Articles Posted in Case Summaries

u-s-supreme-court-2-1210504A person who is arrested or charged with a crime – whether it is classified as a felony or misdemeanor – is encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The gathering of evidence and other circumstances surrounding the arrest and indictment are extremely important pieces of a case. Each step must be analyzed and evaluated in accordance with the Maryland laws that serve to protect a citizen’s constitutional and statutory rights. In addition to defenses one may assert at the point of arrest or indictment, there are other arguments that can be raised even after a conviction. No matter which stage of a criminal case one is facing, it is imperative that you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney to assert a solid defense or a strong petition for post conviction relief.

Under Maryland law, a person who has been convicted of a crime may file a petition for “writ of actual innocence” and seek a new trial. Section 8-301 of the State Criminal Procedure Code sets forth the circumstances under which such a petition (and new trial) may be granted. These are when a person claims that there is newly discovered evidence that:  (1) creates a substantial or significant possibility that the result may have been different, and (2) could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial.

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balance-1172786A criminal arrest is a serious matter. Whether the underlying alleged crime is a felony or a misdemeanor, the consequences of a conviction can negatively affect a person’s life in many ways, including potential jail time and a lasting criminal record. There are many defenses one may be able to assert, depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Keep in mind that citizens are entitled to the protections of the Constitution, including the right to be free from an illegal search and seizure, and the right to the effective assistance of counsel. Anyone arrested or charged with a crime is encouraged to consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

A recent Maryland case addressed one man’s right to the effective assistance of counsel in a second-degree child abuse case. Here, the defendant was an Ecuadorian citizen and a legal, permanent resident of the United States. The trial court found him guilty of the charges and sentenced him to five years in prison. He did not appeal the court’s verdict. Six months after the end of his probationary period, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to arrest the defendant. He was deemed to be subject to deportation as a result of his conviction for second-degree child abuse.

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thumb-print-1-1151991Each state enacts rules of evidence that govern the admissibility of various kinds of information and testimony during a court proceeding. Most people have heard of something called “hearsay” – a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Hearsay is typically inadmissible, subject to certain enumerated exceptions. In any criminal case, no matter what the charges, it is important to fully understand the rules of evidence and how they can strengthen one’s defense. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

A recent Maryland case illustrates how knowledge of the hearsay rules can help a person successfully appeal a criminal conviction. In Baker v. State of Maryland, Michael Edward Baker was convicted of various sex offenses, second-degree assault, and impersonating a police officer. According to the victim’s testimony, on July 18, 2013, she had been “prostituting,” and she received a cell phone call from the defendant/appellant seeking to set up a time to meet her. When they met, the defendant showed her a police badge, told her he was a police officer, and forced her to perform certain sexual acts against her will. The victim alleged that the defendant raped her.

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gavel-3-1409593-mThroughout a criminal case, from an arrest to a possible conviction and sentencing, the person charged with a crime has multiple opportunities to challenge or defend against the charges, conviction, and ultimate sentence. The United States Constitution guarantees citizens certain protections, covering a broad range of rights. One such right protects a person from multiple punishments (sentences) and trials for the same offense. While the Maryland Constitution does not have this “double jeopardy” provision, case law has upheld these protective principles. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who fully understands the various laws and defenses applicable to your situation.

In a recent Maryland case, a man was convicted of multiple crimes:  robbery with a dangerous weapon, second-degree assault, theft of property valued less than $1,000, and representing a “destructive device” and making a false statement about that device. The court sentenced him to incarceration for two separate and consecutive terms:  20 years for robbery with a dangerous weapon and 10 years for making a false statement about a destructive device. According to the evidence at trial, during the robbery of a shoe store, the defendant claimed that he had a gun and stole money and boots. He allegedly presented the store clerk with a note stating that there was a bomb in a box and that she should wait 30 minutes before calling the police (after he left), or else he would blow up the store.

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law-library-282848-mThe journalists from “This American Life,” a public radio broadcast, recently created the hugely popular podcast, “Serial,” which “aired” last fall. According to their website, Serial presents one story (a true story), over sequential episodes. For its inaugural “season”, the journalists at Serial chose the 1999 murder of a Woodlawn High School student, Hae Min Lee. Her high school ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of murdering Hae Min and is currently serving a life sentence in a West Maryland correctional facility. In some recent legal developments, a Maryland court has agreed to permit an appeal in Syed’s case.

