Maryland Appellate Court Rules Against Defendant Who Cut a Police Dog

A Maryland appellate court recently decided a case involving a charge of aggravated cruelty to animals. This case arises from the defendant stabbing a fifteen-year-old in Baltimore, Maryland in July 2004. The police officer went to the house of the defendant’s aunt and saw him run away.

A K-9 officer and his dog responded to the first police officer’s call for backup. They discovered the defendant hiding in another backyard with his hands hidden. The officer ordered him to come out with his hands up and warned him he would release the dog if the defendant didn’t follow his instructions.

The defendant did not show both his hands. The officer repeated his warning. When the defendant refused and resisted another officer, the officer released the dog. The dog had been trained to bite once in order to catch a suspect and to release him only after he followed the officer’s instructions. In response to the dog’s attempt to catch him, the defendant cut the dog above his eye.

When the defendant again tried to escape, the officer again told the dog to catch him. The dog grabbed the defendant’s left side as he tried to climb over the fence. The officer eventually told the dog to release so that the defendant would not further harm the dog. Officers caught the defendant on the other side of the fence.

The defendant went to trial. When the State closed its case, the defendant’s attorney asked the court for judgment of acquittal, arguing the defendant hurt the dog only in self-defense. The trial court denied this motion. It ruled the question of self-defense was an issue for the jury to decide. The jury found the defendant guilty of two charges: first-degree assault for the stabbing of the fifteen-year-old and aggravated cruelty to an animal.

The defendant appealed. He challenged whether there was enough evidence to support his first-degree assault conviction. He also challenged the effectiveness of his trial counsel. He argued his trial counsel should have asked for a judgment of acquittal not just when the State finished up its case, but when all the evidence was submitted, too. The Court of Special Appeals agreed with the trial court. The defendant asked the Maryland Court of Appeals to hear his appeal.

The Maryland Court of Appeals agreed to hear the defendant’s appeal to examine (1) whether the proof was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for aggravated cruelty to animals and (2) whether his attorney’s failure to renew a motion for judgment of acquittal after all evidence was submitted showed he received ineffective assistance of counsel. As to the former point, the appellate court determined the jury had enough proof to convict the petitioner.

As to the latter point, the court first stated the rule for the crime of aggravated cruelty to animals: a person is prevented from intentionally causing bodily harm, permanent disability, or death to a law enforcement animal except in the case of self-defense. The defendant argued that this language required specific, not general, intent. According to him, the State had to prove that he specifically intended to cause the dog bodily harm, rather than prove that he intended to hit the dog. Furthermore, the defendant argued, the dog provoked him by biting him and therefore he was acting in self-defense.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the language of the statute clearly barred the conduct of the defendant. The appellate court also ruled that the facts showed the defendant disregarded the officer’s warnings and instructions and was therefore not acting in self-defense. It affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.

Criminal cases can range from matters of life and death to minor misdemeanor charges. If you have been accused of a crime, contact the qualified and knowledgeable Maryland criminal law attorneys of the Law Offices of Anthony Fatemi and his legal team for a legal consultation.

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