Articles Posted in Evidence

As body cameras are becoming more and more common among law enforcement officers, bodycam video footage will continue to become more and more common in criminal trials. If you are someone facing criminal charges, it is important to recognize that, just because something was recorded by a police officer’s body camera, that doesn’t necessarily make it admissible against you in your trial. There may be a variety of different reasons why an officer’s bodycam video footage would be inadmissible but, to keep that proof out, you have to know how to mount a successful objection. When it comes to achieving success in this and other tactical maneuvers in your case, it pays to have an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side.

An assault case from Baltimore demonstrates how the hearsay rule may be a powerful weapon in your case where the state wants to use police bodycam footage. In that case, R.B., the defendant, was facing charges that he attacked D.K.

The state did not call the alleged victim as a witness, presumably because the prosecution team could not locate him. The prosecution tried to get around the problem posed by the alleged victim’s absence by introducing into evidence the video footage from the bodycam worn by the local police officer who responded to the scene of the alleged crime and interviewed the alleged victim. In that footage, the police sergeant asked the alleged victim what happened, and he presented his version of events which, unsurprisingly, portrayed himself as innocent and the accused as the sole aggressor.

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If you watch enough courtroom movies or TV shows then you’ve likely seen the following scene or something like it: Our star, an intrepid attorney, has unearthed enormously helpful evidence but it is not admissible. Then the other side makes an ill-considered comment or asks an unfortunate (for them) question. Our protagonist seizes the moment and moves to admit the key evidence. When the other side objects, our intrepid advocate confidently counters, “Your Honor, they opened the door!” and gets the proof before the jury. Of course, real life is often much more complex than TV dramas and movies, but being able to use (or to block) an “opening the door” argument can be extremely important to your real-life case. When it comes to getting all of your best evidence admitted at trial, you don’t need a gifted actor; you need a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney advocating for you.

So what exactly does “opening the door” look like… and not look like? A recent felony case that originated in Howard County helps us see. Police, who were investigating a string of burglaries and a robbery in late 2018, searched a Columbia home three times.

Ultimately, after finishing their searches and collecting evidence, the state charged R.D. with, among other things, armed robbery. At trial, the accused man admitted that he lied to the police about where he lived but said he did so to protect the woman who eventually became his wife. The prosecution then set about questioning R.D. about a “whole bunch of stolen goods and” property the police found inside the residence.

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Television has a major impact on how many people view the world, including the world of criminal justice. Of course, police procedural TV shows represent creative minds’ artistic interpretation of a crime scene investigation, a police interrogation, or a criminal trial. While that’s true, there still may be opportunities to use certain knowledge jurors have absorbed from TV shows to create reasonable doubt in your criminal trial. As with any aspect of your defense, a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney can help you advance your case in the most effective way possible.

One of the more influential shows of the last few decades is “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and its spinoffs. In the “CSI” shows, the stars often solve cases and identify wrongdoers through fingerprints, DNA, and other forensic evidence.

Sometimes, in a Maryland criminal trial, the prosecution’s case against the defendant may have a noticeable absence of “forensic or scientific techniques often featured in police procedural television shows.” This absence may, of course, allow the defense to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the jurors about the strength of the state’s case. To combat this, Maryland law allows trial judges to issue what’s called “anti-CSI effect” jury instructions.

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Events from outside Maryland have once again placed into the national spotlight the issues of police stops of citizens and the bases the police use for initiating an encounter with someone. One important thing to know is that, in this state, the police must have a legitimate basis for stopping you and, if they lack that legitimate reason, then any potentially incriminating evidence they find on you may be excluded from your criminal trial. An experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer can help you succeed in these kinds of evidence suppression and other critical arguments.

Here in Maryland, there is strong caselaw upholding citizens’ freedom from being accosted and searched by the police without a reasonable basis. The police still cross that line, though, which is why it is necessary to have skilled legal counsel on your side to get wrongfully seized evidence thrown out when you stand trial.

A weapons and drugs case from Baltimore illustrates this well. In October 2018, a Baltimore police officer was patrolling a mall when he noticed J.M., who had on “slim fitted cargo shorts.” Inside one of the pockets, J.M. had something large that “appeared to slide back and forth.” J.M. allegedly was walking with a stiff right arm to help keep the object inside the pocket from moving. J.M. also allegedly tapped his pocket occasionally “as if to make sure” the object was still there.

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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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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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