Articles Posted in Evidence

Courtroom witness standIn any criminal jury trial, it is the job of the jury to determine whether or not the accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes assessing the credibility of various types of evidence, including the testimony of an alleged victim. In other words, the jury must decide which testimony is believable and which isn’t. That responsibility falls solely on the jury and any trial where that task gets shifted to someone else is improper and may allow a convicted defendant to obtain a new trial. Whether it is improper expert opinion testimony or other inadmissible evidence, it is important to be armed with the arguments you need to keep out such proof, which is why it pays to have skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel in your corner.

An example of such an improper process occurred in the trial of a man in Charles County. J.F. was accused of sexually abusing his daughter three times when the girl was between five and eight years old. The first trial ended in a hung jury. In the second trial, the vast majority of the evidence the state had against the father was out-of-court statements by the daughter and the daughter’s trial testimony.

This wasn’t all of the evidence that the state presented, though. The state also called a counselor as an expert witness. The examiner testified that the girl displayed no “signs of fabrication” and that she had no concerns that the girl’s out-of-court statements accusing the father were the result of coaching or otherwise weren’t true. The jury eventually convicted the father.

courtThe law has some very clear and strict limitations on using what’s called “other bad acts” against a defendant in a criminal trial. The reason for this is very sensible: the interests of justice are not served if a jury decides to convict a person, not because the evidence proves the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, but because the jury hears about prior bad acts and decides that the accused is a bad person. Generally, a person’s other, unrelated bad acts from his past are not relevant to whether or not he committed the current crime, so they should not be admissible. When it comes to keeping out evidence that should not be admissible in your trial, be sure you have experienced Maryland defense counsel on your side to protect your rights.

Take, as an example, the case of N., who was out a bar in Baltimore one night in September 2014. An acquaintance managed to get thrown out of the bar by four employees, including two bouncers. Several people, including N., spilled outside and the bouncing turned into another fracas where the bouncers, according to N., attacked him. N. allegedly attempted to defend himself with a knife. One bouncer received a facial cut, the other was slashed in the throat. The second bouncer died.

The state charged N. with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. At the trial, the prosecution played a statement in which N. admitted that he went to the bar that night intending to sell cocaine. The jury acquitted N. of the murder and attempted murder charges, but convicted him on two lesser charges.

Courtroom witness standAll criminal trials are governed by certain sets of rules. One of these sets is the rules of evidence. The rules of evidence can be extremely helpful to your case in the hands of a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney. These rules can be used to keep out evidence that the law says is not admissible and that, if it got into your case, could potentially harm your defense.

When a trial court does allow inadmissible evidence into a defendant’s case, that error may entitle the accused to a new trial. That was the case for Donald, who was standing trial after the state indicted him on six robbery-related charges and four assault-related charges. At trial, the state produced evidence that Donald and an associate met two alleged drug dealers in a parking lot in St. Mary’s County. A physical altercation ensued, in which the drug dealers alleged that they were “jumped.”

A detective involved in the case took the witness stand and testified as to what one of the alleged drug dealers told him in describing the alleged attack. Donald’s lawyer objected to the testimony, but the judge let the police officer proceed. The trial court acquitted on the robbery charges but convicted Donald on all four assault charges. He received a sentence of 60 years with all but 40 years suspended.

pillsIn your criminal case, there are several things that are of vital importance. One of these, obviously, is getting all of your items of proof admitted into evidence. You may face many hurdles in this process, including arguments from the prosecution that your proof is not admissible under the Rules of Evidence. Effectively representing you and protecting your rights in situations like these is one of many ways in which a skilled Maryland drug crime lawyer can provide essential benefits to you.

One example of a case focused upon the defendant’s evidence and the Rules of Evidence was that of Steven, who faced multiple drug charges. The case began with police surveillance of a house in Baltimore. After several weeks, the police obtained a search warrant and, during the search, found evidence of various drugs, including oxycodone, methadone, and alprazolam (a/k/a Xanax). Steven had told the police that he had some drugs in his bedroom, and the officers found Xanax, methadone, and heroin. They found the oxycodone in the kitchen.

