Articles Posted in Guns

A criminal defendant has many rights under the U.S. and Maryland constitutions. Article 5 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights says that a criminal defendant has the right to be physically present at every stage of his trial. This right is very important because, sometimes, a judge will misconstrue, forget, overlook or ignore this rule and engage in something that qualifies as a “stage” of the trial outside the accused person’s presence.

When that happens, that’s often considered a violation of the accused person’s fundamental rights and may often trigger a right to a new trial. Of course, utilizing your rights (and sometimes the violations of them) to your maximum benefit requires in-depth knowledge of the law, so it pays to have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side.

To see how this can work to an accused person’s benefit, look at the case of K.M. In the summer of 2016, two Baltimore police officers investigated a tip about a man and a handgun. The officers spotted K.M., and began following him and his girlfriend. Eventually they stopped the couple and, inside a diaper bag, the officers found a loaded Glock 19 with live rounds inside it, along with an additional magazine.

For many people, traffic checkpoints operated by police trigger feelings of frustration and annoyance. For others, then can be a source of stress and anxiety. If you are arrested during a police checkpoint, there may still be cause for hope. The law in Maryland imposes some restrictions on what does or does not qualify as a valid checkpoint in terms of complying with the Fourth Amendment. If your checkpoint doesn’t pass that test, then the evidence secured as a result of that checkpoint may be excluded from your criminal case. To find out more about what you can do in your case that arose from a checkpoint, be sure to talk to an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

C.J. was a man ensnared in something he viewed as a checkpoint. He was driving through downtown Baltimore and, while he sat at the red light, the police initiated a traffic stop. The reason for the stop was that C.J. wasn’t wearing his seat belt. While the police performed their investigation of C.J., they discovered an outstanding warrant and a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat of the vehicle, and they arrested him.

The state charged C.J. with several weapons-related crimes, on top of driving a vehicle without wearing a seat belt. The driver asked the court to throw out the evidence of the gun, arguing that the police discovered the gun as a result of an illegal traffic checkpoint.

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Most police officers are ethical people who try to uphold the law within the confines of the rules that the constitution and the law have created. However, whether an officer is a “good” cop or a “bad” cop, the officer has the potential to make mistakes, to go outside the boundaries of the law and to engage in conduct that violates a person’s constitutional rights.

When that happens and an arrest results, the accused person has certain rights. This includes things like having the unconstitutionally acquired item(s) excluded from the evidence that a jury may consider at trial. Getting that item or items excluded, which may be the difference between acquittal and conviction, often requires a detailed knowledge of the law and of courtroom procedural rules. For that and for the overall advocacy you need, be sure you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney working for you.

What does this type of constitutional violation look like? T.T.’s case is a good example. Officers K.S. and J.Z., using an unmarked car, were patrolling a particularly high drug-crime area in Baltimore on New Year’s Day in 2017. As they patrolled, they spotted a silver Cadillac parked illegally (it was pointed the wrong way.) They turned on the police car’s lights and approached the occupant.

When your defense involves you testifying in your trial, the prosecution is almost certainly going to do something called “impeaching” you. Unlike in politics and government, where impeaching often means seeking to remove an official from office, impeaching in this sense means offering proof that casts doubt upon the truthfulness and reliability of the person testifying. Whether or not you’re testifying in your own defense at your criminal trial, one thing you definitely need is representation from a skilled and experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

There are lots of ways in which the prosecution can try to impeach you as a witness in your own defense. In some circumstances, the law may allow the prosecutor to bring up past criminal convictions you have on your record. One of the rules that the law imposes, however, on this type of impeachment is that the conviction’s significance and connection to the alleged crime(s) at hand must be greater than the potential that the information will unfairly bias the jury against you, the defendant. When you hear a TV lawyer or judge talking about evidence whose “risk of unfair prejudice outweighs its probative value,” that’s what they’re talking about.

Here’s a real-life recent case that gives a good example. B.H. was a man on trial for several serious crimes. A shootout in a parking lot in Baltimore left B.H. facing charges of attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, drug possession and several gun crimes. Part of B.H.’s defense was to argue that he did shoot a gun that night, but that he did so in self-defense.

One of the techniques that the state can use in prosecuting you in a criminal matter is layering multiple charges based off one single incident. That way, they hope, even if the prosecutor can’t convict you for murder, the state may still land a conviction for, say, weapons charges. One of the keys, then, to mounting the most successful defense possible in a circumstance like this is having what you need to counter as many of these myriad charges as possible. To make sure you have the most powerful and aggressive defense you can muster, be sure you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney standing up for you.

Here’s a real-life example of how this can work. C.M. was a man who was facing a criminal case involving multiple charges. According to the state, C.M. drove M.J. to a Baltimore apartment complex, where M.J. shot T.W. multiple times as T.W. rode his bicycle.

C.M. faced first-degree murder, second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges. The state also included four alleged gun crimes in the case. The matter went to a jury, and the jury found the defendant not guilty on all of the murder-related charges and on one gun charge. Presumably, the defense had enough evidence on its side to create reasonable doubt, or prosecution lacked sufficient factual evidence to warrant a guilty verdict on those four charges.

In this country and in this state, people are afforded certain rights, including the right to be free from being stopped by the police for no reason. That freedom is very important because, sometimes, a large amount of evidence that would otherwise be admissible in a criminal trial may be excluded if it was the result of an illegal stop. In other words, the “motion to suppress” can be one of the most important tools in your arsenal in a criminal case. To make sure that you’re only facing the evidence that the police acquired through legal and constitutional means, be sure that you have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney one your side.

