April 4, 2014

Baltimore Gun Range Handgun Cases Increasing in Frequency

In Baltimore County, the Police are increasingly resorting to investigating and ultimately arresting citizens who simply go to gun ranges such as Continental Arms in Timonium or Freestate in Middle River. As an criminal defense attorney with 20 years of experience, I have represented dozens of people who have been charged in these case, probably more than any other lawyer in Baltimore. These investigations and prosecutions are deeply troubling to me as they are nothing more than a shameless attempt to build up the police statistics for firearms prosecutions and confiscations.

The overwhelming majority of the citizens involved in these cases have only misdemeanor convictions that, more often than not, date back a decade or longer. These folks are hard working, law abiding citizens who generally speaking have no idea that they are in violation of the law by going to a gun range and renting a gun to take target practice. Most believe that if their prior records cause any prohibition at all, it is only on ownership of weapons, not simply shooting one in a controlled environment such as a gun range. To make these investigations even more troublesome and, in my view, counterproductive to the stated goal of law enforcement which is to protect and serve the community, the police utilize "ruse interviews" (everyone else just calls it plain old lying) to entrap their targets into incriminating themselves. It is difficult to believe that the police don't understand what a corrosive impact the use of scorched earth tactics such as these have on their relationship with the community they purport to serve. I was recently contacted by a Baltimore County couple that were the target of one of these investigations. I think it is a particularly egregious case. Here are the facts:

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March 22, 2014

Managing Parallel Criminal and Civil Proceedings: Beware of Waiving Privilege

Companies and attorneys should be wary when turning documents over to a governmental entity while in an adversarial relationship, even when a signed confidentiality agreement is in place. The risks associated with doing so took center stage last summer in a civil defamation case, Gruss v. Zwirn, when United States District Judge Paul Gardephe ruled that Zwirn Entities waived the attorney-client privilege when it disclosed portions of witness statements to the SEC as part of an internal investigation.

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March 15, 2014

Dewey & LeBoeuf Partners Indicted

Former top officials of the prominent global law firm, Dewey & LeBoeuf, were indicted last week for deceiving banks and hiding the firm’s true financial condition from creditors, investors, auditors, and even its own partners. The lengthy indictment paints an elaborate accounting fraud where executives and financial professionals desperately tried to avert financial disaster. In short, the criminal charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney allege a massive scheme to “cook the books” where the defendants falsified financial records submitted to banks and investors to demonstrate that the firm had complied with existing loans and therefore was worthy of further investor loans. The charges also allege the defendants made fraudulent accounting entries to support these phony representations.

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December 13, 2013

Sexual Offense Case Involving Sex with Underage Victim Successfully Resolved

As an Aggressive Baltimore Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney I have represented hundreds of people charged with Sex Offenses. Many of these case deal with adults (typically men) having sexual contact with underage victims (typically girls) - so call Statutory Rape Cases - although Maryland Law does not use that specific terminology. The basic rule is that if a child is under the age of 16 - which is the age of consent in Maryland - it is illegal for an adult who is at least 4 years older than the child to have an form of sexual contact with the child. These crimes are prosecuted very aggressively throughout Maryland and typically result in jail time as well as requirement to register as a sexual offender for 15 to 25 years or even for life.

What makes these cases even more difficult to defend is that they are so called "Strict Liability" offenses, which means that it does not matter if the adult was aware that the child was underage. This applies even in circumstances in which the child affirmatively lies about or conceals her age. As unfair as this may sound, it is the law in Maryland and in many other states. It also does not matter who initiates the sexual contact. The adult will be held liable even if he was aggressively pursued by the child to have sex. I successfully resolved a case that falls into this latter description last week in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Here are the facts:

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November 27, 2013

Does Maryland Law Recognize Self-Defense?

As a Former Assistant State's Attorney and Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney for almost 20 years, I have prosecuted and defended thousands of people charged with Second Degree Assault and/or First Degree Assault. For reasons that I cannot understand, there is a very common misperception in the general population and even with some in law enforcement, that Maryland does not recognize the concept of Self-Defense. This is simply not the law. The State of Maryland and every other State for that matter, absolutely does recognize the legal doctrines known to every first grader as Self-Defense and Defense of Others.

