The ‘Exclusionary Rule’ for Illegally Obtained Evidence and How It Can Help You in Your Maryland Criminal Trial

In this country and in this state, people are afforded certain rights, including the right to be free from being stopped by the police for no reason. That freedom is very important because, sometimes, a large amount of evidence that would otherwise be admissible in a criminal trial may be excluded if it was the result of an illegal stop. In other words, the “motion to suppress” can be one of the most important tools in your arsenal in a criminal case. To make sure that you’re only facing the evidence that the police acquired through legal and constitutional means, be sure that you have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney one your side.

A recent case from Baltimore is yet another example of an illegal stop and the ways in which a defendant can use that illegality to his advantage. The case began after an officer observed M.W., who allegedly matched the description of an armed robbery suspect. A second officer arrived and conducted a pat-down search of M.W., checking for weapons. M.W. told the officer he had marijuana in his possession. The officer searched some more and found cocaine on the man. The officer then arrested M.W. and further searching uncovered a Glock handgun and 12 live rounds of ammo.

The state charged M.W. with gun and drug crimes. At his trial, M.W. asked the judge to suppress his statement that he was in possession of marijuana and all the evidence that the police uncovered after that statement. The basis for that argument was that the police didn’t have the required degree of reasonable suspicion necessary to stop M.W.

In M.W.’s arrest, the officer that stopped him had not observed the armed robbery suspect, but was going on a description provided by a City Watch officer. Even though the officer had no first-hand knowledge about the robbery suspect, the state argued that something called the “exclusionary rule” should not apply to keep out the evidence.

To trigger this non-application of the rule, however, the state had to prove the existence of a legally valid exception. The exception that the state relied upon was the “good faith” exception. Specifically, the prosecution’s argument was that the officer had relied, in good faith, on the information provided by City Watch. In order for the state to use that exception, however, the law required the state to prove that the officer had, in fact, acted in good faith. The problem was, according to the appeals court, that there was nothing to back up this argument. The court concluded that there was no record of evidence from which it could conclude that the officer acted in good faith, as opposed to acting based upon “non-culpable negligence, deliberate disregard for constitutional rights, gross negligence, or systemic error.”

When that happens, then the decision allowing in all that evidence against M.W. could not stand. The court reversed the judgments and sent the case back to the trial court.

When you are facing a criminal prosecution, you need to have a seasoned and knowledgeable advocate on your side. Skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been providing helpful counsel for the accused in Maryland for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

When a Baltimore Police Officer Put His Head in an Open Car Window, He Engaged in a Warrantless Search, According a Recent Maryland Court Ruling, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, Sept. 20, 2018

How the Rules of Evidence Can Help You Keep Some Damaging Testimony out of Your Maryland Criminal Trial, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 30, 2018

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