. He was driving through downtown Baltimore and, while he sat at the red light, the police initiated a traffic stop. The reason for the stop was that C.J. wasn’t wearing his seat belt. While the police performed their investigation of C.J., they discovered an outstanding warrant and a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat of the vehicle, and they arrested him.

The state charged C.J. with several weapons-related crimes, on top of driving a vehicle without wearing a seat belt. The driver asked the court to throw out the evidence of the gun, arguing that the police discovered the gun as a result of an illegal traffic checkpoint.

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If you’re watching your favorite courtroom drama show, you may hear a lawyer say to a judge, “Objection! Hearsay!” That’s because, most of the time, hearsay evidence is inadmissible at trial. The law considers general hearsay to be lacking the degree of reliability needed for admissible evidence in a court of law. Some hearsay is admissible, though. That’s the hearsay that falls into one of the exceptions carved out by the law. An “excited utterance,” for example, is one of the exceptions in Maryland.

In your criminal trial, the difference between success and defeat may be your ability to win an admissibility argument about one or more pieces of hearsay evidence. To be sure you have the best chance of winning these and other arguments against the prosecution, be sure you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney protecting you.

An excited utterance is an immediate statement made in a state of shock or extreme excitement due to a “startling event or condition.” The idea is that the speaker is so stressed that she is speaking spontaneously and sincerely, and her words “may be taken as particularly trustworthy.” A recent case originating in Baltimore shines a light on just how far the boundaries of “excited utterance” do – and do not – go.

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Many times, changes in the law are reflections of changes in society. That can be true both in case law and in statutory law. The landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said that all same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry is an example of the former. The significant changes many states, including Maryland, have made to their statutes regarding the decriminalization of marijuana are examples of the latter.

Today, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is not a crime in Maryland. Some of the benefits of that are very obvious. There are, however, other collateral benefits of this change in the law that are less obvious, but no less important. This change in the legal status of marijuana may impact your criminal case, whether or not drug charges were involved, as one very important Court of Appeals ruling recently illustrated. There are many things you can take away from this new case, but one of the main ones is: if you were arrested and drug-related evidence obtained based on a warrantless search, be sure to contact an experienced Maryland drug crime attorney about your rights and your options within the legal system.

In Maryland, the federal and state constitutions contain protections that safeguard you against warrantless searches and seizures. In order for the police to conduct a search without a warrant, they generally need probable cause for the search. That means they need a reasonable suspicion that the subject of the search was involved in a crime.

Most police officers are ethical people who try to uphold the law within the confines of the rules that the constitution and the law have created. However, whether an officer is a “good” cop or a “bad” cop, the officer has the potential to make mistakes, to go outside the boundaries of the law and to engage in conduct that violates a person’s constitutional rights.

When that happens and an arrest results, the accused person has certain rights. This includes things like having the unconstitutionally acquired item(s) excluded from the evidence that a jury may consider at trial. Getting that item or items excluded, which may be the difference between acquittal and conviction, often requires a detailed knowledge of the law and of courtroom procedural rules. For that and for the overall advocacy you need, be sure you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney working for you.

What does this type of constitutional violation look like? T.T.’s case is a good example. Officers K.S. and J.Z., using an unmarked car, were patrolling a particularly high drug-crime area in Baltimore on New Year’s Day in 2017. As they patrolled, they spotted a silver Cadillac parked illegally (it was pointed the wrong way.) They turned on the police car’s lights and approached the occupant.

A criminal defendant’s right to a trial by a jury of his peers is a very fundamental constitutional right in Maryland and the rest of the United States. To make sure that this right is protected, Maryland law has established some very specific processes that must be completed before a defendant’s right to a jury trial will be considered to have been waived and the case decided by a judge. If you did not get a jury trial despite having never entered a valid waiver of your rights, then you may be entitled to a new trial. For advice and counsel on these and other criminal law issues, be sure to retain an experienced Maryland criminal law attorney.

As an example of this right in action, there’s the case of S.H. S.H. was accused of having committed a series of 25 thefts in Calvert County over a six-week period. After much delay, the accused man’s case reached a plea hearing. At that hearing, the defendant indicated that he wanted a jury trial. Later that day, at a different hearing in front of a different judge, the two sides informed the judge that they’d agreed to try the case without a jury. The case proceeded and the judge found S.H. guilty on all but two charges. Sentencing immediately followed.

