It seems like something a Maryland resident might see in a movie, but police have arrested and accused a young man of working with a suspected robber to steal from a tobacco shop. What makes this story of armed robbery so interesting, however, is that police also believe the young man was held at gunpoint by an individual who they say walked out of the shop with an undisclosed amount of money. This alleged deception of the store clerk and police calls into question just whether police have the evidence to charge the young man with theft by taking and armed robbery.
We have said over and over again how serious sex crimes can be and that even the smallest accusation can have horrendous consequences on a Maryland resident's career, personal life or living situation. Because of this, it is absolutely essential that Montgomery County police only arrest and prosecutors only charge someone with a sexual assault when there is sufficient evidence. Anyone who believes that he or she has been unfairly targeted of a sex crimes case should work with his or her attorney to clear his or her name and attempt to rebuild a life shattered by an accusation.
Everyone in Montgomery County is entitled to a basic set of rights, even if they have been charged with a crime. One such protection is the right to an impartial jury trial, as laid out in the Sixth Amendment. Without this fundamental right, there would be no point in presuming a Maryland suspect is innocent until proven guilty. When a case has gotten so much public attention that it is impossible for the defense and prosecution to find an unbiased jury, courts will allow the case to change venues to a more suitable location. Some prosecutors, however, will fight tooth-and-nail to keep a trial in a potentially biased district.
Our Maryland readers have learned in previous postings, of the importance of following the letter of the law. During an arrest, police procedures must be followed precisely. During a trial, existing law is used to determine innocence or guilt.
It is a cornerstone of the American legal system that someone is presumed innocent until proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she is guilty. One of the ways that the courts protect this right is by only trying someone in front of an unbiased and impartial jury. Trying to defend against a criminal charge in front of anything less puts a suspect in an extremely difficult and dangerous position. A former member of the Taliban's recent extradition to the United States and conviction of serious drug charges in Washington, D.C., calls into question whether he truly had an unbiased and impartial jury.
For Marylanders accused of sexual assault, rape or statutory rape, there is a huge fear that they will be sent to prison for the rest of their lives. There are, however, alternative programs that are sometimes available for those convicted of a sex crime, including civil commitment. Although Maryland doesn't have a civil commitment system, the example of other states may call into question whether such a program would actually benefit the men and women convicted of sex crimes.
Washington, D.C., is the seat of federal law, but it is also gathering a lot of criticism for the way the local legal system is handling cases of suspected driving while impaired and driving under the influence. After it was discovered that the District's Breathalyzers were not properly calibrated and that people who had been convicted of drunk driving may not have been intoxicated, police have removed the Breathalyzer program altogether, leaving drivers vulnerable to a "broken system."
Nearly all Marylanders are familiar with what a pharmacist does -- he or she fills prescriptions. It is often impossible for an individual pharmacist or a large pharmacy with many pharmacists to recognize when a physician is writing a suspiciously high number of prescriptions. That has not stopped the federal government, however, from accusing certain pharmacies and medication distributers of being involved in what federal agencies are calling a nationwide problem with prescription drug abuse.
For people convicted of non-violent crimes in Maryland it often makes more sense to provide an alternative to prison. Luckily, alternative sentencing strategies are gaining widespread support throughout the nation, resulting in the first drop in the American prison population since the early 1970s. These programs can benefit those accused of relatively minor crimes, such as shoplifting or drug use.
There are certain rights that every American can claim, rights that protect everyone. One of those rights, a right that is so fundamental to the American criminal law system that it colors how police do their jobs, is the right against unreasonable search and seizure. In order to ensure that no one is humiliated or embarrassed in a criminal investigation, police must follow strict rules regarding searches, rules that many people in Maryland and Washington, D.C., might expect school officials to follow as well. Sadly, in one school's quest to keep the school drug-free, it seems as if a vice-principal has crossed the line between reasonable and unreasonable search.