Maryland Court Denies Motion to Suppress – Affirms Finding of Probable Cause

In Maryland, and in states throughout the country, people are entitled to legal protections under the Fourth Amendment – namely, to be free from illegal searches and seizures of their person, homes, papers, and effects. When a person is arrested or charged with a crime, it is vitally important that the evidence forming the basis for the arrest was obtained in a legally permissible manner. That is, law enforcement officials are required to adhere to the law when executing a search and seizure of a person or property. Any evidence obtained via an unreasonable or illegal search and seizure may be suppressed (not used against the person charged with the crime). There are many defenses one can raise in a criminal case, depending on the circumstances. You are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been arrested or charged with a crime.

In a recent Maryland criminal case, a circuit court issued a search and seizure warrant for the appellant’s apartment, based on an affidavit provided by a Baltimore City Police Officer. The basis for the affidavit included assorted information from confidential informants, provided by an acquaintance of the appellant, and discovered through an on-going police investigation. Officers executed the warrant and searched the appellant’s apartment. The search began with a positive alert from a K-9 dog in the area in front of the appellant’s apartment door. Once the officers entered the apartment hallway, they found large quantities of heroin and drug paraphernalia.

The appellant was later charged with possession of a large amount of heroin, with the intent to distribute, and other related offenses. The appellant filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing to suppress evidence contained in the officer’s affidavit. After a two-day hearing, the court denied the appellant’s motion, and he subsequently entered a “conditional” guilty plea to the count of possession with intent to distribute. Despite the conditional plea, the appellant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress.

The court of appeals ultimately upheld the circuit court’s ruling, concluding that the totality of the circumstances supported the judge’s conclusion that probable cause existed, and therefore the ruling on the motion to suppress was valid. Among other things, the court pointed out that the appellant failed to discredit the confidential informant’s reliability, veracity, and basis of knowledge, the officer’s statements were reasonable under the circumstances and entitled to deference, the police investigation ultimately corroborated the information provided by the informant, and the officer observed the positive alert from the K-9 dog at the apartment. The court of appeals also concluded that the appellant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area around his apartment door, and therefore the police did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights by having the K-9 dog investigate the area.

The court’s opinion illustrates the complicated nature of a motion to suppress evidence in a criminal case. There are myriad issues to address, depending on the facts of the case. An experienced criminal defense attorney would be able to assess your situation and prepare a strong defense, appropriate for your case. Anthony A. Fatemi has extensive experience handling criminal defense cases in Maryland.  Our office can work diligently to develop a strong strategy to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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