Articles Posted in Appellate Court Rulings

As body cameras are becoming more and more common among law enforcement officers, bodycam video footage will continue to become more and more common in criminal trials. If you are someone facing criminal charges, it is important to recognize that, just because something was recorded by a police officer’s body camera, that doesn’t necessarily make it admissible against you in your trial. There may be a variety of different reasons why an officer’s bodycam video footage would be inadmissible but, to keep that proof out, you have to know how to mount a successful objection. When it comes to achieving success in this and other tactical maneuvers in your case, it pays to have an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side.

An assault case from Baltimore demonstrates how the hearsay rule may be a powerful weapon in your case where the state wants to use police bodycam footage. In that case, R.B., the defendant, was facing charges that he attacked D.K.

The state did not call the alleged victim as a witness, presumably because the prosecution team could not locate him. The prosecution tried to get around the problem posed by the alleged victim’s absence by introducing into evidence the video footage from the bodycam worn by the local police officer who responded to the scene of the alleged crime and interviewed the alleged victim. In that footage, the police sergeant asked the alleged victim what happened, and he presented his version of events which, unsurprisingly, portrayed himself as innocent and the accused as the sole aggressor.

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The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives each person on trial the right to confront his/her accusers and to cross-examine them. In Maryland, this state’s Article 21 gives an accused person even more protection when it comes to cross-examination. This is very important because effective cross-examination is often essential to diminishing or destroying the credibility of the prosecution’s evidence. Of course, it is important not simply to engage in cross-examination, but to engage in genuinely powerful cross-examination that’s carefully engineered to chip away at the state’s case. For that kind of effective cross-examination, you should rely on an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

The right to cross-examination has never been more important than it is today, when cutting-edge technology and scientific reports may be the key pieces of evidence on which the prosecution relies. Getting that report’s author on the stand and taking the necessary steps to minimize his/her credibility may be essential to your getting an acquittal.

Consider J.L., who was on trial for multiple crimes in connection with a Washington County burglary. In the ensuing criminal trial, one of the key pieces of evidence in the prosecution’s case was DNA proof. The police took a swab from blood located on a window frame and a curtain of the burglarized home and created a DNA profile from that swab. A Maryland State Police forensic scientist analyzed the sample and generated a report that named J.L. as a possible DNA match.

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Television has a major impact on how many people view the world, including the world of criminal justice. Of course, police procedural TV shows represent creative minds’ artistic interpretation of a crime scene investigation, a police interrogation, or a criminal trial. While that’s true, there still may be opportunities to use certain knowledge jurors have absorbed from TV shows to create reasonable doubt in your criminal trial. As with any aspect of your defense, a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney can help you advance your case in the most effective way possible.

One of the more influential shows of the last few decades is “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and its spinoffs. In the “CSI” shows, the stars often solve cases and identify wrongdoers through fingerprints, DNA, and other forensic evidence.

Sometimes, in a Maryland criminal trial, the prosecution’s case against the defendant may have a noticeable absence of “forensic or scientific techniques often featured in police procedural television shows.” This absence may, of course, allow the defense to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the jurors about the strength of the state’s case. To combat this, Maryland law allows trial judges to issue what’s called “anti-CSI effect” jury instructions.

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Events from outside Maryland have once again placed into the national spotlight the issues of police stops of citizens and the bases the police use for initiating an encounter with someone. One important thing to know is that, in this state, the police must have a legitimate basis for stopping you and, if they lack that legitimate reason, then any potentially incriminating evidence they find on you may be excluded from your criminal trial. An experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer can help you succeed in these kinds of evidence suppression and other critical arguments.

Here in Maryland, there is strong caselaw upholding citizens’ freedom from being accosted and searched by the police without a reasonable basis. The police still cross that line, though, which is why it is necessary to have skilled legal counsel on your side to get wrongfully seized evidence thrown out when you stand trial.

A weapons and drugs case from Baltimore illustrates this well. In October 2018, a Baltimore police officer was patrolling a mall when he noticed J.M., who had on “slim fitted cargo shorts.” Inside one of the pockets, J.M. had something large that “appeared to slide back and forth.” J.M. allegedly was walking with a stiff right arm to help keep the object inside the pocket from moving. J.M. also allegedly tapped his pocket occasionally “as if to make sure” the object was still there.

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When you are on trial for drug crimes or weapons charges, there’s a realistic chance that the primary evidence the state intends to use against you was obtained by a police search conducted without a warrant. The state will inevitably attempt to argue that the evidence is admissible under one or more of the exceptions to the general rule against warrantless searches but, sometimes, that argument is deficient, and there is no constitutionally permissible basis for the warrantless search in your case. When that happens, it is critical to have a skillful Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to get that evidence excluded from your case.

One of the exceptions to the rule against warrantless searches is something called the “community caretaking” exception. This exception recognizes that the police wear multiple hats. Not only do their job duties include obtaining evidence to use against criminal suspects, but also ensuring public safety. It is important to recognize, however, that a police officer’s public safety duties do not give them carte blanche to do whatever they want in terms of conducting a search. If they do a search that goes beyond what is necessary to ensure safety, then the exception will not cover the evidence they find.

