Articles Posted in Driving Offenses

Generally, this blog discusses court cases where the accused person obtained a favorable result in the Appellate Court or the Supreme Court. L.B. from Baltimore was not one of those people. Nevertheless, we spotlight his case because his actions provide a list of “what not to do” in a traffic stop. These can only harm your position legally and make the task of your skillful Maryland criminal defense lawyer immensely more difficult to avoid a conviction and jail time.

L.B.’s legal troubles began when an officer with the Anne Arundel County Police pulled him over in Severn. The officer initially stopped the man for a non-working license plate light. This traffic violation is a minor one and carries only a small fine.

Once stopped, L.B. exited his car and told the officer he didn’t have his driver’s license. Driving without a license is a more serious offense, but still only a misdemeanor. It can trigger larger fines (up to $500) and as many as five points assessed on your license.

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Under Maryland law, crimes are divided into two groups:  misdemeanors and felonies. Most people know and understand that a felony is considered more serious and typically accompanied by a longer sentence. But a conviction of either type of crime can affect a person’s life in many ways. A common misdemeanor is driving while under the influence of alcohol.  A person may be arrested or charged with this crime based upon proof that the person was actually witnessed driving under the influence in the present tense, or based upon a “permitted inference” that he or she drove under the influence in the past tense. When the arrest, charge, or conviction is based on the latter situation, the question of proof can be a bit tricky. Anyone who is arrested or charged with driving under the influence is strongly encouraged to contact a Maryland criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling DUI cases.

In a recent Maryland case, Harding v. State, a jury convicted Todd Harding of driving under the influence, refusing to take a breath alcohol test, and driving with a suspended license. He appealed the conviction, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to send the case to the jury. Specifically, the appellant argued that the evidence was not legally sufficient as to whether he had actually been driving the pickup truck in which he was found. In this case, Baltimore City firefighters responded to a call reporting a vehicle accident with “people trapped.” According to the firefighters who were first on the scene, it appeared that the moving vehicle had jumped the curb and gone into the bushes as it came to a sudden stop. One firefighter in particular noted that the appellant was sitting at the driver’s wheel, slumped over, and seemed intoxicated.  He further observed that the truck was still running and had white smoke coming out of it.  An officer also witnessed the appellant get out of the car and stagger on the sidewalk. He refused a field sobriety test and was arrested and taken to the police station, where he refused a breath alcohol test.

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Every stage of a criminal case, from arrest to the final appeal, presents an opportunity to assert one’s rights. The Constitution and local state laws ensure that no citizen may be deprived of these rights unfairly and without due process. Maryland courts are often called upon to interpret various provisions of the state criminal code as it applies to any one particular person alleged to have committed a crime. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, you may be entitled to assert a solid defense to the charges. The most effective course of action is to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.

In a recent case, Wiredu v. State of Maryland, the appellant successfully appealed part of his sentences. According to the facts, Wiredu was driving home on a four-lane road (two southbound and two northbound lanes) when his truck collided with a motorcycle headed in the oncoming lane. Although Wiredu testified that the motorcycle swerved into his lane, an officer witnessed the accident and testified that Wiredu “merged” into the motorcycle’s oncoming lane. The officer’s version of the incident was corroborated by a Baltimore firefighter who also witnessed the accident.

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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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Many 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

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Under established case law, an officer who “pats down” or “stops and frisks” a person must be able to justify the intrusion by pointing to “specific and articulable facts” that, when considered together “with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.” Essentially, the officer must be able to articulate what it was that aroused his or her suspicions in order to justify the search. In such cases, courts will evaluate the reasonableness of the search or seizure in light of the unique circumstances of the case.

Clearly, whether the officer is entitled to conduct a pat down depends in large part on the specific facts. Where appropriate, an individual arrested or charged with a crime may argue that the officer violated his or her constitutional rights and was not justified in conducting the search. In such cases, the defendant may be able to suppress any evidence gathered as a result of that search. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is extremely important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who is fully aware of proper legal criminal procedure in Maryland.

In a recent case, the defendant was convicted of possession of cocaine, wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun in a vehicle (and on his person), concealing a dangerous weapon, and speeding. According to the suppression hearing record, the arresting officer stopped the defendant for driving 58 m.p.h. in a 35 m.p.h. zone. According to the officer, during the stop, the defendant was sitting “statue-like,” staring straight ahead with his hands in his lap. The officer also noticed that the defendant’s two front jacket pockets were “bulging” as if they had something in them. Because of the bulges in the defendant’s pockets and because he failed to make eye contact, the officer decided to obtain information regarding the defendant’s criminal history. He found out that the defendant was on probation for a possession of a handgun in a vehicle charge.

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Late last fall, one of our current immigration clients came to office desperately seeking help.  He had recently been pulled over by police on two (2) separate occasions and charged with “driving without a license.”

The client had initially retained our immigration attorneys to help him acquire his legal permanent resident card (commonly called a green card).  Upon being retained, our immigration attorneys immediately filed the Form I-130, with the client’s wife, who is a US citizen, sponsoring him.  The client is now working with our immigration attorneys to gather the necessary supporting documentation for his Form I-601A application.

Before getting pulled over for the first time, the client understood that he had been breaking the law by driving without a valid Maryland driver’s license.  But, he had no choice — he had to drive for both of his jobs and his family relied on the money he earned in order to survive.

Under Maryland law, all criminal defendants are presumed innocent if and until they are convicted. A conviction can occur via a guilty plea or through a bench or jury trial. At a criminal trial, the prosecution must present evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant actually committed the crime for which he or she is charged. Of course, even if the defendant is found to be guilty at trial, that person may appeal the conviction. The outcome of a criminal case can have serious, life-altering consequences for the person charged. In such matters, it is vitally important that a defendant consult with a local criminal attorney who is fully familiar with the laws and procedures in the Maryland court system.

In a recent case, the defendant was convicted of driving with a suspended license. According to the decision, the defendant was originally charged with failure to display a license to an officer, driving on a suspended license, driving without a license, and driving on a revoked license. He asserted that, while his license expired in 1990, it was suspended prior to that time. Since the defendant waived his right to a jury trial, the court tried the case under an agreed statement of facts and convicted him of only driving on a suspended license. The driver was sentenced to two years of incarceration, with all but one month suspended. The sentence also requires the defendant to submit to one year of supervised probation. The driver appealed.

On appeal, defendant argued that he could not be convicted of driving on a suspended license because it had expired. The State countered by arguing that the expiration of a license does not negate its suspended status. Under Maryland law, a person may not drive a motor vehicle on state roads while his or her license is suspended. The defendant raised an issue of first impression in the state, whether the suspension of a valid driver’s license survives the expiration. The court reviewed the applicable law and determined that allowing the expiration to cancel the suspension in this case would undermine the Legislature’s intent. For example, the state code requires the motor vehicle department to suspend a license if the license holder does not make any necessary child support payments. The court’s interpretation supports the notion that one’s driving privileges will remain suspended until payment of child support. Continue reading

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