Articles Posted in Evidence

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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If you’re on trial, one thing you may find exceptionally intimidating is when the prosecution puts on a scientific expert witness to testify. You may fear that the jury will give great importance to what this person says and, if his/her testimony seems to indicate that you’re guilty, then the jury will say so, too. However, what if there was a way to keep the jury from hearing anything at all from this expert witness? There is and, with the help of a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney, you too may be able to accomplish it and reap the benefits of a stronger defense as a result.

One way to block the prosecution from putting an expert witness’s testimony before a jury lies within something called Rule 5-702. That’s a rule of evidence that says that all expert testimony must have “a sufficient factual basis … to support” it and, if not, then you are entitled to make a motion objecting to the expert, and the trial judge should exclude that expert’s evidence.

A recent murder case illustrates how this process works. K.M. was on trial in connection with the deaths of two people shot multiple times at close range.

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Chances are pretty high that you’re rarely heard the phrase “statement against penal interest,” if you’ve heard it at all. Chances are also very, very high that your knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney knows exactly what this is and how to use it.

A “statement against penal interest” is one of the exceptions to the general rule of evidence that says hearsay statements are not admissible at trial. That’s a big deal because if you can establish that a statement meets the criteria of this exception, you can use an otherwise inadmissible piece of evidence at trial to strengthen your defense.

An example of this kind of statement might be an ex-girlfriend who testifies, “He told me he killed that old couple.” As you can see from that example, the “statement against penal interest” exception is something that often will be used by the prosecution. Sometimes, though, as a recent case highlights, this kind of statement can be a helpful element of an accused person’s defense.

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Back in September, the Maryland Court of Appeals made a very important ruling. Unless you read legal publications, you probably haven’t heard about it, as it didn’t make the major newspapers. The case wasn’t a big reversal of an accused person’s major conviction. In fact, it wasn’t even a criminal matter at all, but it potentially impacts a lot of criminal defendants in this state. What it does represent is a reminder that having a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney, who’s up to date on the latest developments in the law in this state, can make an enormous difference in your criminal case.

The ruling involved a civil case where a woman sued her former landlord for harm she allegedly suffered as a result of lead paint exposure. The key issue the state’s high court addressed was the correct standard for assessing whether or not evidence from an expert witness is admissible at trial. The court changed the standard that Maryland courts must use, adopting a standard created in a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case.

The impact of that change is already being felt by people facing criminal charges in this state. A man, K.A., received a new opportunity to potentially defeat the murder charge against him. In K.A.’s trial, the state presented an expert who used a “toolmark identification” method to determine that, in his opinion, the bullets recovered from the victim’s body matched a gun recovered from K.A.

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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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Police many times strive to create situations in which they can conduct a search of your vehicle in order to obtain additional evidence… and possibly additional charges. The problem for the police is that they cannot search just anyone’s car. They need either to have a search warrant for that car or they need to have probable cause to conduct a warrantless search. A great deal of evidence is often unearthed through the execution of warrantless searches and, a lot of times, those searches are the result of insufficient probable cause. When that happens, you need the right Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to get that evidence suppressed at trial.

O.W. was someone caught in a warrantless search scenario like that. In early 2019, Anne Arundel County police sought to arrest him on an open arrest warrant. The police apprehended the man at a Glen Burnie car wash. After the police took the man into custody, they searched the vehicle he drove to the car wash. The police found a handgun lying on the seat underneath a jacket. That gun led the police to add an additional weapons charge against O.W.

O.W. faced several complications in seeking to get the gun evidence excluded from his case. For one thing, the car wasn’t legally his, a fact that the state pointed out in its argument against suppression of the gun evidence. O.W.’s girlfriend had leased the vehicle and the lease had expired the day before the police apprehended the man.

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Being falsely accused of a sex crime can be an enormously terrifying experience, especially if the alleged victim was a child. There can be many reasons why this might happen, from a vindictive ex-spouse seeking to gain an advantage in family court to an over-zealous therapist suggesting a repressed memory that wasn’t real to a rebellious, troubled stepchild acting out against discipline. Whatever the specifics of how you got charged, the penalties are potentially severe and life-changing, so you need to be sure you have strong representation from a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney.

There are several situations in which you can bring in evidence of your own good character into your criminal trial. For example, if you were on trial for a crime that involved fraud, lying or deception, you could put on proof that you had a reputation for truthfulness and honesty. However, what if you’re on trial for a child sex crime… can you use evidence of your past history of always conducting yourself appropriately around children? According to a recent Court of Appeals decision, yes, you can.

The defendant in that Court of Appeals case was a male teacher who allegedly sexually abused several female students. As part of his defense, the teacher sought to present testimony from other teachers and from parents of students. Those individuals’ testimony would all state that the defendant was a man who was frequently around children and who “behaves appropriately with children in his custody or care.”

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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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There are various ways in which the state can pursue a case against you based on drug or weapons charges, with one of those being a “possession” charge. Many times, the prosecution seeks to do so by proving you had “constructive possession” of the contraband. That often relies heavily on circumstantial evidence, and may be more readily defeated than an “actual possession” charge. With the help of a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney, you may be able to minimize the persuasiveness of the state’s circumstantial evidence and get the acquittal or dismissal you need.

Here in Maryland, the law has created a four-part method for determining constructive possession. In the example of possession of ammunition, those parts are: (1) Did the defendant have ownership or the legal right to possess the item (such as a car, a home, a desk or a dresser) where the ammunition was found? (2) Was the ammunition located in close proximity to the accused? (3) Was the property item in “plain view”? (4) Was there any evidence of actual possession of the ammunition?

The recent case a Baltimore man recently faced is an example of clearly insufficient evidence of constructive possession. It’s important to remember that, in every element of the criminal charges you’re facing, it is the state that bears the burden of proof. In other words, the prosecutors have to “prove it” rather than your having to negate elements of the crime.

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