A man who was convicted of a drug crime took his case all the way to Maryland’s highest court to seek a reversal of his conviction. In this man’s case, the problem with the state’s case was that the prosecution lacked clear proof that the marijuana-odor evidence that was at the heart of its case was obtained through a legal police search. In cases in which the evidence is unclear regarding whether a police search was legal or an illegal Fourth Amendment violation, the court must resolve that uncertainty in favor of the accused person.
When you are facing a criminal trial, the U.S. and Maryland constitutions give you certain clear rights. One of these is the right to be present at your trial. When a court violates your rights, the law may give you certain options as a result of this constitutional violation. In the case of one man arrested in Montgomery County, a judge’s decision to declare a mistrial on a drug charge while the man was involuntarily away from court due to a medical emergency resulted in jeopardy attaching. This meant that the man’s constitutional protection against double jeopardy prevented him from facing another trial on that charge, according to a recent Maryland Court of Appeals ruling.
Maryland’s highest court recently threw out the drug and gun possession conviction of a man, due to the lack of reasonable suspicion on the part of the officers who searched him. The Fourth Amendment requires that law enforcement officers have a reasonable degree of suspicion before they can search your person. Simply being out late at night in a high crime area and responding to a police stop by behaving nervously and awkwardly are not, by themselves, sufficient to give officers the required level of suspicion needed to frisk occupants of a vehicle with a broken taillight.
As 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.
Maryland’s criminal justice system may seem complicated and intimidating to a person who has been arrested or charged with a crime. It is important to remember, however, that you may be able to assert any number of valid defenses. For instance, there exist both substantive and procedural criminal defense strategies. Substantive defenses are aimed at negating an element of the crime (e.g., lack of intent), while procedural defenses focus on the circumstances surrounding the investigation of the alleged crime. For example, law enforcement activities must follow established legal procedures and any investigation may not violate an individual’s constitutional rights. For these reasons, anyone arrested or charged with a crime is strongly encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Despite the availability of various defense strategies, keep in mind that many crimes, whether categorized as a felony or a misdemeanor, carry a statutory minimum sentence. With respect to certain drug-related offenses, critics have argued that minimum sentences often exceed the nature of the crime, result in prison overcrowding, and waste taxpayer dollars. In an effort to address these concerns and many others, Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan, recently announced recommendations by the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council. According to the Governor’s press release, the recommendations are intended to safely reduce Maryland’s incarcerated population, control corrections spending, and reinvest in more effective, less expensive strategies to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
In 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.
If a person is convicted of a crime after a bench trial (by a judge) or a jury trial, he or she is typically entitled to appeal the conviction and to assert any number of pertinent arguments. One of the more common arguments on appeal concerns a lack of sufficient evidence to support the conviction. Appellants also may argue that the law or statute did not apply to their facts and circumstances. The appellate court is required to apply the appropriate standard of review to determine whether an appellant’s arguments have merit and warrant a reversal of the conviction. To be sure that your rights are adequately protected during a criminal case, from the point of arrest through any appeal, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
In a recent Maryland case, the court conducted a bench trial to determine whether the defendant was guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine, in addition to several other drug-related charges. Here, police officers assigned to a regional Narcotics Task Force executed a search and seizure warrant for the defendant’s residence. During the search of the premises, a Maryland State Trooper spoke with the defendant and asked him whether there was methamphetamine cooking on the premises. The defendant indicated that there was a bottle in the kitchen that should not be tightened, since it could blow up and cause a fire. According to the State Trooper, the defendant described how he learned to cook the drug and the actual process.
The search revealed assorted drug cooking paraphernalia. The State presented further evidence, including a forensic examiner and chemist with the Maryland State Police, as well as an expert in the identification of methamphetamine and its production and manufacture. The court found the defendant guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine, as well as other drug-related offenses. The defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient to convict him of manufacturing the drug because the evidence only proved that he was cooking the substance for his own personal use, which he alleged is not a crime under the statute.
The quality of the evidence and the manner in which it is obtained are the two critical components of any criminal case. For instance, every citizen is entitled to the Fourth Amendment protections from an illegal search and seizure. A person who is arrested or charged with a crime must look closely and carefully at how the evidence was collected. If there is a question as to the legality of the search and seizure, one may move to “suppress” the evidence. Since each case is unique and entirely fact-specific, it is critical that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney to thoroughly review your case, in order to determine whether the authorities complied with the laws intended to protect your constitutional rights.
