Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a British author best known for writing the stories of detective Sherlock Holmes. In the 1891 story, A Case of Identity, Holmes opined that “it has long been an axiom of mine, that the little things are infinitely the most important.” Any good Maryland criminal defense attorney will immediately recognize the wisdom in the fictional Holmes’s observation. In criminal cases, the difference between an acquittal and a conviction may rest upon the ability to spot all the little things, and then use them to the client’s maximum benefit.
For example, take the case of E.B. from Baltimore. The accused man was on trial for burglary and theft. At the end of the trial, E.B. was found guilty of fourth-degree burglary. E.B. got that conviction overturned, and “the little things” were a big reason why.
When you are put on trial for a crime in this state, there is always something that came before that trial. That “something” is either a warrantless arrest, an application for a statement of charges, a charging document or an indictment by a grand jury. Whichever occurred in your case, that’s where you can find out exactly what criminal charge the state is pursuing.
In E.B.’s case, there was a statement of charges, which was never amended or changed in any way. It said that he was accused of “fourth-degree burglary pursuant to §6-205(c) of the Criminal Law Article.” For you to be guilty of fourth-degree burglary under this statute, the state must prove that you were in “the dwelling or storehouse of another” or “a yard, garden, or other area belonging to the dwelling or storehouse of another.”
The statement of charges and the jury instructions at trial didn’t quite match up
In Maryland, there is more than one kind of fourth-degree burglary. At the end of E.B.’s trial, the judge instructed the jury on fourth-degree burglary… under §6-205(a) of the Criminal Law Article. That law says a ”person may not break and enter the dwelling of another” person, and it’s a different fourth-degree burglary crime. To be precise, the §6-205(c) crime that the state charged requires proof that the accused person intended to commit a theft, which a §6-205(a) burglary does not. Meanwhile, a §6-205(a) burglary requires proof that you broke in, and §6-205(c) burglary doesn’t.
What does all that mean in the end? It meant that E.B. was charged with §6-205(c) burglary and convicted of §6-205(a) burglary. In non-legalese plain English, it meant E.B. was convicted of an uncharged offense, which is not allowed under Maryland law. E.B.’s fourth degree burglary conviction and sentence were, as a result, thrown out.
A successful criminal defense may rely on many things, but the key or keys to your successful outcome may be one or more tiny things that might potentially be easy to overlook. That’s why you need a knowledgeable defense attorney – one who knows the law “inside and out” and knows how to “sweat the small stuff.” For that kind of strong and thorough defense, reach out to skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been providing effective and powerful counsel to people accused of crimes in Maryland for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.