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Silver Spring Criminal Defense Law Blog

Maryland's new drunk driving law

Maryland has a relatively new law governing drunk driving that imposes new requirements for drivers convicted of a drunk driving offense. The law, which went into effect last October, expands the state's ignition interlock program for those convicted of various DUI offenses.

The law sets time periods for participating in the ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock is a device installed in a vehicle which prevents the vehicle from starting when the device detects a designated level of alcohol on the motorist's breath.

Baltimore cop's internal record may be available to defense

Criminal defense often relies on the strength of the prosecution's evidence. However, a gun possession prosecution in Baltimore may involve questions on the credibility of a police sergeant who arrested the defendant.

In late March, a circuit judge ruled that six internal affairs complaints could be used to attack the credibility of the sergeant as part of his cross-examination. Subsequently, however, an appeals court granted a temporary stay of the hearing after the police sergeant's attorneys filed an emergency motion. His attorneys argued that allowing the case to proceed would cause irreparable harm to the sergeant's credibility and his ability to testify at this weapons possession case and future trials.

Maryland court dials up cellphone privacy in landmark ruling

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the Old Line State's second highest court, handed down a landmark decision that will assure that the criminal justice system protects privacy rights. It issued the first high court decision in this country finding that police investigators are required to secure a search warrant for tracking cellphones, particularly for using a Stingray device to track phones. The Stingray device works a bit like a cellphone tower and triggers all operating cellphones in its range to connect with it. It then operates a real-time tracking device for locating cellphones.

The court reproached the Baltimore Police for its failure to disclose their use of this device for locating an attempted murder suspect. The court concluded that the Fourth Amendment protects people and provides them with the reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to their real-time cellphone location information. It is unclear whether the court's order applies retroactively to earlier cases.

Maryland bail rules may change

In July 2017, a Maryland court ruling will take effect which will revise a hallmark of the state's criminal justice system. A Maryland Court of Appeals 2016 ruling requires state court judges to release nonviolent offenders from jail without posting bail if they are not a flight risk. However, the state legislature is also considering a bill that would reverse this decision.

Bail bonding is currently a $2 million industry associated with the 12 million jail bookings in this country each year. Most of these bookings, however, involve non-violent offenses.

Crime punishment sometimes inconsistent

The severity of punishment in Maryland's criminal justice system is sometimes illogical. Many years of repeals and changes in its criminal statutes often caused inconsistency and unintended consequences.

For example, injuring a race horse is classified as a felony while failure to report a more serious offense, such as death of a minor, is only a misdemeanor. Both crimes, while different in severity, carry a maximum three-year sentence.

How would legalizing pot affect DWI laws?

In Maryland, including Silver Spring and Montgomery County, legislatures are in the process of proposing bills to allow the recreational use of marijuana. It is important to keep in mind that this would not even go up for vote until November of next year, but the fact is that within the state and even around the country, the idea of legalizing marijuana use is very popular.

According to polling from the previous few years, as many as 58 percent of Marylanders are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. The state is also taking heat from its neighbor, Washington, D.C., which has legalized recreational use of the drug. Unfortunately though, it is not necessarily all good.

Maryland bill proposes changes to DUI laws

A mild winter in Maryland will soon give way to spring's warmer temperatures. Many, when the weather warms up, take to the great outdoors. One activity enjoyed by people in Maryland is boating or going for a scenic drive. However, what they may not know is that drunk boating, just like drunk driving, is against the law. And one Maryland politician is seeking tougher penalties for drunk driving and drunk boating.

Under current law, if a person under the influence of alcohol causes "life threatening injuries" either while operating a vessel (including pleasure boats) or while operating a motor vehicle, a DUI conviction could result in a three-year jail sentence and a $5,000 fine for the first offense. A first conviction of driving while impaired could result in a two-year jail sentence and a $3,000 fine.

Is "reasonable suspicion" different from "probable cause"?

A recent post here detailed the conditions for conducting searches as laid out in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. However, not all situations culminate in a full search. As Maryland residents may be aware, in some situations people are often detained briefly. The conditions for these brief detentions and stops also stem from the Fourth Amendment.

If a police officer has "reasonable suspicion" that someone is dangerous, about to use a weapon and either engaged in or is about to be engaged in criminal activity, the officer can stop that person for a brief pat down search of their outer clothing. Reasonable suspicion is lesser than probable cause and looser, which is why it is not enough to justify a full seizure, just a brief pat down.

Fight drug crime allegations quickly to protect your rights

A previous post here noted that there is a great burden on the prosecution to prove their case against a Maryland resident suspected of committing a crime, due to the severe penalties associated with the felony conviction. The Constitution of the United States of America has provided certain procedural safeguards that must be met before either an arrest or a search and seizure can be conducted.

If these procedures are not followed, it may be possible for lawyers at our firm to question the integrity of not only the arrest, but also the evidence that flows from the arrest. When someone is facing felony drug charges but their residence was searched illegally, it may also be possible to challenge the basis of the search.

Constitutional requirements need to be fulfilled prior to arrest

Felonies are serious charges that come with serious consequences. This is why there is a heavy burden on the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and why there are certain constitutional safeguards available to Maryland residents facing allegations of committing felonies.

One of the constitutional safeguards contained in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requires that probable cause exist before a warrant can be granted, an arrest can be made or a seizure conducted. This means that there must either be a reasonable basis for believing that the crime has been committed or that there is evidence of the committed crime in the place to be searched. Since the definition of probable cause has not been specified, courts generally look at the context to determine if probable cause existed or not.

Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

Law Offices of James N. Papirmeister, Esq.
8630 Fenton St., Suite 320
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Office Number: 301-589-2100
Afterhours Number: 301-367-6500

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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013