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In the recently released movie Just Mercy, the audience gets to see some of the many ways in which a criminal case can be unfairly manipulated to help enhance the odds of a conviction. This can involve various means, including the inclusion of perjured testimony at trial. The wrongful Alabama conviction of the defendant in Just Mercy was fueled largely by racism. In Maryland, there are lots of reasons why defendants may still receive trials that are less than fair, even today. This is one of the many reasons you need an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side: to use his experience to spot those flaws that deny you a fair trial and help you take the proper actions in response.

In Just Mercy, the crime was the shooting death of a young woman that had stoked public sentiment. Those facts were also true of another murder that happened a few years later in Baltimore. J.K. was accused of the victim’s murder. The prosecution’s theory was that J.K., a married man, was having an extramarital affair with the victim and sought to silence her a few days before the two were to appear in court on a child support case.

The state’s case relied heavily on several pieces of circumstantial evidence. For one thing, the state used the science of comparative bullet lead analysis to establish that the bullet that killed the victim came from the accused’s gun. Additionally, the state called a firearms examiner from the Maryland State Police to testify as a ballistics expert and back up the state’s theory of the shooting.

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One of the most basic concepts of a criminal trial is that, while each side should advocate zealously, the trial should be conducted with ultimate fairness. If the prosecution in your case discovers but then hides evidence that could disprove your guilt, that is unfair and a violation of the rules. If the state provides you with certain evidence, but gives it to you in a way that is unusable or nearly so, this also runs counter to the idea of fairness.

When these kinds of things happen, you may be able to use these bits of unfairness to gain beneficial outcomes like a new trial or a reversal of a conviction. Of course, you first have to spot the violation and then know how to go about presenting that issue and arguing for your new trial in the right way. In other words, these are just a few examples of times when it pays to an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side.

C.B. was a man on trial who experienced this kind of unfairness. The state accused him of nearly a dozen various crimes related to a carjacking and robbery. As part of its case, the prosecution sought to use DNA evidence taken from a pellet gun, which the police had discovered when they searched a van in C.B.’s possession. A state lab technician performed DNA analysis on the gun.

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Today, newly emerging technologies have the potential to provide people accused of crimes powerful weapons in their defense. These technologies also can do harm, however, when they allow for inadmissible evidence to get before a jury. This is but one reason among the countless ones why you need a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side who can vigilantly and diligently fight to protect your rights at trial.

S.P. was a man whose case involved one of those newer technologies – police body cameras. S.P., who was on trial for the false imprisonment and assault of his wife, allegedly used electrical tape to cover her mouth and bind her hands and feet, then threw her in the rear of his SUV. A Montgomery County Police officer responded to the neighbor’s house, which was where the wife was at the time. The responding officer was wearing a body camera.

At the husband’s trial, the prosecution wanted to use the body camera video footage against the accused man. The husband opposed this evidence, but the court allowed it in anyway. The man was ultimately convicted. On appeal, though, that conviction was overturned. The husband’s trial counsel had been correct to challenge the admission of the body camera footage into evidence.

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35 years ago, the TV movie The Burning Bed brought spousal abuse and domestic violence into the front of the public consciousness. The famous Farrah Fawcett film and a 1980 book of the same name were based on a 1970s case where a Michigan woman doused a bed in gasoline and set it on fire with her husband still sleeping on it. A jury eventually found the woman was temporarily insane at the time, after having heard evidence of the husband’s alleged 13 years of abusing the wife.

Since 1991, Maryland law has allowed defendants to submit evidence of the domestic abuse they’ve suffered as part of their defense in a criminal trial. Despite some of the terminology used related to this issue (“Battered Woman’s Syndrome”, “Battered Spouse Syndrome,” etc.,) you do not, in Maryland, have to be a spouse or be a woman to use this evidence in your defense. If you are on trial and you were the victim of abuse, especially if your abuser was the victim of your alleged crime, then it is vitally important that you have a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to give you the maximum protection and best defense possible.

A woman recently on trial here in Maryland alleged that she was one of those abuse victims. The deceased, M.H., was the accused’s boyfriend. During a fight between the two, the woman yelled at the man to stop putting his hands on her, then went to the kitchen and got a knife. Eventually, the man received a stab wound to the chest, which punctured his aorta and killed him.

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Both the U.S. and Maryland courts include protections against law enforcement officers conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. Maryland law also has some clear guideposts about the circumstances that do (or do not) constitute a search or seizure, and they include some scenarios you might not necessarily have associated with illegal searches unless you were keenly familiar with the law.

That’s why you need a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney handling your case. Your knowledgeable attorney does have that kind of extremely in-depth knowledge of search-and-seizure law, in addition to many other essential aspects of Maryland criminal law.

The situation that led to K.C.’s trial is a good example of what we mean. While Maryland Transit Authority officers were performing a sweep looking for fare dodgers aboard a light rail train, one passenger, K.C., informed an officer that he had no ticket to ride. The officer ordered K.C. to exit the train and sit on a bench. The MTA officers began running a check on K.C. for outstanding warrants. While officers ran that warrants check, K.C. tried to escape and three officers tackled him. During that interaction, one officer discovered a gun and another subsequently searched K.C., finding multiple bags of cocaine.