The accused man appealed his conviction and was able to obtain a new trial. The success was one that resulted from the very strict procedural requirements that exist for trying a criminal defendant without a jury. Specifically, the law requires that a defendant must do more than just say, “I waive my right to a jury trial.” Instead, the defendant must waive that right in such a way that it is proven to have been a knowing and voluntary waiver of rights, and the judge must make a finding that is included in the case’s record that says that the waiver was knowing and voluntary.

Criminal trials can be full of many nuances and “shades of gray.” For example, some kinds of evidence are generally inadmissible, but may occasionally be admissible under specific special circumstances. As an accused person standing trial, the difference between success and defeat may be your ability to persuade the court that certain pieces of potentially harmful information are inadmissible as opposed to admissible. Winning these smaller battles within the larger context of your trial can be vital, and often requires in-depth knowledge of the law, so be sure you have a capable and knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney advocating for you.

As an example of the concept discussed in broad stokes above, the case of N.H. is very educational. The crime that triggered N.H.’s prolonged legal proceedings was a murder outside a Baltimore bar. D.C., who was a friend of N.H., had gotten ejected from the bar by at least four bouncers, including M.C. and T.M. Eventually, T.M. and M.C. became involved with a physical confrontation with N.H. M.C. suffered a non-lethal knife cut to the face, but T.M. got slashed in the throat and died from blood loss.

The state put N.H. on trial for first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. N.H. asserted he was just defending himself. In his opening statement, N.H.’s defense lawyer told the jury that N.H. was at bar to find new customers for his tattoo business that, according to the lawyer, was N.H.’s main source of income. Later in the trial, the state tried to admit part of a statement where the accused man stated that he was in the bar to sell cocaine.

An old adage says that “a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” The adage, of course, means that it is generally never a good idea to proceed without skilled legal representation in any legal action. The need for effective counsel is never greater than in a criminal case, which is why your defense needs to include a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney working for you.

G.S. was someone who tried to defend himself, and the result of his trial was not a favorable one for him. He was on trial for a very serious matter. Allegedly, he stabbed another man with a machete during a May 2016 altercation. The state charged G.S. with attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault. The defendant did not hire his own attorney and was appointed a public defender. In fact, he was appointed two different public defenders at two different points. G.S., however, decided that he could do a better job than these lawyers, and asked to proceed without counsel. The judge concluded that the defendant hadn’t provided a good reason for dismissing the public defenders but let him do it anyway.

Unsurprisingly, the trial was not a success for the accused. The jury found him guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to life in prison for the attempted first-degree murder count. In other words, the result of G.S.’s trial was the least favorable one possible for him. The lawyers he fired literally could not have done worse in terms of outcomes no matter how well or poorly they performed.

When your defense involves you testifying in your trial, the prosecution is almost certainly going to do something called “impeaching” you. Unlike in politics and government, where impeaching often means seeking to remove an official from office, impeaching in this sense means offering proof that casts doubt upon the truthfulness and reliability of the person testifying. Whether or not you’re testifying in your own defense at your criminal trial, one thing you definitely need is representation from a skilled and experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

There are lots of ways in which the prosecution can try to impeach you as a witness in your own defense. In some circumstances, the law may allow the prosecutor to bring up past criminal convictions you have on your record. One of the rules that the law imposes, however, on this type of impeachment is that the conviction’s significance and connection to the alleged crime(s) at hand must be greater than the potential that the information will unfairly bias the jury against you, the defendant. When you hear a TV lawyer or judge talking about evidence whose “risk of unfair prejudice outweighs its probative value,” that’s what they’re talking about.

Here’s a real-life recent case that gives a good example. B.H. was a man on trial for several serious crimes. A shootout in a parking lot in Baltimore left B.H. facing charges of attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, drug possession and several gun crimes. Part of B.H.’s defense was to argue that he did shoot a gun that night, but that he did so in self-defense.

There are many ways that effective criminal defense counsel can help you. Obviously, there’s your criminal trial. However, even afterward, there are ways of seeking to ensure you get justice. Sometimes, you may even be able to obtain relief more than a decade after your case ended. In some situations, there are appeals. Other times, appeals aren’t an option and other legal tools are required. The key for you is retaining an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney who knows how best to utilize the system for you.

K.S. was an example of a criminal defendant in need of justice. In 2002, she pled guilty to forgery and identity theft. After that guilty plea, all of the defendant’s jail time was suspended. She made full restitution to her victims and had “no further contact with the criminal justice system.”

In 2015, K.S. was back in court. This time, she was not a defendant accused of a crime. Instead, she was seeking to have changes made to her conviction. You may be thinking at this point, what can she do 13 years after she pled guilty? The reality is that, while the options are limited, there are certain tools available, even under those circumstances.

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