In a recent case, Demby v. State of Maryland, petitioner Quioly Shikell Demby was arrested and ultimately convicted of possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute. Demby sought to suppress evidence that was obtained from a search of his cell phone during the arrest. The arresting Officer was the only witness to testify at the suppression hearing. According to the Officer’s testimony, on May 24, 2012, a confidential informant provided him with information about a potential drug transaction on Red Bridges Road and identified two people (one of whom was the petitioner in this case). Later that day, the County dispatch center told the Officer about an anonymous caller who witnessed suspicious activity regarding a person riding in a golf cart up and down Red Bridges Road.
When the Officer arrived at the scene, he saw the golf cart parked alongside a car. The petitioner was in the passenger seat of the car. The Officer questioned the occupants, notifying them that he was responding to complaints about potential drug activity. He asked the two men if they possessed anything illegal. The petitioner admitted to having pills and presented an unlabeled bottle containing 11 pills. The Officer identified the pills as an assortment of oxycodone and oxycodone acetaminophen, and he arrested the petitioner and searched the vehicle thereafter. During the search, the Officer saw a cell phone that was emitting notification “tones.” The petitioner acknowledged that it was his phone.
The outcome of a criminal case often depends in large part on the sufficiency of the evidence in light of established Maryland law. There are many defenses that may be asserted with respect to allegedly incriminating evidence. When a person is charged with criminal possession of contraband, courts have held that such possession may be constructive (rather than actual) or joint (rather than exclusive). These distinctions are important and can dramatically affect the result of a criminal case. A person charged with criminal possession of any controlled dangerous substance must take the matter very seriously and contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible in order to prepare a strong defense.
In a recent case, Cerrato-Molina v. State, a jury convicted the appellant of possession of marijuana, crack cocaine, and cocaine hydrochloride. The appellant argued that the evidence was legally insufficient to submit the case to the jury. Here, a Maryland Detective was in a marked police vehicle when he noticed two men drinking beer in a white Jeep that was parked with the engine running. As the Detective turned his vehicle around and came up behind the Jeep, it took off suddenly, traveling at a “high rate of speed” through a residential area. As the Detective followed the Jeep, he noticed objects flying out of the front passenger window. A short while later, the Jeep ran up onto a curb and came to a halt. The Detective arrested the driver and passenger, the appellant in this case.
Upon searching the path of the vehicle for the objects that were thrown out of the window, the Detective found three baggies containing suspected drugs that were later submitted to a lab and determined to contain controlled dangerous substances. In challenging the convictions, the appellant argued that there was no direct evidence that he possessed the drugs found on the street. The court of appeals, however, pointed to established Maryland case law that possession need not be “sole possession” but may be joint possession and joint control in several persons. Accordingly, courts have identified the following list of criteria to determine if joint possession exists: 1) proximity between the defendant and the contraband; 2) whether the contraband was in view or otherwise within the knowledge of the defendant; 3) the ownership or possessory right in the automobile or premises in which the item is found; or 4) circumstances under which a reasonable inference could be made that the defendant was participating with others in the mutual enjoyment and use of the contraband.
In most criminal cases, the defendant will have opportunities throughout the proceeding to raise a number of different defenses. These defenses can serve to reduce the severity of the criminal charges or set forth a complete defense. Additionally, if a person is convicted of the charged crimes, he or she may challenge the decision on various grounds and through specific legal mechanisms. In order to challenge a conviction, the defendant must be able to set forth supporting information and evidence to satisfy the legal requirements. The best way to determine if you are eligible to challenge a conviction is to consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Depending on the case, a defendant may bring something known as a “writ of error coram nobis,” which is a civil action, independent and separate from the underlying action from which it emanated. According to Maryland case law, this proceeding enables a “convicted person who is not incarcerated and not on parole or probation, who is suddenly faced with a significant collateral consequence of his or her conviction, [to] … challenge the conviction on constitutional or fundamental grounds.” In a recent criminal case, the defendant pleaded guilty to using a minor to distribute heroin back in 1999. He was sentenced to six years in prison, and all but 18 months were suspended, followed by three years of probation. Continue reading →