Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the “double jeopardy clause,” protects a 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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The 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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A 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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