Articles Posted in Theft

A criminal defendant’s right to a trial by a jury of his peers is a very fundamental constitutional right in Maryland and the rest of the United States. To make sure that this right is protected, Maryland law has established some very specific processes that must be completed before a defendant’s right to a jury trial will be considered to have been waived and the case decided by a judge. If you did not get a jury trial despite having never entered a valid waiver of your rights, then you may be entitled to a new trial. For advice and counsel on these and other criminal law issues, be sure to retain an experienced Maryland criminal law attorney.

As an example of this right in action, there’s the case of S.H. S.H. was accused of having committed a series of 25 thefts in Calvert County over a six-week period. After much delay, the accused man’s case reached a plea hearing. At that hearing, the defendant indicated that he wanted a jury trial. Later that day, at a different hearing in front of a different judge, the two sides informed the judge that they’d agreed to try the case without a jury. The case proceeded and the judge found S.H. guilty on all but two charges. Sentencing immediately followed.

The accused man appealed his conviction and was able to obtain a new trial. The success was one that resulted from the very strict procedural requirements that exist for trying a criminal defendant without a jury. Specifically, the law requires that a defendant must do more than just say, “I waive my right to a jury trial.” Instead, the defendant must waive that right in such a way that it is proven to have been a knowing and voluntary waiver of rights, and the judge must make a finding that is included in the case’s record that says that the waiver was knowing and voluntary.

In TV courtroom dramas, the critical moment in the case – the one that dramatically turns the case to expose the guilty party and ensure justice for all – almost always happens at or near the end of the actual trial. In real life, the “key” moment in your case can happen at any point in your trial and can even happen before the trial starts. What this should tell you is that it is vitally important to have skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel on your side at every step of the process.

One of those extremely important, but sometimes overlooked, pre-trial procedures is voir dire. This is the point in the process when the judge asks the potential jurors a series of questions. The answers to these questions may help the opposing sides in determining which potential jurors should be ruled out from the jury pool.

Given how extraordinarily important jury selection can be in determining whether or not your final outcome will be “guilty” or “not guilty,” it is vital that the right questions get asked, and get asked in the right way. A failure may mean that you are stuck facing a jury that is not really impartial and unbiased.

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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Criminal charges fall within two commonly known and distinct categories:  misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors generally include less serious offenses and carry a less severe sentence than felonies. Despite the differences, both types of criminal charges are serious matters to be addressed as soon as a person is arrested. Keep in mind that there may be many different ways to respond to a criminal arrest or charge, depending on the circumstances of the case. In order to be sure you are presenting the strongest defense for your particular charges, it is critical that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

In any criminal case, it is important to pay close attention to the specific charges. In a recent case, Counts v. State of Maryland, the State charged the defendant with five counts of burglary and other related crimes. The issue in this case concerns Count 4, which charged the defendant with stealing property having a value of less than $1,000. But on the day of the trial, citing a typographical error, the prosecutor asked the court to amend Count 4 to read in pertinent part:  “theft of at least a thousand but less than $10,000.” The defendant’s attorney objected, pointing out that the amendment changed the charged offense from a misdemeanor to a felony. And since felonies typically carry longer sentences, the potential incarceration went from 18 months to 10 years.

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A criminal charge is a serious matter, whether it is classified as a misdemeanor or felony offense, and the person charged must respond accordingly. While a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, both can affect a person’s life in drastic ways, from jail time to having a criminal record. A person who is charged with a crime may raise any number of defenses to negate the charge or to reduce the severity of the offense. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, the most important step to take is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney from Maryland. Every state’s criminal laws differ to some extent. A local criminal lawyer would know how to provide the best defense for your case under the circumstances.

In a recent criminal case, a woman appealed her conviction for theft and embezzlement. The charges stemmed from allegations that the defendant took money from a joint bank account on which she was named a joint owner with her father. A trial was held over two days, and the court found the defendant guilty of theft and fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. She was sentenced to eight years, with all but 18 months suspended, for theft and five years unsupervised probation. The defendant appealed the ruling, asking how a person who was added to a bank account as a joint owner with the intention of having an ownership interest can be guilty of theft from the joint account.

The court of appeals reviewed the facts as presented at trial. The “victim” was 84 years old and asked one of his three daughters (the defendant) to assist him with his banking needs. The victim added the defendant to his bank account as a joint owner. He testified at trial that the money was his and not the defendant’s, and that he only placed her on the account to take money out for him if he was unable to get it himself. From 2006-2009, $181,670.09 was withdrawn from the victim’s IRA, and $251,645.83 was taken from his account. The defendant denied taking money from the IRA without her father’s authorization. She also denied taking any money from the account for her own benefit.

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