Articles Posted in Drug law

The Sixth Amendment gives each person accused of a crime the right to receive a “speedy trial.” This very general right means some very specific things here in Maryland. The prosecution and the courts have some strict deadlines they are required to meet or else you can use that delay as the basis to get the charges against you thrown out. Whether you need to pursue a speedy trial motion or engage in other procedural maneuvers to protect your rights, the requirements for doing so may be intricate, detailed, and exacting, which is why you should rely on the skills and knowledge of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

Statutory law in Maryland says that, absent a good reason, your criminal case has to be brought to trial within 180 days. The starting point of that 180-day time period is the earlier of the first time you are brought before the judge or the first time your attorney appears in court to state his/her representation of you in the case.

Sometimes, the procedural tactics of the prosecution can impact that speedy trial deadline, as one recent case illustrated. The accused, S.W., was arrested and charged with various drug and firearm offenses. The grand jury indictment, in that case, occurred on Sept. 18, 2018. After the state later discovered fentanyl in the drugs, the prosecutors dismissed all the charges in the first indictment. The grand jury returned a second indictment on Jan. 22, 2019, that added four new counts covering the fentanyl.

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When you are on trial for drug crimes or weapons charges, there’s a realistic chance that the primary evidence the state intends to use against you was obtained by a police search conducted without a warrant. The state will inevitably attempt to argue that the evidence is admissible under one or more of the exceptions to the general rule against warrantless searches but, sometimes, that argument is deficient, and there is no constitutionally permissible basis for the warrantless search in your case. When that happens, it is critical to have a skillful Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to get that evidence excluded from your case.

One of the exceptions to the rule against warrantless searches is something called the “community caretaking” exception. This exception recognizes that the police wear multiple hats. Not only do their job duties include obtaining evidence to use against criminal suspects, but also ensuring public safety. It is important to recognize, however, that a police officer’s public safety duties do not give them carte blanche to do whatever they want in terms of conducting a search. If they do a search that goes beyond what is necessary to ensure safety, then the exception will not cover the evidence they find.

A recent drug case from Frederick was a good example. A police officer responded to an apartment building at 2:00 a.m. after a 911 call and a potential domestic disturbance. In the apartment, the officer encountered a man and a woman. Later, a second officer arrived as back-up. At that time, the woman disclosed that her children were in the apartment.

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There are actually several different ways that your Maryland criminal conviction can be tossed and, believe it or not, some of them may start with an action taken by prosecutors. Sometimes, after you’ve been tried and sentenced, prosecutors may discover evidence that has a clear connection to you and is adverse to the state’s case against you. They may file a request to have the court vacate your conviction. Is that surprising? What may be even more surprising to you is that, even when this happens, you still need to be sure that you have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney working for you. You see, just because the state asks to have the conviction vacated doesn’t automatically mean the judge automatically will vacate your conviction.

So, you may be wondering, “how does this whole process work?” A recent drug case is a good illustration. In that case, Baltimore police officers executed a search warrant on April 1, 2016. After they completed their search, they arrested A.W. The state charged A.W. with an array of crimes, including cocaine charges, heroin charges, drug paraphernalia charges, conspiracy, and assault.

The accused man eventually pled guilty to one charge of possession with intent to distribute heroin.

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One of the most invasive incursions the state can make against its citizens is to breach the citizens’ right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.” It is this invasive nature that led the Founding Fathers to address the topic within the Bill of Rights, banning unreasonable searches and seizures and requiring probable cause for the issuance of search warrants. It is this amendment that renders many warrantless searches illegal and the evidence seized in those searches improper for use against you at your criminal trial. Of course, illegally seized evidence generally doesn’t suppress itself; instead, you need the services of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney who knows how to go about making – and winning – a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence.

Several months ago, this blog covered the criminal case of K.C., a man discovered to be in possession of a gun and illegal drugs after the police conducted a warrantless search.

K.C. was convicted in the trial court, but the Court of Special Appeals reversed that conviction. That appellate court, among other things, looked at K.C.’s lack of control over the situation and concluded that his was not a “consensual encounter” with the police, which, in turn, meant that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

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There are so many ways that the right Maryland criminal defense attorney can help you. Not the least of these is where you encounter an uncooperative prosecutor in your case who fails to allow you to perform inspections on the evidence it has. When that happens to you, you may find yourself frustrated and asking, “Now what?” Your skilled defense counsel, on the other hand, will know what action to take to ensure you get a fair trial.

The need to inspect the state’s evidence can be relevant in a wide array of cases from drug crimes to sex crimes to homicides. For M.J., a man from Montgomery County, the charges in his trial included altering evidence and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

The evidence to which M.J. sought access was roughly 5.9 grams of a “white powdery substance” found in the backseat of M.J.’s truck. The police lab tested the substance and concluded that it contained cocaine.