This past January, a Baltimore circuit court denied Syed’s petition for post conviction relief. The most recent decision by the Court of Special Appeals reverses that decision and essentially allows Syed to appeal the denial. Post conviction relief is different than a direct appeal from a trial court ruling. Under Maryland law, a person convicted of a crime at trial has a right to appeal that court’s ruling. In such instances, the Court of Special Appeals is obligated to hear the “appellant’s” challenge of the trial court’s decision. A petition for post conviction relief is different, in that the person convicted of a crime is not necessarily entitled to an appeal. One must file with the court an “Application for Leave to Appeal,” essentially asking for permission to appeal. The court has full discretion as to whether to grant the appeal.

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bicycle-riders-this-way-1401237-mMany people have heard of the legal terms “misdemeanor” and “felony.” These are the two categories of criminal conduct under Maryland law. Misdemeanors are considered to be less serious than felonies, and they likewise typically carry a less severe penalty if a conviction results. Some of the more common misdemeanors include drunk driving, petty theft, vandalism, reckless driving, and minor drug possession. Despite differences between misdemeanors and felonies, if you are charged with either type of crime, you are encouraged to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your counsel will review the charges and prepare a proper defense under the circumstances.

Although drunk driving is typically considered a misdemeanor, the charges could be elevated to a felony if the impaired driver’s actions cause a person’s death. News stories concerning the recent tragic death of a cyclist in Maryland have been reported throughout the nation. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, a Bishop from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland was allegedly driving while intoxicated and sending text messages when she struck and killed a cyclist. The attorney for Baltimore City charged the Bishop with criminal negligent manslaughter, driving while impaired and texting, and leaving the scene of an accident. News reports have also suggested that the Bishop had pleaded guilty back in 2010 to driving under the influence. These are very serious criminal charges that must be addressed accordingly. Continue reading →

cash-dispenser-1337417-mA criminal charge is a serious matter, whether it is classified as a misdemeanor or felony offense, and the person charged must respond accordingly. While a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, both can affect a person’s life in drastic ways, from jail time to having a criminal record. A person who is charged with a crime may raise any number of defenses to negate the charge or to reduce the severity of the offense. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, the most important step to take is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney from Maryland. Every state’s criminal laws differ to some extent. A local criminal lawyer would know how to provide the best defense for your case under the circumstances.

In a recent criminal case, a woman appealed her conviction for theft and embezzlement. The charges stemmed from allegations that the defendant took money from a joint bank account on which she was named a joint owner with her father. A trial was held over two days, and the court found the defendant guilty of theft and fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. She was sentenced to eight years, with all but 18 months suspended, for theft and five years unsupervised probation. The defendant appealed the ruling, asking how a person who was added to a bank account as a joint owner with the intention of having an ownership interest can be guilty of theft from the joint account.

The court of appeals reviewed the facts as presented at trial. The “victim” was 84 years old and asked one of his three daughters (the defendant) to assist him with his banking needs. The victim added the defendant to his bank account as a joint owner. He testified at trial that the money was his and not the defendant’s, and that he only placed her on the account to take money out for him if he was unable to get it himself. From 2006-2009, $181,670.09 was withdrawn from the victim’s IRA, and $251,645.83 was taken from his account. The defendant denied taking money from the IRA without her father’s authorization. She also denied taking any money from the account for her own benefit.

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police-on-the-scene-1172422-mThere is no question that criminal arrests vary from case to case. But every defendant is entitled to certain protections under the law. And in many cases, the defendant (the person arrested or charged with a crime) may be entitled to raise any number of applicable defenses. Such defenses may address the manner in which the investigation was conducted, while others may actually negate an element of the crime. The facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest are often a crucial part of a case against someone. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected from the very beginning.

