When you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, there are many vitally important choices to make. Do you take your chances and go to trial? Do you plead guilty? Do you make some other sort of plea, such as an Alford plea? In one recent case before the Maryland Court of Appeals, the high court concluded that a man’s Alford plea functioned similarly to a guilty plea and prevented him from requesting DNA testing on newly discovered evidence.
Anyone who’s watched enough episodes of the courtroom procedural shows on television has inevitably seen it at some point: the episode in which the prosecution’s star expert witness is, at some point, exposed as having lied on the witness stand. This situation of expert witnesses lying on the stand does occur in real life, and, when it does, it is important to understand what that means for a criminal case in Maryland. The state’s Court of Appeals recently ruled that, when a defendant discovers after a trial’s end that one of the state’s experts lied about his credentials, the trial court must analyze what the jury would have done had they known that the expert lied, rather than simply analyze what the jury would have done if they’d never heard the falsehoods.
A person who is arrested or charged with a crime – whether it is classified as a felony or misdemeanor – is encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The gathering of evidence and other circumstances surrounding the arrest and indictment are extremely important pieces of a case. Each step must be analyzed and evaluated in accordance with the Maryland laws that serve to protect a citizen’s constitutional and statutory rights. In addition to defenses one may assert at the point of arrest or indictment, there are other arguments that can be raised even after a conviction. No matter which stage of a criminal case one is facing, it is imperative that you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney to assert a solid defense or a strong petition for post conviction relief.
Under Maryland law, a person who has been convicted of a crime may file a petition for “writ of actual innocence” and seek a new trial. Section 8-301 of the State Criminal Procedure Code sets forth the circumstances under which such a petition (and new trial) may be granted. These are when a person claims that there is newly discovered evidence that: (1) creates a substantial or significant possibility that the result may have been different, and (2) could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial.
Depending on the facts of a criminal case, a person may invoke any number of claims to overturn his or her conviction. For one, under Maryland law, a defect in the return of a jury verdict could render a conviction illegal and therefore a nullity. But understanding the situation under which such a claim might be viable and successful is a significant part of the post-conviction relief process. An experienced criminal defense attorney from Maryland would be able to assess your case in order to determine whether you would be able to challenge a conviction.
Under Maryland Rule 4-345(a), a court has the authority to correct an illegal sentence at any time. This refers to a situation in which no sentence or sanction should have been imposed, which includes a verdict of conviction that has not been finalized properly. Article 21 of the State’s Declaration of Rights in its Constitution provides that every person is entitled to a speedy trial by an impartial jury, “without whose unanimous consent he ought not to be found guilty.” Essentially, this means that a jury’s verdict must be unanimous in order to sustain a criminal conviction.
Among the many defenses a person can assert in a criminal case, evidence relating to DNA has gained increasing attention over recent years. Not only do people present DNA evidence throughout the course of their trials, but also cases have even been re-opened when relevant DNA evidence comes to light. One of the primary reasons for the increased use of such evidence in a criminal case is the continuous technological and scientific advancements in the field. Of course, state laws applicable to criminal cases must also evolve to keep up with these changes.
In 2001, Maryland’s General Assembly enacted the post-conviction DNA testing statute to provide a way for people who have been convicted of certain crimes to gather mitigating or exculpatory evidence through DNA testing of items related to the conviction. To understand how this law could apply to your case, you are encouraged to contact a Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
In a recent case involving a request for post-conviction relief, the appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and other related offenses in 1996. Many years later, in 2008, quite a while after the conviction became final, the appellant sought relief under the post-conviction DNA testing statute. He attempted to prove that under Section 8-201 of the Maryland Criminal Procedure Article, one item of the prosecution’s case (socks allegedly worn at the time of the murders) failed to contain his DNA. However, the State responded by informing the appellant that the socks no longer existed and were destroyed along with other items related to the case, once the matter was deemed final. The appellant did not reply to this response and later unsuccessfully pursued additional post-conviction relief, claiming that the evidence was destroyed in bad faith.
Voir dire, the process by which prospective jurors are questioned and examined to determine whether grounds for disqualification exist, is a significant part of any jury trial. Most states, like Maryland, have rules that govern this phase of a criminal trial in order to ensure that a fair and impartial jury is ultimately impaneled in accordance with the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. When a court finds error during this segment of a criminal prosecution, any ultimate conviction may be overturned. For this reason alone, if you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is vitally important to protect your legal rights as vigorously as possible. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney could evaluate your case with an eye to preparing the best possible defense under the circumstances.
In a recent criminal case, the defendant was charged with illegal possession of a regulated firearm and later convicted after a jury trial. The defendant appealed the conviction, raising several arguments, including whether the trial court erred in refusing to ask, during voir dire, the “police witness” questions. In this case, the defendant’s counsel submitted certain voir dire questions to be asked of the prospective jurors. Included among these items were two questions relating to police officer testimony. It is important to take note that most of the evidence presented in this case against the defendant was comprised of police officer testimony.
Essentially, counsel requested that the judge ask the prospective jurors whether they would be more or less likely to believe a police officer or deputy solely because he is an officer or deputy, and whether they would be more likely to believe the testimony of a police officer or deputy as opposed to the accused. The trial court failed to ask these two questions, and at the conclusion of the questions for the whole jury pool, the judge asked defense counsel and the prosecution if they had any issues to address. Defense counsel responded “no.” Later, during additional questioning of the remaining potential jurors (prior to the selection of a panel), the defendant’s counsel requested that the police witness questions be asked. The trial court denied the request.
A criminal arrest is a serious matter. Whether the underlying alleged crime is a felony or a misdemeanor, the consequences of a conviction can negatively affect a person’s life in many ways, including potential jail time and a lasting criminal record. There are many defenses one may be able to assert, depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Keep in mind that citizens are entitled to the protections of the Constitution, including the right to be free from an illegal search and seizure, and the right to the effective assistance of counsel. Anyone arrested or charged with a crime is encouraged to consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
A recent Maryland case addressed one man’s right to the effective assistance of counsel in a second-degree child abuse case. Here, the defendant was an Ecuadorian citizen and a legal, permanent resident of the United States. The trial court found him guilty of the charges and sentenced him to five years in prison. He did not appeal the court’s verdict. Six months after the end of his probationary period, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to arrest the defendant. He was deemed to be subject to deportation as a result of his conviction for second-degree child abuse.
Laws affecting criminal cases are continuously evolving, granting (and in some cases, limiting) certain rights. Some of these laws are intended to provide a person who has been convicted of a crime with rights they formerly did not have. The importance of staying abreast of the most current changes in the criminal law arena cannot be overstated. Anyone facing a criminal arrest or related charges must act quickly to prepare a defense. The most efficient way to do so is with the assistance of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney, someone who keeps track of the laws and how they affect criminal cases.
According to an recent article in the Maryland Reporter, as of this past October 1, 2015, several enacted Maryland laws will go into effect. They cover areas such as criminal expungement, DNA evidence, medical marijuana, and drunk driving. Knowing the intricacies of each law can help one to prepare an appropriate and useful defense. For example, one of the latest provisions, also known as Senate Bill 651, permits people who have been convicted of crimes to petition the court for expungement, if the act at the heart of the conviction is no longer a crime in Maryland. Expungement means that a person convicted of a crime would be able to “obliterate” it from their record.
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.