Articles Posted in Drug law

As we noted earlier this month, many drug arrests start as traffic stops. In addition, a lot of drug arrests stem from encounters where the police stop an individual and eventually engage in a search of that individual’s person. Unless the interaction was completely voluntary (such as a situation where the police informed you that you were free to leave,) that stop may implicate your Fourth Amendment rights, and any evidence obtained in that search may be illegally obtained if the police lacked the required degree of reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Contesting illegal searches and getting illegally obtained evidence suppressed is often a key component of success in criminal defense, especially in weapons or drug cases. Having the right Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side is an essential part of maximizing your chances of success in this type of motion.

A drug case from last year involving a search conducted at a shopping mall highlights many of the considerations involved in this kind of case. The incident began when two local police detectives patrolling the Brooklyn Park Shopping Plaza noticed a man, A.G., who had been banned from the plaza based on suspected drug dealing.

When they caught up to A.G., D.S. was standing at his side. The detectives asked to search A.G. and he consented. At that point, D.S. volunteered to allow the detectives to search his pockets. During the latter search, police discovered an object beneath one of the teen’s pockets. Upon further searching, the police found 26 vials of crack cocaine.

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Many drug “busts” by police officers start as traffic stops. While most are conducted within the bounds of the law, a substantial percentage of them are not. In those instances, the pulled-over driver is subjected to a search and/or seizure that violates constitutional protections. When that happens, the search is illegal and the evidence obtained is subject to suppression in any ensuing trial. To get that evidence suppressed, though, you’ll need to make a motion and win an argument before the judge. When it comes to doing this (and all the other essential tasks of a criminal defense) successfully, make sure you’ve got the right Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side.

As an example, there’s this drug case upon which the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Maryland, the Carolinas, and two other states) recently ruled.

The minor traffic violation, in this case, was tinted windows. A local police officer stopped H.D., suspecting that the man’s windows were illegally dark. While the officer was speaking with backup officers who had arrived subsequently, the suspect drove away.

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Sometimes, a criminal trial can be cold and clinical. Did the defendant take a smartphone from the electronics store or not? Did she intend to permanently deprive the store of the phone or not? Other cases, though, can be more emotional. When you’re on trial in a case like that, you need an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer who can cut through all that emotional content and frame for the jury what really matters — the facts and the law.

The death of a man, C.T., in Worcester County in 2015, was something that led to a felony case that likely triggered a range of emotional reactions.

Medical examiners concluded that C.T. died of a heroin overdose. Police located the deceased man’s cell phone, which contained an extensive string of text messages between him and another man, R.S., in which the pair discussed drugs and getting high. The police then interviewed R.S., who admitted that he had purchased heroin and brought it to C.T.’s home. The pair had injected themselves with heroin and C.T. lost consciousness. R.S. found his friend not breathing and without a pulse. He then “freaked out” and left the home.

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If you’re familiar enough with policing, you know that a significant number of criminal arrests start out as traffic stops. Some law enforcement officers, armed only with their own intuition, will do their very best to concoct a reason to make a traffic stop because they believe they can get substantial proof of a crime… if they can just get you pulled over. Many times, though, these kinds of traffic stops are violations of the Fourth Amendment. If you’ve been arrested as a result of an improper traffic stop, you may be able to get all the evidence the police seized tossed, but you’ll have to win a suppression argument to do it. When it comes to this and other critical elements of your criminal trial, make sure you have the legal representation you need from an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer.

Most people are aware of the broad stereotype that people under the influence of marijuana drive very slowly. Comedic actor Tommy Chong once remarked, “Everybody worries about driving when you’re stoned. No! Not gonna hurt anybody going five miles an hour!” Law enforcement officers are aware of this, too.

As a recent drug crimes case demonstrates, though, just driving very slowly down a highway does not, by itself, amount to the required degree of “reasonable articulable suspicion” that the constitution requires in order for a police officer to make a traffic stop.

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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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