Sometimes, in popular media, you might run across people who criticize the operation of the American justice system. They complain about accused people who avoid punishment due to what they think are “technicalities.” Sometimes, though, those issues aren’t minor technicalities at all; they are results of critical errors by the prosecution, like charging the defendant with a crime of which the elements do not match the facts of the case as established at trial. When these things happen to you or a loved one, it is important to have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to protect your rights.
One recent case that originated in Washington County served as an example of the facts not fitting the crime charged. The defendant, David, was on trial facing some very serious allegations. According to the state’s case, David had installed a secret video camera in the only bathroom in his home. David then allegedly used that camera to capture his 15-year-old daughter in various states of partial and total undress.
David acknowledged the installation of the camera but asserted that his interest in conducting video surveillance of the bathroom was not a prurient one. David allegedly was concerned that another family member was doing drugs in the bathroom. Alternatively, the father allegedly believed that the daughter was “sexting” her boyfriend while she was in the bathroom. (The daughter acknowledged on the witness stand that she had, in fact, sent the boyfriend partially unclothed pictures of herself from the bathroom.)
At the trial’s conclusion, the court convicted David on many charges. One of the crimes was a violation of “video surveillance with prurient intent,” of which the accused man was found guilty of 20 counts.
The defendant appealed his convictions, and the Court of Special Appeals threw out the convictions on the video surveillance crime. The man won his appeal, not because of some flaw in the state’s evidence, but because of the wording of the statute itself.
The problem for the state was that the statute it used, CL Section 3-902, was one intended to outlaw prurient-motivated video surveillance of private places in public facilities. The law included tanning rooms, dressing rooms, bedrooms, and restrooms, but, in the opinion of the court, the law only covered those rooms within public spaces. The law was designed to prohibit, for example, prurient video surveillance of a hotel or motel bedroom or a restaurant or store bathroom, but not such spaces within private residences. The statutes included a different section that prohibits installing video cameras in a private residence to spy upon individuals in that residence, and a different subsection that criminalizes using a camera to view another person’s “private” areas, but the state didn’t pursue David on those. Based upon the charge asserted against David, he was not guilty because the camera wasn’t in a public facility.
The “take away” from this result isn’t necessarily about the punishment this particular defendant may have deserved. The state appeared to have some legitimate evidence that David was a depraved individual. What you should take away from this ruling is that every person is entitled to a fair trial and is entitled to be convicted of crimes only when the specific facts of their actions fit the parameters of the crime charged by the state, as written in the statutes. This lawyer’s diligent argument about the exact boundaries of the crime charged altered the outcome of this case, but a similar strategy may also help you or a loved one when faced with a charge of a crime that you didn’t commit.
To make sure you or your loved one has a defense that fully protects your rights and gives you a strong chance of success under the law, reach out to experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. This office has been providing effective defense representation for the accused in Maryland for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
The Right to a ‘Speedy Trial’ and the Role it Plays in Your Maryland Criminal Case, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, July 31, 2017
Maryland Man Gets Judgment Vacated After Trial Court Improperly Denied DNA Testing Request, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, June 8, 2017