Articles Posted in Guns

This blog spends a lot of time talking about police searches. That’s no accident. A lot of arrests and criminal trials arise because the police stopped somebody, searched them, then found something on them that the state uses as the basis for a prosecution. One of the biggest keys to avoiding that conviction often is showing that the police had no right to stop you in the first place, which means none of the evidence they obtained in that search is usable against you. This essential attack is one of the many areas where having the right Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference.

Take, for example, the criminal prosecution of D.S. in Prince George’s County. D.S., a Washington, D.C. man, was hanging around four other men and a dice game in Brentwood. Officers in marked vehicles approached. An officer asked the men if they had “anything illegal” on them. D.S. indicated that he had roughly one ounce of marijuana in his possession.

The officer then did a pat-down search. At that time, he found a gun in D.S.’s waistband. Based on that interaction, the state charged D.S. with several gun charges and also possession of marijuana.

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The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution says that the “right of the people to be secure… against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” This is one of the most important rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, especially if you are someone on trial for a crime. This right may give you vital tools you can use as part of your defense, such as seeking the suppression of evidence obtained without a warrant. If you’re under investigation or on trial for a crime in this state, you should act immediately to retain an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer who can help you in the protection of your rights.

When people think about the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, they generally will think of “unreasonable searches.” However, the other right ensured within that text – protection against unreasonable seizures – is every bit as important.

Many times, the evidence the police obtained was something they got by first engaging in an illegal seizure. Such was the case recently for one man from Prince George’s County on trial for a gun charge.

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The Sixth Amendment gives each person accused of a crime the right to receive a “speedy trial.” This very general right means some very specific things here in Maryland. The prosecution and the courts have some strict deadlines they are required to meet or else you can use that delay as the basis to get the charges against you thrown out. Whether you need to pursue a speedy trial motion or engage in other procedural maneuvers to protect your rights, the requirements for doing so may be intricate, detailed, and exacting, which is why you should rely on the skills and knowledge of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

Statutory law in Maryland says that, absent a good reason, your criminal case has to be brought to trial within 180 days. The starting point of that 180-day time period is the earlier of the first time you are brought before the judge or the first time your attorney appears in court to state his/her representation of you in the case.

Sometimes, the procedural tactics of the prosecution can impact that speedy trial deadline, as one recent case illustrated. The accused, S.W., was arrested and charged with various drug and firearm offenses. The grand jury indictment, in that case, occurred on Sept. 18, 2018. After the state later discovered fentanyl in the drugs, the prosecutors dismissed all the charges in the first indictment. The grand jury returned a second indictment on Jan. 22, 2019, that added four new counts covering the fentanyl.

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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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Sometimes, a successful defense in a criminal case is like the reverse of building a house of cards or one of those tower-building puzzle games. The prosecution’s job is to build a case based on proven facts that satisfy the requirements of the crime(s) charged. On the defense side, defeating that prosecution may be a matter of removing one or two items, and then allowing the entire structure to collapse. Even if you’ve been caught in some tough circumstances, the right Maryland criminal defense attorney potentially can help you do just that and get the acquittal and/or dismissal you need.

M.S. was someone who seemed to be facing that sort of difficult circumstance in his criminal case. After a late-night verbal dispute inside a restaurant, a drive-by shooting occurred in the parking lot outside the restaurant. According to the state, M.S. was the driver and Q.B. was the shooter. The shots hit no one.

The state charged M.S. and Q.B. with several counts of attempted murder, first-degree assault, and “use of a firearm in the commission of a felony or crime of violence.” The prosecution also pursued charges of conspiracy connected to each of those three crimes.

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One of the most invasive incursions the state can make against its citizens is to breach the citizens’ right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.” It is this invasive nature that led the Founding Fathers to address the topic within the Bill of Rights, banning unreasonable searches and seizures and requiring probable cause for the issuance of search warrants. It is this amendment that renders many warrantless searches illegal and the evidence seized in those searches improper for use against you at your criminal trial. Of course, illegally seized evidence generally doesn’t suppress itself; instead, you need the services of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney who knows how to go about making – and winning – a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence.

Several months ago, this blog covered the criminal case of K.C., a man discovered to be in possession of a gun and illegal drugs after the police conducted a warrantless search.

K.C. was convicted in the trial court, but the Court of Special Appeals reversed that conviction. That appellate court, among other things, looked at K.C.’s lack of control over the situation and concluded that his was not a “consensual encounter” with the police, which, in turn, meant that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

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Details matter in a criminal case, and, sometimes, even seemingly minor or trivial details may matter A LOT. Something else that matters a great deal in defending against criminal charges is pursuing all the potential areas in which you can attack the charges. That’s where having a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney can be an invaluable help. An experienced attorney can potentially spot details you overlooked or identify potential areas of attack that you would not have thought possible.

Take, for example, the weapons charge case against H.L., a man arrested after a police chase in Elkton. At the end of the vehicle chase, H.L. crashed. He then allegedly escaped on foot and was apprehended after he fell down. The police found a weapon on the ground next to the man.

One of the charges the prosecution brought was possession of a regulated firearm. Now, most of the time, a defense against the charge of possession of a regulated firearm focuses almost entirely on demonstrating either that an affirmative defense made the defendant not guilty, or else that the facts the state proved do not support the legal standard of “possessing” the weapon in question.

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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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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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One of the ways that police seek to obtain evidence to use against suspects is through performing warrantless searches. A warrantless search may allow the police to recover drugs, weapons or other objects that lead to an arrest. Fortunately, the constitution does not allow the police to conduct warrantless searches whenever they want; rather, the law requires them to have a “reasonable articulable suspicion.” Without that, the search is illegal, and evidence recovered is subject to being suppressed at your trial. Keeping that evidence out requires making the right suppression arguments, though, so be sure you are protecting your rights by having an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney representing you.

Having established that a reasonable articulable suspicion is required, the next question you’re probably wondering is… what is a reasonable suspicion? For example, is the fact that you were caught by the police in a high-crime area enough to allow for a search without a warrant? As one recent case from Prince George’s County recently reminds us, the answer to that generally is “no.”

In that case, two Prince George’s County police officers went to an apartment complex in a high-crime area in response to a noise complaint. The officers saw several people in and around a dark-colored car. As the officers approached, T.R. stepped up onto the curb in front of the car. One officer asked T.R. a question and, after T.R. made a motion that the officer interpreted as reaching for a gun, he conducted a pat-down search.

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