Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

Police VehicleIn many criminal cases, especially ones involving drug charges, one of the most important issues is the collection of evidence by the police and compliance with protections guaranteed by the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions. In a recent case of a driver stopped for a non-functioning tail light, the fact that the police found illegal drugs on a passenger in the vehicle (pursuant to a valid search) did not automatically give them probable cause to search the driver’s trunk in pursuit of more drug evidence, according to the Court of Special Appeals‘ ruling.

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ASL interpretersWhen you are put on trial for a criminal offense, the constitution guarantees you certain rights. One of those constitutional guarantees extended to accused people is the right to confront accusers. But what happens when a language barrier exists, and an interpreter is involved? That was the situation for a Baltimore man accused of multiple counts of sexual assault. The man’s trial produced a conviction, but the Maryland Court of Special Appeals threw out that conviction due to violations of the man’s constitutional rights. The man, who is deaf, was not allowed to examine at trial the sign-language interpreters who were involved in translating his statement to police. That ruling denied the man a fair trial and required a reversal of the conviction.

The case stemmed from the alleged sexual abuse of several female students at the Maryland School for the Deaf between 2008 and 2011. In December 2012, police questioned Clarence Taylor about the abuse. Taylor was deaf and did not speak English, nor did he understand spoken English. During Taylor’s five-hour police interview, communication was facilitated through the use of a pair of American Sign Language interpreters. Using a system known as “relay interpretation,” the police detective would ask her question, and the two interpreters would translate that information into sign language. Taylor signed his responses, and the interpreters translated them into English.

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ir-hemp-leaf-1364000As a general rule, under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, citizens are protected from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In order to conduct a search, a law enforcement officer is required to obtain a court-issued warrant. As with most legal provisions, courts have interpreted the Fourth Amendment in many cases throughout our country’s history. In one such case, the U.S. Supreme Court carved out an exception to the warrant requirement known as the “automobile exception” or “Carroll doctrine,” which has been applied to criminal cases brought in Maryland courts. It is important for anyone who has been arrested or charged with a crime to make sure that the State did not violate protected constitutional rights in the process of obtaining evidence. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney would be able to assess your case to determine which defenses you may be entitled to assert.

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old-courthouse-1221033The Sixth Amendment guarantees citizens who have been charged with a crime the right to a trial by an impartial jury. The jury selection process serves to ensure that a panel of jurors is chosen fairly. Accordingly, under Maryland criminal law, prosecutors (the state’s counsel) and defense counsel are each afforded a certain number of “peremptory” challenges to the selection of a prospective juror. Clearly, the impartiality of a jury can have a dramatic impact in the outcome of a criminal case. To ensure that this aspect of your case — as well as every issue that arises from the moment of arrest — is handled fairly and appropriately, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Counsel in a criminal case may object to a prospective juror in one of two ways:  1) asserting a challenge “for cause,” or 2) employing a “peremptory” challenge – an objection without needing to give a reason. Peremptory challenges are limited and may not be invoked on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicity. In order to determine whether a peremptory challenge is fair and legitimate, Maryland courts apply a three-step process established by the United States Supreme Court in the Batson v. Kentucky decision.

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pills-1199014In Maryland, and in states throughout the country, people are entitled to legal protections under the Fourth Amendment – namely, to be free from illegal searches and seizures of their person, homes, papers, and effects. When a person is arrested or charged with a crime, it is vitally important that the evidence forming the basis for the arrest was obtained in a legally permissible manner. That is, law enforcement officials are required to adhere to the law when executing a search and seizure of a person or property. Any evidence obtained via an unreasonable or illegal search and seizure may be suppressed (not used against the person charged with the crime). There are many defenses one can raise in a criminal case, depending on the circumstances. You are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been arrested or charged with a crime.

In a recent Maryland criminal case, a circuit court issued a search and seizure warrant for the appellant’s apartment, based on an affidavit provided by a Baltimore City Police Officer. The basis for the affidavit included assorted information from confidential informants, provided by an acquaintance of the appellant, and discovered through an on-going police investigation. Officers executed the warrant and searched the appellant’s apartment. The search began with a positive alert from a K-9 dog in the area in front of the appellant’s apartment door. Once the officers entered the apartment hallway, they found large quantities of heroin and drug paraphernalia.

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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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The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the “double jeopardy clause,” protects commerce-acts-books-477966-ma person charged with a crime against multiple punishments for the same offense. Courts are expected to rule on issues that come before them with an eye to ensuring that a criminal defendant’s Constitutional rights are sufficiently protected. The punishment phase of a criminal trial takes place during sentencing. One way to protect against double jeopardy is through the “merger” of sentences. Like most phases of a criminal trial, there are rules and legal requirements governing the possibility of merging sentences. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal attorney as soon as possible.

In a recent case emerging from Maryland’s highest court, the State appealed the court of appeals’ decision to merge a defendant’s sentences for all predicate felony convictions during the sentencing phase of a felony murder conviction. Here, the State alleged that the defendant (and three others) kidnapped another person, placed him in a vehicle, and tried to get money from him. The State further alleged that one of the four people shot and killed the victim when he attempted to escape. The four were charged with multiple crimes, including first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence or felony, and unlawfully carrying, wearing, or transporting a handgun.

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police-1443912-mThe Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to be free from an illegal search and seizure. Law enforcement authorities are expected to have “probable cause” before conducting a search of a person or their car and other items. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to determine whether the evidence supporting the charge was obtained in a legal manner. In cases where there is doubt about the legality of the search and seizure procedures, you may make a motion with the court to “suppress the evidence.” To understand your rights and the circumstances under which a court may grant a motion to suppress, you are encouraged to contact a Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

When a defendant moves to suppress evidence, courts typically will hold a “suppression hearing” to determine the legitimacy of the search and seizure. In a recent Maryland case, an officer who was conducting surveillance of a motel in Baltimore saw a man pacing in the parking lot. A few minutes later, the officer saw that man get into the passenger side of a car that had just pulled into the lot. He then exited the car soon after. The officer believed he had just witnessed a drug transaction and started to follow the car as it left the lot.

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dvd-2-951917-mA criminal arrest or charge is a serious matter that must be addressed accordingly. A defendant has much to lose in a criminal case, including his or her freedom, reputation, and future. There are many ways that one may respond to a criminal arrest, from raising a strong and solid defense that negates the crime to setting forth arguments that could serve to reduce the severity of the charges. In some cases, the defendant’s attorney may even argue that the law under which the person was charged is unconstitutional for one reason or another. While these arguments are not very common, they do occur, and, in some cases, the defendant is successful. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is imperative that you contact a local Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can help to protect your rights and prepare a defense strategy that suits the circumstances.

In a recent case, the highest court in Maryland reviewed a criminal defendant’s challenge to the state’s trademark counterfeiting statute. According to the facts revealed at trial, during a traffic stop of defendant’s vehicle, the police found 206 DVDs in the car. An investigator on the case testified – as an expert in the field of counterfeit DVDs – that all of the DVDs found in the vehicle contained “numerous counterfeit marks” and were considered “counterfeit reproductions” of movies on DVD. Defendant testified that he was a licensed vendor and authorized by the state to sell the items. Continue reading →

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