When a defendant believes that evidence was discovered illegally or without a proper search warrant, he or she may make a motion in court to suppress the evidence discovered during that search. A suppression hearing will be held to determine whether or not the police conducted a lawful search. In a recent case, the court of special appeals denied the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, concluding that the officers were justified in conducting a warrantless search of the defendant’s vehicle. In this case, the police obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s house for evidence related to drugs and other paraphernalia. The officers had been watching the defendant’s home and later followed the defendant as he and another person got into a car and drove to a grocery store. The defendant was in the passenger seat.

The officer testified that he knew there was an “open arrest” warrant for the defendant for second-degree assault. As the defendant exited the grocery store and attempted to get in to the passenger side of the vehicle, the officers stopped and handcuffed him. They searched him and found some money and a baggie containing crack cocaine. They drove to the police station, where the officers conducted a search of the vehicle and found a black revolver. The defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the warrantless search of the car was unlawful under applicable case law, since he was arrested for assault, not for a drug offense. Continue reading →

courthouse-1330873-m (1)Jury selection is a critically important aspect of a criminal trial. This phase is also referred to as “voir dire” – the point at which counsel for both the State and the defendant have an opportunity to ask the potential jurors questions in order to determine whether an individual exhibits a possible bias against either side. The law seeks to protect against such an unfair situation by affording both sides certain rights. In fact, a criminal defendant is entitled to a variety of protections under the law throughout the proceedings. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to understand your rights and the potential defenses available under the circumstances. You are encouraged to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

If jury selection is not handled in accordance with Maryland law, any resulting criminal conviction could be overturned. In a recent case, Smith v. State, the defendant’s counsel asked the circuit court to include this mandatory Defense-Witness question to the jury: “Is there any member of the panel who would be less likely to believe a witness simply because they were called by the defense?” The purpose of this question is to identify jurors who might have a bias against defense witnesses. Under Maryland law, if a question for a jury panel refers to a specific cause for disqualification, that question must be asked. The failure to ask is considered an abuse of discretion on behalf of the court.

As it turned out, the trial court failed to ask the question during voir dire. Defendant’s counsel expressly challenged the omission of the Defense-Witness question. Under Maryland Rule 4-323(c), the objector need only make its objections known to the court in order to preserve the objection. However, the trial court agreed with the State’s mistaken assumption that the Defense-Witness question was covered by a question already asked by the defendant’s counsel. At that point, defendant’s counsel did not correct the judge’s statement. A trial was held, and the defendant was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony. The defendant appealed, arguing that the failure to ask the mandatory Defense-Witness question required a reversal of his convictions. Continue reading →

Criminal cases vary a great deal, from the moment when a person is arrested and charges are filed to the conclusion of a jury gavel-3-1409593-m (1)trial or plea bargain. Under Maryland law, criminal defendants are typically afforded the right to a trial by jury. With this right come certain rules and procedures that govern court-issued “jury instructions.” Such instructions help a jury decide if they believe a defendant is guilty or innocent. The prosecution and defense often request that certain instructions be submitted to the jury, depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding a case.

In criminal cases, Maryland Rule 4-325 provides: “The court may, and at the request of any party shall, instruct the jury as to the applicable law and the extent to which the instructions are binding. The court may give its instructions orally or, with the consent of the parties, in writing instead of orally. The court need not grant a requested instruction if the matter is fairly covered by instructions actually given.” In a recent criminal case, the defendant appealed a conviction of first-degree murder (among other things), arguing that the court abused its discretion by failing to give a “witness promised benefit” jury instruction. This instruction would advise the jury that it may consider the testimony of a witness, who provided evidence for the state, “as a result of” an “expectation of a benefit,” but such testimony is to be considered “with caution” because it may have been influenced by the witness’ hope to gain the benefit.

Here, one of the two witnesses to the shooting testified that she heard gunshots and then saw the victim lying on her porch steps outside the house, and the defendant heading to his car. She and the other witness both identified the defendant in a photo array. The defendant’s attorney argued that this witness cooperated with the State only because the authorities agreed to move her to free, protective housing for several months. The court declined counsel’s request to give the jury the “witness promised benefit” instruction. During closing arguments, the defense counsel failed to mention that the witness provided evidence to the state because she received free, protective housing, and that such testimony might be less credible due to this benefit. Continue reading →

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