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A criminal defendant has many rights under the U.S. and Maryland constitutions. Article 5 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights says that a criminal defendant has the right to be physically present at every stage of his trial. This right is very important because, sometimes, a judge will misconstrue, forget, overlook or ignore this rule and engage in something that qualifies as a “stage” of the trial outside the accused person’s presence.

When that happens, that’s often considered a violation of the accused person’s fundamental rights and may often trigger a right to a new trial. Of course, utilizing your rights (and sometimes the violations of them) to your maximum benefit requires in-depth knowledge of the law, so it pays to have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side.

To see how this can work to an accused person’s benefit, look at the case of K.M. In the summer of 2016, two Baltimore police officers investigated a tip about a man and a handgun. The officers spotted K.M., and began following him and his girlfriend. Eventually they stopped the couple and, inside a diaper bag, the officers found a loaded Glock 19 with live rounds inside it, along with an additional magazine.

There may be certain things that you may know about criminal trials and criminal law. You may understand what hearsay is and that the prosecution can’t use most kinds of hearsay evidence against you. You may know that the prosecution can’t use irrelevant evidence or (in most situations) force your attorney (or past attorney) to testify against you.

However, giving yourself a truly complete defense goes well beyond that. There are many things that the law says that the state cannot do and, if one or more of those things does happen in your trial, you may be entitled to certain remedies as a result, such as a new trial. To make sure you have that kind of vigorous and complete protection, be sure you have retained an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

As noted above, some issues are more subtle and nuanced than, say, a prosecutor’s attempt to admit something that’s obviously irrelevant. For example, take the case of J.R., who was on trial for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. In the case, the marijuana in question had been found inside a backpack that was in the trunk of J.R.’s car.

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It is that moment that is so common to TV police-and-prosecutors shows… and so very frustrating to those fictional law enforcement officers. It happens when the suspect the police are questioning looks the officers in the eyes and says, “I’m not talking without my lawyer here.”

If you are facing police questioning as a potential suspect in a criminal case, one of the most important things you, just like that fictional suspect, can do to help yourself is to bring that questioning to a temporary halt by invoking your right to counsel. Law enforcement officers are trained professionals skilled at manipulating suspects into giving them the answers they want to hear. Your knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney is familiar with all of these techniques and with how to protect you in an interrogation setting.

Your right to counsel is one of the strongest rights provided to you by the Constitution. On TV, suspects often make clear requests to the effect of “I want a lawyer.” In real life, suspects may feel nervous, intimidated, overwhelmed, or scared and often speak less clearly. As a recent case demonstrates, even if you don’t speak with the precision and clarity of an Ivy League law professor (or a trained Hollywood actor,) that lack of plainness does not take away the effectiveness of an invocation of your rights.

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For many people, traffic checkpoints operated by police trigger feelings of frustration and annoyance. For others, then can be a source of stress and anxiety. If you are arrested during a police checkpoint, there may still be cause for hope. The law in Maryland imposes some restrictions on what does or does not qualify as a valid checkpoint in terms of complying with the Fourth Amendment. If your checkpoint doesn’t pass that test, then the evidence secured as a result of that checkpoint may be excluded from your criminal case. To find out more about what you can do in your case that arose from a checkpoint, be sure to talk to an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

C.J. was a man ensnared in something he viewed as a checkpoint. He was driving through downtown Baltimore and, while he sat at the red light, the police initiated a traffic stop. The reason for the stop was that C.J. wasn’t wearing his seat belt. While the police performed their investigation of C.J., they discovered an outstanding warrant and a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat of the vehicle, and they arrested him.

The state charged C.J. with several weapons-related crimes, on top of driving a vehicle without wearing a seat belt. The driver asked the court to throw out the evidence of the gun, arguing that the police discovered the gun as a result of an illegal traffic checkpoint.

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If you’re watching your favorite courtroom drama show, you may hear a lawyer say to a judge, “Objection! Hearsay!” That’s because, most of the time, hearsay evidence is inadmissible at trial. The law considers general hearsay to be lacking the degree of reliability needed for admissible evidence in a court of law. Some hearsay is admissible, though. That’s the hearsay that falls into one of the exceptions carved out by the law. An “excited utterance,” for example, is one of the exceptions in Maryland.

In your criminal trial, the difference between success and defeat may be your ability to win an admissibility argument about one or more pieces of hearsay evidence. To be sure you have the best chance of winning these and other arguments against the prosecution, be sure you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney protecting you.

An excited utterance is an immediate statement made in a state of shock or extreme excitement due to a “startling event or condition.” The idea is that the speaker is so stressed that she is speaking spontaneously and sincerely, and her words “may be taken as particularly trustworthy.” A recent case originating in Baltimore shines a light on just how far the boundaries of “excited utterance” do – and do not – go.

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