The police claimed that Steven gave them no valid prescriptions for any of the drugs. Steven argued in court that this was false. He contended that he and his wife had valid prescriptions for Xanax, methadone, and oxycodone and that he attempted to provide them at the time of the search. The prosecution, to try to defeat Steven’s arguments that he legally possessed those drugs, asked the trial judge to exclude any document evidence regarding the prescriptions. The documents, according to the state, were not admissible because they were hearsay under evidence rules.

tattoo artistIn a criminal case, there are several things a defendant must do to strengthen his case and give himself a good chance at an acquittal. One of these things is reducing the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. One way to do that is to introduce previous statements that the state’s witness made that are contrary to what the witness stated on the stand at trial. In one recent sex crime case from Montgomery County, the defendant obtained a new trial on appeal after the trial judge in his case improperly refused to allow him to put on evidence of prior inconsistent statements made by one of the state’s key witnesses.

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traffic stopA 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.

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ir-hemp-leaf-1364000As 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.

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telephone-1468226In criminal cases, law enforcement personnel employ a variety of different methods to gather evidence against an alleged “suspect.” One such strategy includes the use of wiretapping and electronic surveillance in an effort to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications. Both federal and state laws govern the use of wiretapping surveillance in criminal cases. Under Maryland’s wiretapping law, citizens are afforded a greater degree of privacy than under the federal wiretap law. If evidence in your criminal case was obtained via a wiretap or other electronic surveillance, it is vitally important that the intercepted communication was obtained within the confines of the law. For help with this aspect of your case, as well as any other legal issue, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.

In a recent Maryland Court of Appeals case, the petitioner challenged the State’s method of obtaining evidence from a recorded phone call (monitored by the alleged victim), with equipment provided by a detective with the Montgomery County Police. Here, the victim alleged that he had been sexually abused by his step-uncle (petitioner) during the summer of 1982. Thirty years after the alleged sexual abuse took place in Maryland, the victim (who now lives in West Virginia) sought help from staff at a police station in Rockville. After describing the abuse to a detective, the two made several calls to the alleged perpetrator in an attempt to elicit an admission or confession.

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law-education-series-3-1467430The state of Maryland has adopted the law of double jeopardy, as set forth in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Essentially, the law protects citizens from being tried twice for the same crime. It is important to understand that double jeopardy is not a defense to the merits of a criminal case, but instead it is considered a “plea in bar” to prevent a trial from ever taking place. Courts have addressed the issue of double jeopardy in many criminal cases and have identified when it may be invoked and the extent of the legal protection. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is critical that you are aware of any and all defenses or legal protections available. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney would be able to assess your case to provide a strong defense to the charges brought.

In a recent Maryland case, the state brought charges against Wayne Warren, Jr., alleging the sexual abuse of a minor, shortly after he had already been tried and convicted on two of eight charges of the same crime. After the first case was resolved in 2014, the state discovered new photographic evidence in a storage facility, allegedly establishing the sexual abuse of a minor. The state decided to bring another action against him, using this new evidence, which had never been used against him. The new indictment, presented three months after the guilty verdicts were handed down at the first trial, included four counts, each charging precisely the same crime:  sexual abuse of a minor.

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u-s-supreme-court-2-1210504A person who is arrested or charged with a crime – whether it is classified as a felony or misdemeanor – is encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The gathering of evidence and other circumstances surrounding the arrest and indictment are extremely important pieces of a case. Each step must be analyzed and evaluated in accordance with the Maryland laws that serve to protect a citizen’s constitutional and statutory rights. In addition to defenses one may assert at the point of arrest or indictment, there are other arguments that can be raised even after a conviction. No matter which stage of a criminal case one is facing, it is imperative that you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney to assert a solid defense or a strong petition for post conviction relief.

Under Maryland law, a person who has been convicted of a crime may file a petition for “writ of actual innocence” and seek a new trial. Section 8-301 of the State Criminal Procedure Code sets forth the circumstances under which such a petition (and new trial) may be granted. These are when a person claims that there is newly discovered evidence that:  (1) creates a substantial or significant possibility that the result may have been different, and (2) could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial.

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