Articles Posted in Warrantless Search

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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Maryland’s highest court recently threw out the drug and gun possession conviction of a man, due to the lack of reasonable suspicion on the part of the officers who searched him. The Fourth Amendment requires that law enforcement officers have a reasonable degree of suspicion before they can search your person. Simply being out late at night in a high crime area and responding to a police stop by behaving nervously and awkwardly are not, by themselves, sufficient to give officers the required level of suspicion needed to frisk occupants of a vehicle with a broken taillight.

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An appeals court in Maryland recently issued a decision that many privacy advocates have extolled as a landmark ruling and a great victory for the privacy rights of citizens. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling excluding evidence in a murder case that was obtained through the warrantless use of a “Hailstorm” device, which is a type of cell phone surveillance tool. The opinion expressly stated that people have “an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in real-time cell phone location information.”

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Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is far too common in Maryland and throughout the entire country. According to statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 1.5 million people are arrested for DUI in a given year. To put it another way, one out of every 121 licensed drivers was arrested for drunk driving last year. These are alarming statistics and not to be taken lightly. But it is important to keep in mind that a driver pulled over for DUI may be entitled to assert a defense to the manner in which the arrest took place. Every case is unique and rests on the facts surrounding the criminal arrest. If you are facing criminal charges, you are strongly encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Every citizen has a constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from an illegal search and seizure. In a recent case, the driver alleged that police officers violated this right when, during an arrest for DUI, they searched his vehicle for alcohol containers but instead discovered narcotics. Here, an officer allegedly observed a driver (Efrain Taylor) driving at a high rate of speed, exceeding the limit, and then noticed him drive through a stop sign. The officer pulled over Taylor and allegedly saw that he showed signs of intoxication. He conducted a field sobriety test, determined that the tasks were not done successfully, and placed Taylor under arrest.

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