Articles Posted in Drug law

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 →

In a recent case a defendant asked the Maryland Court of Appeals to review of a judge’s imposition of a 25 year mandatory, enhanced sentence. The defendant had been convicted of cocaine distribution and conspiracy. The State notified the defendant it would seek a mandatory 25-year sentence without possibility of parole.

The defendant was sentenced according to a subsequent offender statute for multiple drug convictions. Under section 5-608, a defendant can qualify for an enhanced sentence if he has served a prior term of confinement of at least 180 days and possesses two separate prior convictions that qualify.

At sentencing, the State submitted certified copies of docket entries regarding his two prior convictions. Various officers were asked to testify regarding the identity of the person who had been convicted and the fact that the fingerprint cards for each contained the same fingerprint. The defense attorney moved to strike one witness’s testimony because she wasn’t an expert. The sentencing judge, however, stated that it was not necessary to prove the prior offenses that way. Continue reading →

The Fourth Amendment protects people against unlawful searches and seizures. Usually, a warrant is required for a search. Often a criminal defense attorney is able to prevent evidence against his client from coming in, if he can show that the evidence was obtained through an unlawful search or seizure. However, there are exceptions, such as when a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe a crime is being committed in a car, searches the car and finds evidence that a crime was committed.

In a recent case, a woman pled guilty to possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. The case arose when a law enforcement officer was dispatched to a grocery store. He had been called to that store on multiple occasions previously to deal with a white woman who loitered in front of the store. The store believed she was a prostitute.

The officer had learned from the woman that she was a prior heroin user that had been clean for about a year. He served her with a cease and desist order that prohibited her loitering in that location and others. Continue reading →

When is a reasonable suspicion truly a reasonable suspicion and not just a hunch in Maryland? A law enforcement officer can conduct an investigatory stop only if the officer has a reasonable suspicion and not a mere hunch that the person being stopped is committing some kind of infraction or criminal activity.

In a recent case, a violent crime unit of the Baltimore Police Department was investigating a man (Blue) known for distributing raw heroin. They spied on a meeting between the Blue and another individual (Townsend) on a street corner, taping it with a surveillance camera. Two detectives were part of the surveillance, but did not observe the meeting live, only on tape.

Blue arrived in his car and looked around nervously after getting out of his car. He took an object out of his pocket, still looking around, and handed it to Townsend. Townsend put the object in his pocket and soon Blue went back to his car and drove away. Continue reading →

Marijuana law reform is underway in Maryland. There are currently three medical marijuana proposals before the state legislature. Two of these will institute a state-run commission for research. The third bill—House Bill 302—requires the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to oversee the regulation of dispensaries. If it passes, patients will be allowed to grow up to six ounces and twelve plants. It also repeals the criminal provision that permits judges to fine people found to use or possess marijuana. According to the Huffington Post, the bill is now backed by Maryland’s Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein who opposed a similar measure last year.

In addition to medical marijuana reform, ordinary marijuana possession laws have recently changed. Governor Martin O’Mally signed two new laws relating to marijuana in 2012. On October 1, 2012, the maximum penalty for simple marijuana possession of 10 grams or less was reduced to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. On January 2nd, 2013, a new law took effect that requires that people charged with certain nonviolent criminal offenses, like marijuana possession, face only a citation, rather than jail time.

On top of all these reforms, there’s a new bill on recreational marijuana use as well. House Bill 1453, if passed, would legalize up to 1 oz. of raw cannabis, 5 grams of hash, and 3 marijuana plants for adults. Continue reading →

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