Articles Posted in Appellate Court Rulings

“A violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.” People often associate this phrase with an impermissible search without a warrant, but that’s not the only scenario. An arrest itself can be a constitutional violation if the foundation underlying the arrest warrant isn’t adequate to establish probable cause. Whether you’re under suspicion or under arrest, don’t delay in retaining an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer to provide you with the skillful representation you need.

A homicide case from Prince George’s County is a real-life example of how an arrest warrant can be fatally flawed. The case flowed from an unsolved 2005 murder in which 2-3 armed intruders entered an apartment in Landover, tied up one man, and fatally shot a second man inside the unit.

In late December 2017, a detective filed an application for a statement of charges in connection with that murder.

In a Maryland criminal trial, a jury should only convict the accused if the prosecution has presented evidence proving the accused’s commission of that specific crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Often, the people on trial are folks without spotless records; they may have had multiple prior encounters with the criminal judicial system. Those facts alone don’t make them guilty, though those facts might tempt a jury to find that defendant guilty simply because the jurors decide they dislike the accused. If you’re someone with a criminal past who is on trial again, it is crucial to ensure that you get inadmissible evidence of your past excluded from your case. This is just one of many areas where it pays to have representation from an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer.

These limitations on what the prosecution can do are necessary to avoid confusing jurors, prejudicing them against the accused, and predisposing them to believe the accused is guilty. In other words, the evidence might lead the jury to convict just because they think the accused is a bad person, not because the state offered sufficient proof of the crime charged.

As an example, there’s the Maryland Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the case of F.B., a Baltimore man on trial for felony child abuse.

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When you’re accused of a crime, achieving a successful result may involve many procedural steps. These could include things like pretrial motions (such as a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence,) in-trial objections (such as opposing the admission of inadmissible hearsay evidence,) post-trial motions, and appeals. To ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest, you need to be sure you have representation from a Maryland criminal defense lawyer with the skills and experience to handle these procedural elements effectively.

A murder case from Montgomery County is a good example. The defendant, H.A.Z., stood accused of killing his married lover’s husband. The state also charged the woman with the murder.

The prosecution chose to try the two together. The Maryland rules allow for this kind of trial if the two defendants are “alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction or in the same series of acts or transactions constituting an offense or offenses.” Sometimes, though, a joint trial would result in unfair prejudice to one or both defendants, in which case the defendants should be tried separately.

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The rules of evidence say that a party may not use hearsay to prove their case (or disprove the other side’s case,) unless that hearsay evidence falls within one or more of several exceptions laid out in the rules. Parsing these exceptions — and keeping potentially harmful
evidence that falls outside these exceptions out of your trial — is a place where having an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer can be vital. Because any criminal trial can come down to what the jury hears — and what they don’t — winning these battles is crucial.

One of those exceptions is something called a “statement against interest.” Maryland Rule 5-804(b)(3) says that hearsay may be admissible if it “so tended to subject the declarant to civil or criminal liability, . . . that a reasonable person in the declarant’s position would not have made the statement unless the person believed it to be true.”

That exception was at the center of a recent drug case from Salisbury. In that case, the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office raided a home in the early morning hours and recovered 69 bags of suspected crack cocaine, 98 suspected bags of heroin, 17 rounds of .40-caliber ammunition, a digital scale, and six cell phones.

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Earlier this week, Maryland’s highest court issued a new opinion that made national headlines. The decision imposes necessary new standards on how prosecutors in this state can (and cannot) use ballistics experts. This ruling potentially represents a major aid for people in Maryland who stand accused of crimes involving guns. Whether or not your case involves firearms, a skilled Maryland criminal defense lawyer with fully up-to-date knowledge can be crucial to getting the best possible outcome.

The origin of the case was a murder in Riverdale. Police found the victim dead, having suffered five gunshot wounds, including one to the back of the head. A few days earlier, the police had responded to a disturbance at the same property. The police testified that the accused appeared to be “agitated” and “very aggressive,” and that the other man seemed “terrified.”

After the shooting, the police seized both of the guns belonging to the victim’s roommate — a Glock and a .38 Special. At the roommate’s murder trial, an examiner with the police department’s Firearms Examination Unit testified that, based on markings found on the bullets recovered from the crime scene, the bullets came from the exact .38 that the accused owned.

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Often, this blog focuses on some sort of success for an accused person, like getting crucial evidence suppressed because the search that yielded it was unconstitutional. Sometimes, though, matters that end with unsuccessful – and even unjust – outcomes deliver the most important lessons, like one recent assault case from Cecil County that highlights how important it is not just to have a defense attorney, but rather the right Maryland criminal defense lawyer.

The accused, A.R., was an Elkton-area woman with serious PTSD. After experiencing a startling event that triggered her PTSD, she armed herself with a gun and a knife and entered a nearby roadway on foot.

Law enforcement responded to the scene, swiftly deescalated the situation, and subsequently arrested the woman. At the station, the woman continued behaving erratically, including removing all her clothes, so the officers decided to transport her to a hospital. The woman, who was in the midst of a “mental health crisis” at all relevant times, fought with the officers both in the roadway and during her transfer to the hospital. She also kicked a sheriff’s vehicle.

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Television has popularized and glamorized the work of police crime lab workers. However, just like the actors on your favorite crime scene investigation shows, workers in real-life police crime labs come and go. This means that, sometimes, the person who creates a DNA analysis report may not be the one whom the state uses to testify in a criminal trial. When that happens, it creates the potential for a violation of the accused’s constitutional rights to occur… specifically, the accused’s right to confront witnesses. Whether your case calls for examining a report author or challenging a Confrontation Clause violation (or both), a skilled Maryland criminal defense lawyer can be crucial to protecting your rights fully, and putting on the most effective defense possible.

A homicide case from Prince George’s County illustrates what you can do when the process does not function correctly.

The victim was an 18-year-old whom police officers found shot dead inside a Greenbelt apartment. No witnesses saw the shooting. Nevertheless, the state brought first-degree murder charges against T.B. The prosecution asserted that, when the gun went off, the shooter suffered a nick and left his blood at the scene…and that the DNA sample from that blood matched T.B.’s DNA.

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Sometimes, in interacting with law enforcement, you may make mistakes. Maybe you said something you shouldn’t have. Maybe you gave the police consent to search when you should’ve declined. Be aware that, even if you made a tactically less-than-ideal choice, there often are still ways to mitigate the damage and protect your rights. An experienced attorney will know how, which is why retaining a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible is vital.

A recent criminal case originating in Anne Arundel County illustrates what we mean.

It began with a knock on the door of D.M.’s home. Law enforcement officers questioned D.M. about a suspected upload of illegal content. D.M. signed a written consent allowing law enforcement to search his electronic devices. They collected his devices and, within a few days, made a “mirror-image” copy of his laptop computer’s hard drive.

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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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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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