Details matter in a criminal case, and, sometimes, even seemingly minor or trivial details may matter A LOT. Something else that matters a great deal in defending against criminal charges is pursuing all the potential areas in which you can attack the charges. That’s where having a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney can be an invaluable help. An experienced attorney can potentially spot details you overlooked or identify potential areas of attack that you would not have thought possible.
Take, for example, the weapons charge case against H.L., a man arrested after a police chase in Elkton. At the end of the vehicle chase, H.L. crashed. He then allegedly escaped on foot and was apprehended after he fell down. The police found a weapon on the ground next to the man.
One of the charges the prosecution brought was possession of a regulated firearm. Now, most of the time, a defense against the charge of possession of a regulated firearm focuses almost entirely on demonstrating either that an affirmative defense made the defendant not guilty, or else that the facts the state proved do not support the legal standard of “possessing” the weapon in question.
However, as H.L.’s defense representation recognized, possession is only one of two things that the state is required to prove in order to obtain a conviction. In addition to proving that the defendant legally possessed the item in question, prosecutors must also prove that the thing the defendant allegedly possessed meets Maryland’s standards for a “firearm.” It may be easy to overlook that latter part, but that latter part was critical to H.L.’s defense.
Not everything that looks like a gun is a ‘regulated firearm’ in Maryland
That’s because, according to the defense team, the deputy first-class whom the state called to the witness stand trial had, prior to the trial, written a report that said that the item found next to H.L. had no barrel, had no pin in it and was not operable. Those things were potentially very important because the Maryland statutes define a firearm as a thing that “expels, is designed to expel, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”
At H.L.’s trial, the judge wouldn’t let the defense counsel ask the deputy first class about his examination of the gun, or the absence of the barrel, or the absence of a pin… or the weapon’s operability.
This was an error that required reversal. The law gives a defendant wide latitude when it comes to presenting a defense, and the questions that H.L.’s attorney sought to ask were critical to a key part of the defense case, which was that the state hadn’t proven one of the two essential components of the charged crime. For that reason, the Court of Special Appeals reversed H.L.’s conviction and granted him a new trial.
H.L. succeeded on appeal because, if the weapon at the center of this case neither would not nor could not expel a projectile by way of an explosive, then the item arguably wasn’t a firearm, which would necessarily make H.L. not guilty of possessing a regulated firearm. Therefore, the defense should have been allowed to pursue the desired line of questioning at trial.
“Leave no stone unturned” is often good advice in many applications. Criminal defense is definitely one of those. To make sure the defense you present against the charges the state has brought against you “leaves no stone unturned,” make sure you have a diligent, thorough and powerful legal advocate. Count on the experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to be that sort of advocate for you. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.