Maryland appellate court rules assault may occur even when victims are not present

In Snyder v. State, the Maryland appellate court recently considered two indictments. In the first case, the defendant was indicted on thirty-seven counts based on shootings that took place at his neighbor’s properties. In the second indictment (called by the court, the “neighbor case”), the defendant was charged with similar violations, including assault, which happened on his former employer’s property.

In the second of two cases, the defendant appealed a first and second-degree assault conviction. The State showed at trial that the defendant went to the neighborhood of the victims. The victims’ neighbor saw the defendant’s pick-up truck there at 2:30 a.m. and heard gunshots. The neighbor saw the defendant leaving the victims’ house carrying firearms and also saw the defendant fire three gunshots at the victims’ house before leaving.

The male victim testified he had been away at the time of these events. When he got home, his windows had been shot out, the front door was off, and police were in the driveway. Similar events occurred in the other case, except the victims were actually home while the defendant was acting this way.

In his appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence did not support his conviction for first and second-degree assault in the Neighbor case because it was physically impossible to commit the crime of assault against two people who were not there when the incident happened.

The State countered that the evidence was sufficient. It claimed all it had to show was that the defendant tried to cause immediate physical harm to the victims, that he intended to cause harm, his actions were not consented to by the victims, and he used a firearm to commit assault or that he intended to cause serious physical injury. This last element needed to be shown in order to secure a conviction for first as opposed to second-degree assault. According to the State, it did not matter if the defendant was actually able to commit the battery he intended.

In connection with its review, the appellate court ran through the history of the crime of assault. It reasoned that the circumstances put forth by the State met one of the three different types of statutory assault, specifically attempted battery. In this type of assault, the State needed to show both intent to physically injure and a substantial step towards injury, but it did not need to show awareness on the victims’ part of impending harm.

The appellate court reasoned that at trial, the State had shown that lights were on in the home and that the defendant fired shots into the victims’ house at 2:00 a.m. The defendant caused multiple damages, including numerous bullet holes. The appellate court ruled against the defendant on this issue.

Among other things, the appellate court placed emphasis on the reasonableness of the jury inferring that defendant believed the victims were home. It would have been reasonable for the jury to infer that the defendant had the ability to physically harm the victims, even if he did not in fact have that ability.

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.

More Blogs:

Maryland Appellate Court Rules Against Defendant Who Cut a Police Dog, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 7, 2013

Case Summary: Prostitution Charge Dismissed After Client’s Successful Completion of Diversion Program, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, April 22, 2013


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