What Happens When You’re Arrested in Maryland Based on a ‘Bad’ Warrant and a Lack of Probable Cause

“A violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.” People often associate this phrase with an impermissible search without a warrant, but that’s not the only scenario. An arrest itself can be a constitutional violation if the foundation underlying the arrest warrant isn’t adequate to establish probable cause. Whether you’re under suspicion or under arrest, don’t delay in retaining an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer to provide you with the skillful representation you need.

A homicide case from Prince George’s County is a real-life example of how an arrest warrant can be fatally flawed. The case flowed from an unsolved 2005 murder in which 2-3 armed intruders entered an apartment in Landover, tied up one man, and fatally shot a second man inside the unit.

In late December 2017, a detective filed an application for a statement of charges in connection with that murder.

A “statement of charges” is a legal document that puts forward the specific charges the state alleges and the state’s basis for those charges. If you or a loved one have been charged with a criminal act, you/they likely will receive either this type of statement or a “statement of probable cause.”

The court granted the detective’s application and issued the statement. As a result, law enforcement officers arrested J.L. on Jan. 17, 2018. The charges included first-degree murder.

The Purported Evidence Included an Untruthful Statement

The accused man’s defense team recognized a critical flaw in that statement and utilized it to their advantage. The defense contended that the application contained a false statement, making the warrant fatally flawed, and making the arrest of J.L. unconstitutional. As a result, the defense argued that the evidence flowing from the arrest, including J.L.’s post-arrest statement to law enforcement officers, must be suppressed. The trial judge agreed with the defense.

There are several ways that an arrest can be a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. One way is if the state’s application for a statement of charges fails to establish probable cause. That, according to the court, was what happened in J.L.’s situation.

The crucial error in the state’s case related to a detective’s statement that the victim who survived the invasion identified J.L. from a photographic array when he did not. (Photo array identifications can be notoriously unreliable for many reasons, that wasn’t the central error here.) During the session, the detective offered the victim something labeled “Exhibit #5,” a black-and-white composite array of six men. The victim positively identified the man in the lower right photo (a/k/a “Photograph #6” of Exhibit 5.) That man was not J.L.; in fact, none of the six men pictured was J.L.

The police had also prepared something labeled “Exhibit #6,” a different composite array of six men, one of whom was J.L. There was no indication, however, that the police ever showed that array to the victim. Somewhere during the process, the detective conflated “Exhibit #6” and “Photograph #6” and made notes that the victim identified J.L., even though he did not.

The appeals court upheld the trial judge’s ruling in favor of the defense. The detective’s claim in the application was false, which meant that the court improperly issued the arrest warrant. When you’re arrested due to a bad arrest warrant, that arrest is an impermissible seizure of your person in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

It’s possible for charges to still “stick” even if the arrest was unconstitutional, but to do so, the state must offer evidence that: (1) was not obtained as a result of the constitutional violation, and (2) was sufficient to meet the standard for probable cause.

Here, the state didn’t have that requisite “other evidence,” so the state’s effort to revive the case against J.L. failed.

Whether you have interacted with the police as a result of an arrest, being questioned concerning a crime, or a search of your property, it is always best to talk to legal counsel as soon as possible. The knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC have the skills and experience you need to protect your rights at every step along the way. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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