Articles Posted in Assault

“Ex post facto” is a phrase that often gets overused… and misused. Many people may recall learning about ex post facto laws in junior high or high school civics and government classes, but may not really understand what the phrase truly means. Unskilled “jailhouse lawyers” often apply it incorrectly in appeals they file. On the other hand, a valid ex post facto argument, when in the hands of a skillful Maryland criminal defense attorney, can be a powerful constitutional claim in your criminal case.

To get an idea what a valid ex post facto situation looks like, there’s the case of E.H. from Prince George’s County. In 2011, E.H. was convicted of first-degree assault and weapons charges. He received a sentence of 25 years.

Under Section 8-507 of Maryland’s Health General Article, the inmate had, at that time, an “essentially unrestricted right” to seek commitment to the Department of Health for substance abuse treatment. In December 2017, E.H. applied for such a commitment. The judge denied the man’s request, but told him to try back in about a year. “I fully intend to grant this petition at some point,” the judge said from the bench.

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There are so many reasons why representation from a skillful Maryland criminal defense attorney is worthwhile. One of those reasons is that there are countless areas of the law that are well-known to criminal defense attorneys, but largely unknown outside those circles. By having a knowledgeable attorney on your side, you can have the full benefit of all of the law, and make sure that your rights are protected to the maximum.

One of those areas of the law is “merger.” Even people who have a little bit of knowledge of the law probably think that the law of “merger” refers simply to the process of two business entities combining to form one, larger business. In Maryland though, “merger” has an important meaning in criminal law and, as one case recently demonstrated, it can make a massive difference in the amount of time you serve.

First, here’s a little background about criminal sentences. Say you’ve been put on trial for several crimes. The jury hears the evidence and acquits you of some charges, but convicts you on two crimes. The judge sentences you to serve two years for Crime A and 10 years for Crime B, and also declares that the sentences shall run “consecutively.” That means that your total time of imprisonment is the one sentence plus the sentence for the second crime. In other words, 12 years. (With “concurrent sentences,” the total imprisonment would’ve been 10 years.)

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Today, newly emerging technologies have the potential to provide people accused of crimes powerful weapons in their defense. These technologies also can do harm, however, when they allow for inadmissible evidence to get before a jury. This is but one reason among the countless ones why you need a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side who can vigilantly and diligently fight to protect your rights at trial.

S.P. was a man whose case involved one of those newer technologies – police body cameras. S.P., who was on trial for the false imprisonment and assault of his wife, allegedly used electrical tape to cover her mouth and bind her hands and feet, then threw her in the rear of his SUV. A Montgomery County Police officer responded to the neighbor’s house, which was where the wife was at the time. The responding officer was wearing a body camera.

At the husband’s trial, the prosecution wanted to use the body camera video footage against the accused man. The husband opposed this evidence, but the court allowed it in anyway. The man was ultimately convicted. On appeal, though, that conviction was overturned. The husband’s trial counsel had been correct to challenge the admission of the body camera footage into evidence.

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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.

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.

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?

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.

All criminal trials are governed by certain sets of rules. One of these sets is the rules of evidence. The rules of evidence can be extremely helpful to your case in the hands of a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney. These rules can be used to keep out evidence that the law says is not admissible and that, if it got into your case, could potentially harm your defense.

When a trial court does allow inadmissible evidence into a defendant’s case, that error may entitle the accused to a new trial. That was the case for Donald, who was standing trial after the state indicted him on six robbery-related charges and four assault-related charges. At trial, the state produced evidence that Donald and an associate met two alleged drug dealers in a parking lot in St. Mary’s County. A physical altercation ensued, in which the drug dealers alleged that they were “jumped.”

A detective involved in the case took the witness stand and testified as to what one of the alleged drug dealers told him in describing the alleged attack. Donald’s lawyer objected to the testimony, but the judge let the police officer proceed. The trial court acquitted on the robbery charges but convicted Donald on all four assault charges. He received a sentence of 60 years with all but 40 years suspended.

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