A recent case from Baltimore is yet another example of an illegal stop and the ways in which a defendant can use that illegality to his advantage. The case began after an officer observed M.W., who allegedly matched the description of an armed robbery suspect. A second officer arrived and conducted a pat-down search of M.W., checking for weapons. M.W. told the officer he had marijuana in his possession. The officer searched some more and found cocaine on the man. The officer then arrested M.W. and further searching uncovered a Glock handgun and 12 live rounds of ammo.

The state charged M.W. with gun and drug crimes. At his trial, M.W. asked the judge to suppress his statement that he was in possession of marijuana and all the evidence that the police uncovered after that statement. The basis for that argument was that the police didn’t have the required degree of reasonable suspicion necessary to stop M.W.

There are many things that may be worth challenging in court in your criminal case. You may need to contest improperly admitted evidence or you may need to dispute a legally erroneous sentence. Many of these things may require you to make that challenge to the trial judge and, if not successful in the trial court, again on appeal. Raising these challenges in the right way is very important in order to make sure your appeal is not thrown out on procedural grounds, such as a “failure to preserve” an issue for appeal. All of these things are among the many reasons why an in-depth knowledge of proper trial practice is so important, and why you should retain a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney for your case.

Some family gatherings are cheerful events. Regrettably, not all are; some become contentious and even violent. A father gathering in Silver Spring was an example of the latter. A dispute erupted into a physical altercation between two men at the party. D.P., the son of one of the combatants, pulled a gun and started shooting. One man was grazed on his elbow and another was hit, with the bullet lodging near his stomach.

The state brought charges against D.P., including two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of “use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.” At trial, the state’s evidence was strong. The prosecution had five witnesses who testified that they saw D.P. pull a small gun from his waistband and begin shooting at one man and then firing numerous more shots into the backyard. The state also had two forensics experts who gave testimony that all of the bullets found at the scene were consistent with having come from the same .38 handgun.

In many criminal defense cases, the difference between a conviction and an acquittal can come down to what evidence got presented to the jury, and what evidence did not. In that regard, one of the more important parts of your criminal defense can be your request that asks the judge to suppress evidence obtained through an illegal search. Both the federal and Maryland constitutions give citizens the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and it is often vitally important to a person standing trial to use that right to his or her maximum impact. Whether it is arguing your motion to suppress or some other aspect of your defense, an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney can help you make the arguments you need in the most effective way possible.

For an example of this issue of illegal searches, consider the facts of one Baltimore man’s recent case. While patrolling northwest Baltimore, two police officers spotted a gray sedan that was allegedly speeding and weaving through a two-lane street. The officers concluded they had grounds to make a stop for erratic driving, speeding and unsafe lane changing. So they did.

During the stop, one officer spotted an orange prescription bottle with no lid in a cup holder. The officer leaned into the vehicle, moved the bottle around and spotted five white pills inside and a name on the bottle that belonged to neither the driver nor the passenger. The officer kept investigating inside the center console and found a Styrofoam cup with bullets for a .38 handgun. At that point, the officers arrested the driver, A.W., and began searching the entire vehicle. They found a .38 in the back seat under some clothes and a bag containing suspected cocaine in the driver’s pants pocket. The bottle contained five Oxycodone pills.

Most people, including non-lawyers, are aware that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. A non-lawyer, including even a very knowledgeable one, however, might not be aware of what a “Terry stop” is and what that phrase can potentially mean with regard to a warrantless search conducted by police. In many criminal cases, the difference between conviction and acquittal may be the ability to get certain important evidence excluded, which is where concepts like a Terry stop can play a very important role. This legal terminology demonstrates just how important it is to have knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense counsel on your side in order to take the law and use its protections to their fullest extent to protect your rights in your criminal case.

A recent case from Baltimore was one in which the law of searches and seizures led to the exclusion of key evidence. What would eventually become Maurice’s criminal case began with an anonymous tip phoned in to a 911 operator. The tipster said that two African-American men were selling drugs from a silver Honda Accord at a specific location in Baltimore.

Two police units responded to the scene and found two African-American men sitting in a silver Honda Accord with its engine running. The officers positioned their vehicles with one in front of the Honda and one behind it, effectively blocking it from leaving the area. The officers ordered Maurice out of the car and began to frisk him. While searching Maurice, the police found a bag of drugs tucked inside his underwear. After finding that, the police searched the car and found a handgun.

Generally, all attorneys and most laypeople are familiar with the Miranda warnings. “You have the right to remain silent… You have the right to an attorney…” and so on. On TV shows, a defendant might avoid prosecution because the police neglected to give him a proper Miranda warning. In real life, though, the issues are often less black-and-white. What if the police question you, then give you a Miranda warning, and then re-question you about the incriminating statements you made before the warning? These types of non-clear-cut situations point to the importance of making sure you have a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to make sure that your constitutional rights are fully protected in your case.

A recent case from Anne Arundel County demonstrated how the timing of a Miranda warning can make a big difference. The events leading up to the trial started with the police executing a search warrant at a residence where Aundrey lived. Aundrey was also a subject of the police investigation, but he wasn’t at the home. Officers stopped him a short time later driving on a nearby road. The police asked him several questions and eventually took him back to the home.

Back at the residence, officers placed Aundrey, his mother, and a sister on a couch and gave them all Miranda warnings. The officers continued their search of the house, finding drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a gun contained in a safe. The officers found these items because Aundrey told them he had a gun he was holding for a friend, and he also had some marijuana.

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