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.
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.
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.”
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.
The quality of the evidence and the manner in which it is obtained are the two critical components of any criminal case. For instance, every citizen is entitled to the Fourth Amendment protections from an illegal search and seizure. A person who is arrested or charged with a crime must look closely and carefully at how the evidence was collected. If there is a question as to the legality of the search and seizure, one may move to “suppress” the evidence. Since each case is unique and entirely fact-specific, it is critical that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney to thoroughly review your case, in order to determine whether the authorities complied with the laws intended to protect your constitutional rights.
In a recent case, Demby v. State of Maryland, petitioner Quioly Shikell Demby was arrested and ultimately convicted of possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute. Demby sought to suppress evidence that was obtained from a search of his cell phone during the arrest. The arresting Officer was the only witness to testify at the suppression hearing. According to the Officer’s testimony, on May 24, 2012, a confidential informant provided him with information about a potential drug transaction on Red Bridges Road and identified two people (one of whom was the petitioner in this case). Later that day, the County dispatch center told the Officer about an anonymous caller who witnessed suspicious activity regarding a person riding in a golf cart up and down Red Bridges Road.
When the Officer arrived at the scene, he saw the golf cart parked alongside a car. The petitioner was in the passenger seat of the car. The Officer questioned the occupants, notifying them that he was responding to complaints about potential drug activity. He asked the two men if they possessed anything illegal. The petitioner admitted to having pills and presented an unlabeled bottle containing 11 pills. The Officer identified the pills as an assortment of oxycodone and oxycodone acetaminophen, and he arrested the petitioner and searched the vehicle thereafter. During the search, the Officer saw a cell phone that was emitting notification “tones.” The petitioner acknowledged that it was his phone.
There is no question that criminal arrests vary from case to case. But every defendant is entitled to certain protections under the law. And in many cases, the defendant (the person arrested or charged with a crime) may be entitled to raise any number of applicable defenses. Such defenses may address the manner in which the investigation was conducted, while others may actually negate an element of the crime. The facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest are often a crucial part of a case against someone. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected from the very beginning.
When a defendant believes that evidence was discovered illegally or without a proper search warrant, he or she may make a motion in court to suppress the evidence discovered during that search. A suppression hearing will be held to determine whether or not the police conducted a lawful search. In a recent case, the court of special appeals denied the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, concluding that the officers were justified in conducting a warrantless search of the defendant’s vehicle. In this case, the police obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s house for evidence related to drugs and other paraphernalia. The officers had been watching the defendant’s home and later followed the defendant as he and another person got into a car and drove to a grocery store. The defendant was in the passenger seat.
The officer testified that he knew there was an “open arrest” warrant for the defendant for second-degree assault. As the defendant exited the grocery store and attempted to get in to the passenger side of the vehicle, the officers stopped and handcuffed him. They searched him and found some money and a baggie containing crack cocaine. They drove to the police station, where the officers conducted a search of the vehicle and found a black revolver. The defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the warrantless search of the car was unlawful under applicable case law, since he was arrested for assault, not for a drug offense. Continue reading →