The right of people to defend themselves against violent attack goes back at least to English common law and probably as long as people have gathered together in organized societies. It is an obvious fundamental human right so it is difficult to understand how how widespread this misunderstanding has become in Maryland. The only theory I can come up with is that people are confusing the concept of a Mutual Affray which Maryland does not technically recognize with the universally recognized theory of Self-Defense. I had a client come in and meet with me this week that I think illustrates this misunderstanding of Maryland Law on this subject well. Here are the facts:

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November 25, 2013

Continental Arms Handun Possession Case Demonstrates that in Criminal Cases, As In Medicine, An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

As an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneyshttp://criminal.mdattorney.com/lawyer-attorney-1741744.html we often witness people make the big mistake of representing themselves in criminal court. The old adage is, "he who represents himself, has a fool for a client". Truer words have never been spoken, particularly when dealing with criminal charges

The typical scenario is that someone is arrested and charged in a case that that they view as minor or at least something that they can handle themselves. Sometimes it actually works out and the person gets away with the mistake. Sometimes it blows up in their face immediately and they know it. But sometimes the mistake is latent and the person doesn't realize how badly he messed up his life until years later. I had a case last week in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County in which my client was charged with Illegal Handgun Possession that fell into this last category. Fortunately, I was able to successfully resolve the current case but not before it cost the defendant far more than it would have cost to resolve the original matter had he contacted me then. And I was unable to undue the original conviction which will continue to cause collateral consequences for my client for many years to come and perhaps for the rest of his life. Here are the facts:

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November 18, 2013

What Happens When an Attorney Fails to Properly Evaluate a Case Properly or Defendant's Refuse to Follow their Attorney's Advice?

http://criminal.mdattorney.com/lawyer-attorney-1709297.htmlAggressive Maryland Criminal Attorneys represent hundreds of individuals in the District and Circuit Courts each year. Perhaps the most important skill that a criminal defense attorney must possess is the ability to evaluate the strength of the State's case against the defendant. Too often I witness attorneys pleading people guilty in cases where there are strong defenses. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true and all too often I see attorneys taking cases to trial where there is no hope of an acquittal. When this happens defendants are almost invariably sentenced more harshly than they otherwise would have been had their attorney negotiated a plea bargain. This is why it is critically important for any criminal defendant to make sure that the attorney that represents him is a criminal specialist with sufficient experience to know whether to pursue a trial strategy or a plea.

I witnessed this scenario play out in court last week where a defendant charged with armed robbery faced overwhelming evidence of his guilt, including that the entire crime was captured on crystal clear surveillance video. The plea offer was 10 years to serve. For reasons I do not understand, the defendant's attorney took the case before a Baltimore County Jury that, after deliberating for less than 30 minutes, returned the inevitable guilty verdict. The judge then sentenced the client to 20 years to serve, 10 years longer than he was offered in return for a guilty plea. Sometimes when this occurs it is the result of poor representation by the attorney but sometimes it results from a defendant refusing to accept the advice of his attorney. This case reminded me of one of the most striking examples from my career of a defendant refusing to heed his attorney's advice. The case took place in Baltimore City Circuit Court a few years ago. Here are the facts:

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October 8, 2013

Defendant Charged with DUI in Baltimore City Not Guilty

Maryland DUI/DWI Attorneys with decades of experience often find and successfully pursue defenses that less experienced attorneys find or even bother looking for. Unfortunately, many inexperienced DUI attorneys or attorneys who really specialize in areas of the law other than criminal defense, never look beyond the breathalyzer result, particularly in first offense cases that don't involve an accident or any injuries. The thinking is that the first offender will in most cases receive probation before judgment (PBJ) anyway so why bother? The person won’t go to jail and will not get points on his or her license so a PBJ is really as good as a not guilty or a dismissal. I beg to differ.

Aggressive and Experienced DUI Attorneys
know that there is a world of difference between a PBJ and a not guilty verdict. First of all, even if the client does receive PBJ, he or she will almost certainly be required to pay fines, attend alcohol counseling and serve a period of supervised probation. There may be other time consuming and costly requirements placed upon the client as well such as community work service, AA meetings and shock trauma visits to name just a few. Moreover, the PBJ can NEVER be expunged from the person's record so even though the defendant will not have points assessed by the MVA, a record of the PBJ will always be kept which means that if the person ever gets charged with DUI again - even many years later- the stakes will be much higher as he will be a repeat offender.