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Here in Maryland, our state constitution and the U.S. constitution give everyone certain rights. As you may already know, especially if you watch all of those TV police shows, you have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer the police’s questions. What happens, though, when you’re advised of your rights in a language that is not your native one? Depending on the exact circumstances, this evidence may be critical in getting certain incriminating statements you made to the police excluded from your trial. Whether or not you speak English, make sure you have someone ready to speak for you. In other words, be sure you have the services of a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney.

J.S. was one of those people where a language barrier was an issue. In J.S.’s criminal case, the police found drugs inside the man’s home. They charged J.S. with possession of cocaine and other related crimes.

The police transported J.S. to the station house, where a detective questioned him. During that interrogation, J.S. stated with regard to the drugs: “It’s only my problem. My wife is nothing to do with it.”

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The police have various methods they use to pursue people they suspect to have committed crimes. One of their methods is to find a basis to stop you and then search you. Fortunately, the Maryland Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution limit what the police can do when it comes to stopping and searching you. Of course, once the police have searched you and found evidence through an illegal search and seizure, that evidence doesn’t just suppress itself at your criminal trial. Instead, you have to know how to make the right motion at the right time, supported by the right legal arguments. In other words, you need representation from a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney.

When it comes to police stops and searches, the U.S. Supreme Court made a very important ruling in 1968 called Terry v. Ohio. That landmark case was so prominent, in fact, that these kinds of interactions are still called “Terry stops” today.

In Maryland, the law says that, in order for a “Terry frisk” to be legally allowable, the police officer who seeks to conduct the search must have a “reasonable articulable suspicion” the person was armed and dangerous. A recent case from Frederick County helps clarify what the police can and cannot do in one of these Terry frisks.

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When you are on trial for a crime in Maryland, there are several things that the court has to decide before the jury decides whether you’re not guilty or guilty. For instance, with certain types of proof, the judge may have to decide whether proposed evidence is more likely to bias the jury than prove or disprove some aspect of the case, or vice versa. Winning these disputes about whether evidence should be admitted or excluded can make the difference between a conviction or an acquittal, so it is important to have a skillful Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to win these arguments and keep out harmful evidence.

Even just a single answer can be enough to alter the outcome of your case. Consider the recent case of C.W. C.W.’s interaction with the police began after a Baltimore County police officer observed what he believed to be a drug transaction involving C.W. and another man. C.W. was eventually arrested and charged with “possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.” During booking, the officer asked C.W. about his employment status and C.W. indicated that he was unemployed. The officer testified to this at trial.

The defendant’s lawyer smartly – and correctly – objected to this testimony, arguing that it was not relevant. The judge denied the objection and the jury eventually convicted C.W.

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Police responses in dealing with persons of color whom the police claim were “resisting arrest” have been major topics across America recently, as they rightfully should be. As anyone who’s ever faced such a charge knows, resisting arrest is one of the most subjective crimes in Maryland, and trials on resisting charges may often come down to a contest of who the jury thinks is more credible – you or the police officer. To win a case like that, you may need to be able to show that the officer is biased or that his testimony is not reliable. Succeeding in doing that often requires a highly skilled and experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney, who knows exactly how to get the officer to come across as biased or unreliable on cross-examination.

Successfully rendering a police officer’s testimony not believable through effective cross-examination is not the only way your knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you to defeat a resisting arrest charge. There are also specific defenses to a charge of resisting arrest, one of which was highlighted in a recent drug crime case from Worcester County.

The origins of the case began when a Pocomoke City police officer pulled over R.W. for talking on his cell phone while driving. The officer put on his lights and R.W. pulled over. R.W. got out of his car, even though the officer had not told him to do so.

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Sometimes, bad things happen…things that tug at the emotions. These events may trigger public outrage and a feeling that someone must “pay.” It is important, however, that these emotions do not rule our criminal justice system. Even if a person has done something wrong, that person should not be convicted of a homicide crime if his actions did not meet the law’s standards for that degree of homicide. That’s one of the places where a skilled Maryland homicide defense attorney can help: by winning an argument that says that, even if you did everything the state says you did, you still are not guilty of the crime that the prosecution charged.

For example, imagine a man fighting a battle against drug addiction and seemingly in recovery. He has a devoted mother and a successful girlfriend who are diligent in trying to keep him on the road to recovery. He also, however, has a friend who is an addict and, one day, the friend buys some heroin and offers to sell him half. He takes the heroin, overdoses and dies. That would undoubtedly be an emotional case, and it actually happened in Queen Anne’s County.

B.R. died because the heroin his friend, N.J., had purchased also contained fentanyl. The state charged N.J. with several crimes, including involuntary manslaughter. The trial court convicted him on the manslaughter charge.

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