Articles Posted in Evidence

Evidence is clearly a key component of any criminal case. The state and the party charged seek to prove or disprove certain facts through the use of two types of evidence: direct and circumstantial. It is commonly understood that direct evidence can prove a fact by itself, such as eyewitness testimony of a particular event or occurrence. On the other hand, circumstantial evidence (also known as indirect evidence) does not directly prove the fact to be decided but instead is evidence of another fact or series of facts from which one may reach certain conclusions regarding the truth of the fact in question. Courts are often called upon to judge the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case. In order to present the appropriate evidence to defend against criminal charges, it is vitally important that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as early as possible in the proceedings.

Recently, a Maryland court addressed the sufficiency of circumstantial evidence in a burglary case. Here, a burglary took place at Martha Goodenough’s home in Frederick, Maryland. Among the items stolen were a computer, two T.V.s, three purses, and jewelry. That same day, Calvin Hall sold several pieces of Goodenough’s jewelry to a pawn shop in West Virginia. The owner of the shop recorded Hall’s driver’s license information at the time of the sale. Several times during the next two weeks, Hall returned to the same pawn shop to sell more of the jewelry. The police learned that the items sold matched the description of Goodenough’s jewelry and obtained a subpoena to review Hall’s telephone records.

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Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is far too common in Maryland and throughout the entire country. According to statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 1.5 million people are arrested for DUI in a given year. To put it another way, one out of every 121 licensed drivers was arrested for drunk driving last year. These are alarming statistics and not to be taken lightly. But it is important to keep in mind that a driver pulled over for DUI may be entitled to assert a defense to the manner in which the arrest took place. Every case is unique and rests on the facts surrounding the criminal arrest. If you are facing criminal charges, you are strongly encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Every citizen has a constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from an illegal search and seizure. In a recent case, the driver alleged that police officers violated this right when, during an arrest for DUI, they searched his vehicle for alcohol containers but instead discovered narcotics. Here, an officer allegedly observed a driver (Efrain Taylor) driving at a high rate of speed, exceeding the limit, and then noticed him drive through a stop sign. The officer pulled over Taylor and allegedly saw that he showed signs of intoxication. He conducted a field sobriety test, determined that the tasks were not done successfully, and placed Taylor under arrest.

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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.

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Each state enacts rules of evidence that govern the admissibility of various kinds of information and testimony during a court proceeding. Most people have heard of something called “hearsay” – a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Hearsay is typically inadmissible, subject to certain enumerated exceptions. In any criminal case, no matter what the charges, it is important to fully understand the rules of evidence and how they can strengthen one’s defense. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

A recent Maryland case illustrates how knowledge of the hearsay rules can help a person successfully appeal a criminal conviction. In Baker v. State of Maryland, Michael Edward Baker was convicted of various sex offenses, second-degree assault, and impersonating a police officer. According to the victim’s testimony, on July 18, 2013, she had been “prostituting,” and she received a cell phone call from the defendant/appellant seeking to set up a time to meet her. When they met, the defendant showed her a police badge, told her he was a police officer, and forced her to perform certain sexual acts against her will. The victim alleged that the defendant raped her.

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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.

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Under Maryland law, crimes are divided into two groups:  misdemeanors and felonies. Most people know and understand that a felony is considered more serious and typically accompanied by a longer sentence. But a conviction of either type of crime can affect a person’s life in many ways. A common misdemeanor is driving while under the influence of alcohol.  A person may be arrested or charged with this crime based upon proof that the person was actually witnessed driving under the influence in the present tense, or based upon a “permitted inference” that he or she drove under the influence in the past tense. When the arrest, charge, or conviction is based on the latter situation, the question of proof can be a bit tricky. Anyone who is arrested or charged with driving under the influence is strongly encouraged to contact a Maryland criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling DUI cases.

In a recent Maryland case, Harding v. State, a jury convicted Todd Harding of driving under the influence, refusing to take a breath alcohol test, and driving with a suspended license. He appealed the conviction, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to send the case to the jury. Specifically, the appellant argued that the evidence was not legally sufficient as to whether he had actually been driving the pickup truck in which he was found. In this case, Baltimore City firefighters responded to a call reporting a vehicle accident with “people trapped.” According to the firefighters who were first on the scene, it appeared that the moving vehicle had jumped the curb and gone into the bushes as it came to a sudden stop. One firefighter in particular noted that the appellant was sitting at the driver’s wheel, slumped over, and seemed intoxicated.  He further observed that the truck was still running and had white smoke coming out of it.  An officer also witnessed the appellant get out of the car and stagger on the sidewalk. He refused a field sobriety test and was arrested and taken to the police station, where he refused a breath alcohol test.