A recent drug case from Frederick was a good example. A police officer responded to an apartment building at 2:00 a.m. after a 911 call and a potential domestic disturbance. In the apartment, the officer encountered a man and a woman. Later, a second officer arrived as back-up. At that time, the woman disclosed that her children were in the apartment.

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There are actually several different ways that your Maryland criminal conviction can be tossed and, believe it or not, some of them may start with an action taken by prosecutors. Sometimes, after you’ve been tried and sentenced, prosecutors may discover evidence that has a clear connection to you and is adverse to the state’s case against you. They may file a request to have the court vacate your conviction. Is that surprising? What may be even more surprising to you is that, even when this happens, you still need to be sure that you have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney working for you. You see, just because the state asks to have the conviction vacated doesn’t automatically mean the judge automatically will vacate your conviction.

So, you may be wondering, “how does this whole process work?” A recent drug case is a good illustration. In that case, Baltimore police officers executed a search warrant on April 1, 2016. After they completed their search, they arrested A.W. The state charged A.W. with an array of crimes, including cocaine charges, heroin charges, drug paraphernalia charges, conspiracy, and assault.

The accused man eventually pled guilty to one charge of possession with intent to distribute heroin.

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One of the most invasive incursions the state can make against its citizens is to breach the citizens’ right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.” It is this invasive nature that led the Founding Fathers to address the topic within the Bill of Rights, banning unreasonable searches and seizures and requiring probable cause for the issuance of search warrants. It is this amendment that renders many warrantless searches illegal and the evidence seized in those searches improper for use against you at your criminal trial. Of course, illegally seized evidence generally doesn’t suppress itself; instead, you need the services of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney who knows how to go about making – and winning – a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence.

Several months ago, this blog covered the criminal case of K.C., a man discovered to be in possession of a gun and illegal drugs after the police conducted a warrantless search.

K.C. was convicted in the trial court, but the Court of Special Appeals reversed that conviction. That appellate court, among other things, looked at K.C.’s lack of control over the situation and concluded that his was not a “consensual encounter” with the police, which, in turn, meant that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

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Details matter in a criminal case, and, sometimes, even seemingly minor or trivial details may matter A LOT. Something else that matters a great deal in defending against criminal charges is pursuing all the potential areas in which you can attack the charges. That’s where having a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney can be an invaluable help. An experienced attorney can potentially spot details you overlooked or identify potential areas of attack that you would not have thought possible.

Take, for example, the weapons charge case against H.L., a man arrested after a police chase in Elkton. At the end of the vehicle chase, H.L. crashed. He then allegedly escaped on foot and was apprehended after he fell down. The police found a weapon on the ground next to the man.

One of the charges the prosecution brought was possession of a regulated firearm. Now, most of the time, a defense against the charge of possession of a regulated firearm focuses almost entirely on demonstrating either that an affirmative defense made the defendant not guilty, or else that the facts the state proved do not support the legal standard of “possessing” the weapon in question.

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On your favorite police-and-prosecutors procedural, you may encounter an episode where one of the attorneys intones dramatically that a particular outcome in a certain case could impact thousands of cases and lead to the reversal of hundreds of convictions. Real-life is often less dramatic. Occasionally, though, a real-life case comes along where the impact does represent a major shift in the law. When that happens, it pays to have a truly knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side, giving you a powerful advocate who has a completely up-to-date awareness of all of the changes in the law and knows how best to utilize them for you.

One of those “game-changer” sorts of cases happened here in Maryland in January. That month, the state’s highest court reversed a previous decision that had stood – and had governed voir dire in Maryland criminal trials – for more than 50 years.

The new rule announced in Kazadi v. State said that when an accused person’s attorney requests, the trial court must pose voir dire questions to potential jurors about their willingness and ability to follow the court’s instructions regarding the defendant’s presumption of innocence, the state’s burden of proof and the defendant’s right to decline to testify. (The 1964 decision stated that trial judges could, in their discretion, decline to pose those questions, even if the defense asked for them.)

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Back in September, the Maryland Court of Appeals made a very important ruling. Unless you read legal publications, you probably haven’t heard about it, as it didn’t make the major newspapers. The case wasn’t a big reversal of an accused person’s major conviction. In fact, it wasn’t even a criminal matter at all, but it potentially impacts a lot of criminal defendants in this state. What it does represent is a reminder that having a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney, who’s up to date on the latest developments in the law in this state, can make an enormous difference in your criminal case.

The ruling involved a civil case where a woman sued her former landlord for harm she allegedly suffered as a result of lead paint exposure. The key issue the state’s high court addressed was the correct standard for assessing whether or not evidence from an expert witness is admissible at trial. The court changed the standard that Maryland courts must use, adopting a standard created in a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case.

The impact of that change is already being felt by people facing criminal charges in this state. A man, K.A., received a new opportunity to potentially defeat the murder charge against him. In K.A.’s trial, the state presented an expert who used a “toolmark identification” method to determine that, in his opinion, the bullets recovered from the victim’s body matched a gun recovered from K.A.

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