When you are on trial for a crime in Maryland, there are several things that the court has to decide before the jury decides whether you’re not guilty or guilty. For instance, with certain types of proof, the judge may have to decide whether proposed evidence is more likely to bias the jury than prove or disprove some aspect of the case, or vice versa. Winning these disputes about whether evidence should be admitted or excluded can make the difference between a conviction or an acquittal, so it is important to have a skillful Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to win these arguments and keep out harmful evidence.
Even just a single answer can be enough to alter the outcome of your case. Consider the recent case of C.W. C.W.’s interaction with the police began after a Baltimore County police officer observed what he believed to be a drug transaction involving C.W. and another man. C.W. was eventually arrested and charged with “possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.” During booking, the officer asked C.W. about his employment status and C.W. indicated that he was unemployed. The officer testified to this at trial.
The defendant’s lawyer smartly – and correctly – objected to this testimony, arguing that it was not relevant. The judge denied the objection and the jury eventually convicted C.W.
Sometimes, the objections your defense counsel makes may be essential to guaranteeing you get a fair trial. If the judge sustains the objection, then that harmful evidence is excluded. Even if the trial judge overrules them, they can be essential to your success down the line.
In C.W.’s case, his attorney objected to the unemployment evidence. Although that objection failed, C.W. was able to contest the admission of that evidence on appeal. Had C.W. not had a lawyer who knew to make this timely objection, then he probably would have been prohibited from challenging the admission of the unemployment evidence. The appeals courts, in that type of situation, probably would have concluded that the relevance of the unemployment evidence was an issue that was “not preserved for appeal,” and refused even to consider the arrestee’s arguments.
Proof of your unemployment or money problems usually isn’t admissible in your trial
But C.W.’s attorney did preserve the issue and, as the Court of Special Appeals ruled, the evidence was inadmissible. Maryland’s courts have regularly ruled that “evidence of a defendant’s employment or financial status in a criminal trial is only admissible under ‘special circumstances.’” Those “special circumstances” say that, if the defendant’s financial or employment situation bore a close connection to the crime asserted, then the evidence might be admissible. (For example, evidence of person’s desperate financial situation might be relevant if the defendant was accused of, for example, a theft, a robbery, performing a crime for hire or committing arson to get an insurance payout.) Otherwise, it generally is inadmissible.
In this case, C.W. was accused of possessing cocaine and possessing with intent to distribute. C.W.’s unemployment, especially when coupled with almost no additional prosecution evidence that would tend to show the defendant “had a specific or unusual need for money,” simply wasn’t relevant to whether C.W. possessed cocaine and possessed with an intent to sell it.
Because C.W.’s legal team took all the correct steps throughout the process, this defendant was able to appeal the admission of this harmful evidence and secure a new trial.
There are so many details, both those great and those seemingly small, that go into doing everything necessary to present the best possible defense for a drug offense. Make sure you have the skilled advocate you need by reaching out to the experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. To learn more about how you can put the power of this office to work for you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.