Articles Posted in Warrantless Search

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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Law enforcement officers may stop your moving vehicle or approach your parked vehicle for a variety of reasons. While many of those reasons are legal and appropriate, sometimes they’re not. When you’re involved in an illegal search and seizure and that encounter ends with your arrest, then the law says that you are entitled to a trial that does not include the evidence found. A trial without that evidence will almost certainly increase your odds of an acquittal. However, to get that trial without that damaging evidence, you have to know the right way to go about seeking a ruling from the judge suppressing that evidence. To ensure that your criminal trial does not include any evidence the police obtained illegally, it pays to have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney handling your case.

K.W.’s criminal case was one of those situations. He and a woman were inside a pickup truck parked in a Temple Hills apartment complex parking lot. While on patrol, a police officer spotted “a lot of movement” inside K.W.’s truck, so the officer approached the truck.

Once K.W.’s passenger rolled down her window, the officer smelled an odor of alcohol, and spotted a half-empty bottle of gin and two plastic cups with what looked like liquor in them. The officer ordered K.W. out of the truck. The officer then began a search of the truck, theoretically to recover the bottle of gin. During the search, the officer found a gun that was registered to K.W.

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Many times, changes in the law are reflections of changes in society. That can be true both in case law and in statutory law. The landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said that all same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry is an example of the former. The significant changes many states, including Maryland, have made to their statutes regarding the decriminalization of marijuana are examples of the latter.

Today, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is not a crime in Maryland. Some of the benefits of that are very obvious. There are, however, other collateral benefits of this change in the law that are less obvious, but no less important. This change in the legal status of marijuana may impact your criminal case, whether or not drug charges were involved, as one very important Court of Appeals ruling recently illustrated. There are many things you can take away from this new case, but one of the main ones is: if you were arrested and drug-related evidence obtained based on a warrantless search, be sure to contact an experienced Maryland drug crime attorney about your rights and your options within the legal system.

In Maryland, the federal and state constitutions contain protections that safeguard you against warrantless searches and seizures. In order for the police to conduct a search without a warrant, they generally need probable cause for the search. That means they need a reasonable suspicion that the subject of the search was involved in a crime.

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.

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.

In many criminal cases, especially ones involving drug charges, one of the most important issues is the collection of evidence by the police and compliance with protections guaranteed by the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions. In a recent case of a driver stopped for a non-functioning tail light, the fact that the police found illegal drugs on a passenger in the vehicle (pursuant to a valid search) did not automatically give them probable cause to search the driver’s trunk in pursuit of more drug evidence, according to the Court of Special Appeals‘ ruling.

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One of the most important tools in a police officer’s arsenal of law enforcement techniques is what’s called a Terry stop. However, one of the law enforcement techniques that is the most susceptible to misuse is the Terry stop. In a recent drug case from southeastern Maryland, the Court of Special Appeals overturned a man’s conviction, concluding that the Terry stop in his case was improper. The case is a clear reminder of the limitations of law enforcement’s authority to engage in warrantless stop-and-frisk searches of citizens.

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When the General Assembly passes new laws that affect the criminal statutes, those changes can potentially have wide-ranging effects. As one example, the legislature’s law decriminalizing small (<10 grams) quantities of marijuana has led some to question whether a law enforcement officer can still conduct a warrantless search based upon no more probable cause than the mere perception of the smell of marijuana. While the Court of Special Appeals had generally upheld searches based upon detecting the odor of marijuana, even after the law took effect, the Court of Appeals has taken up the issue, hearing oral arguments on a case contesting the convictions of three men convicted under these circumstances.

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