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A person who is arrested or charged with a criminal offense will be entitled to many legal protections throughout the criminal proceedings. It is important to understand the extent of one’s legal rights at each stage of the process. Once a case reaches trial, there are many local state rules of evidence that a court may enforce in order to protect the person charged with a crime. One important example concerns the State’s use of evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts in the pursuit of a conviction. Maryland law is fairly clear on this issue. Evidence of prior criminal acts may not be introduced to prove the guilt of the offense for which the defendant is on trial. As with many evidence rules, there are certain exceptions, the applicability of which will depend on the circumstances of the case. If you have any questions regarding a criminal arrest or charge, it is essential that you contact a Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your rights.

In a recent case, Page v. State of Maryland, Jamal Marcus Page appealed his conviction, arguing (among other things) that the court erred in allowing evidence of an alleged “other assault,” committed by Page against the victim approximately two weeks prior to the charged offense. According to the facts revealed at trial, the victim — Rubearth Nichols — claimed that Page shot him six times and then ran away. He further testified that he had known Page for approximately nine or ten years and identified him, both in and out of court. Nichols further testified that, two weeks before this shooting, he and Page had argued over money and that Page attempted to shoot him then, but his gun jammed. The jury convicted Page of attempted second-degree murder and the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence (among other crimes). He was sentenced to 50 years of incarceration, with 15 years suspended.

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The journalists from “This American Life,” a public radio broadcast, recently created the hugely popular podcast, “Serial,” which “aired” last fall. According to their website, Serial presents one story (a true story), over sequential episodes. For its inaugural “season”, the journalists at Serial chose the 1999 murder of a Woodlawn High School student, Hae Min Lee. Her high school ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of murdering Hae Min and is currently serving a life sentence in a West Maryland correctional facility. In some recent legal developments, a Maryland court has agreed to permit an appeal in Syed’s case.

This past January, a Baltimore circuit court denied Syed’s petition for post conviction relief. The most recent decision by the Court of Special Appeals reverses that decision and essentially allows Syed to appeal the denial. Post conviction relief is different than a direct appeal from a trial court ruling. Under Maryland law, a person convicted of a crime at trial has a right to appeal that court’s ruling. In such instances, the Court of Special Appeals is obligated to hear the “appellant’s” challenge of the trial court’s decision. A petition for post conviction relief is different, in that the person convicted of a crime is not necessarily entitled to an appeal. One must file with the court an “Application for Leave to Appeal,” essentially asking for permission to appeal. The court has full discretion as to whether to grant the appeal.

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The seriousness of a criminal arrest cannot be overstated, no matter what the severity of the crime. An arrest record or conviction can affect a person’s life in a variety of ways for years to come. And while a felony conviction is typically accompanied by a lengthier sentence and possibly more stigma later on, it is equally important to defend against a misdemeanor charge. If you have been arrested or charged with any type of crime, it is critical that you take steps to prepare a strong defense as early in the process as possible. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney will work to protect and preserve your rights at each stage in the proceeding.

The State of Maryland prosecutes misdemeanors and felony cases alike. The laws governing these offenses are codified by section within the state code and set forth certain elements that must be established before a person’s rights can be taken away. In many cases, a jury will determine whether the State has proven that the defendant violated the law within the particular facts and circumstances of a case. This is where a defense attorney comes in:  to present a solid defense, either negating an element of the crime, or reducing the severity of the charges.

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The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to be free from an illegal search and seizure. Law enforcement authorities are expected to have “probable cause” before conducting a search of a person or their car and other items. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to determine whether the evidence supporting the charge was obtained in a legal manner. In cases where there is doubt about the legality of the search and seizure procedures, you may make a motion with the court to “suppress the evidence.” To understand your rights and the circumstances under which a court may grant a motion to suppress, you are encouraged to contact a Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

When a defendant moves to suppress evidence, courts typically will hold a “suppression hearing” to determine the legitimacy of the search and seizure. In a recent Maryland case, an officer who was conducting surveillance of a motel in Baltimore saw a man pacing in the parking lot. A few minutes later, the officer saw that man get into the passenger side of a car that had just pulled into the lot. He then exited the car soon after. The officer believed he had just witnessed a drug transaction and started to follow the car as it left the lot.

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