And on top of all of this, in a garden variety first offense http://criminal.mdattorney.com/lawyer-attorney-1704950.html there is little risk to the client in not accepting the plea bargain offered by the State as there is cases involving accidents or repeat offenders. I say this because most judges will grant the defendant PBJ even after a trial in which the defendant is found guilty, so in my view you may as well take a shot at the not guilty if you have any possible defense at all. There is really nothing to lose. Here are the facts of the case I had last week:

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September 23, 2013

Serious Assault Case Successfully Defended in Baltimore County Circuit Court

Assault Cases are among the most common cases Aggressive Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys handle. These are among the most serious cases that we see, particularly when the case involves significant injury or a vulnerable victim. The maximum penalty for just misdemeanor Assault, known as Second Degree Assault is a whopping 10 years! Of course people do not often the maximum penalty for this crime, but people are regularly incarcerated for assault cases in Maryland.

I had a case in Baltimore County last week involving a fight between two women. Prison was a distinct possibility for my client in the event of a conviction as the so called victim in the case was both seriously injured and at least claimed to be a vulnerable victim. Here are the facts of the case.

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August 8, 2013

Domestic Violence Assault Cases in Maryland Examined

It seems that Maryland Criminal Attorneys represent people charged in Domestic Violence Assaults with ever increasing frequency these days. As I have noted in the past, police and prosecutors seem to get more and more aggressive in charging and prosecuting these case by the day. In many of these Domestic Violence Assault cases, the alleged victim refuses to cooperate with the prosecution. Alleged victims will often recant the allegations that they made on the date of the incident, refuse to come to court, even when they have be summonsed or, if the couple is married, invoke the marital privilege and refuse to testify.

There are many reasons why alleged victims do this including that the couple has reconciled their relationship, the defendant is the primary breadwinner in the family which often means if he goes to jail his family is devastated financially, or that the charges were fabricated in the first place. It is hard for some to believe that someone would fabricate charges against another person but unfortunately it happens all the time. And I believe that that is exactly what happened in a case I recently had had in the District Court for Baltimore County. Here are the facts:

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August 7, 2013

Date Rape Client Successfully Defended after Switching Lawyers

I am often confronted with clients who want to change lawyers because for one reason or another they have lost confidence in their current attorney. I have blogged about this issue often and usually do so by positing the rhetorical question, "did you hire the right lawyer". I recently confronted this situation with a client who was charged with Second Degree Rape and related offenses. Obviously these are very serious charges that need to be handled by someone who knows what he or she is doing. In addition to facing serious jail time, anyone convicted of a sex offense faces the daunting prospect of being required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Unfortunately, there are many attorneys who will take on cases such as this one, who simply do not know what they are doing. Needless to say the results can be disastrous for the client depending upon at what point in the process the client determines that he is not be well represented. This particular client figured it out somewhere in the middle. That is, in time to prevent total disaster but not before suffering significant but unnecessary consequences. I have handled scores of sex offenses in my career but never one with facts quite like this one.

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August 6, 2013

Defendant Charged in Handgun Case Avoids Five Year Sentence after Switching Lawyers.

I have often written about the perils of hiring unqualified. Perhaps it is due to the current economic conditions, but I am increasingly seeing attorneys whom I know are NOT criminal specialists handling criminal cases, including serious felonies in the Circuit Court. I think that people who are not experienced in dealing with attorneys think that a lawyer is a lawyer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like doctors, many lawyers specialize in various areas of the law including criminal defense. It seems like a pretty obvious point that the lawyer specializes in one area is going to develop more expertise in that area than a so called "general practitioner" who often handle cases in as many as a dozen separate areas of the law.

I have in many instances throughout my career been hired by people who have belatedly figured out that their attorney simply did not know what he or she was doing. Sometimes that realization comes before any real damage has been done and sometime only after. Here is a specific case involving domestic violence and handgun offenses that I took over from another lawyer who was in over his head:

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