As a Maryland Criminal Attorney I am often confronted with cases in which a person is charged with possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, heroin, marijuana or some other controlled dangerous substance (CDS) or even simple misdemeanor possession of CDS, where in addition to being charged criminally, the police also seize the person's property, usually automobiles, weapons and/or currency pursuant to the drug asset forfeiture laws. Most people are surprised to learn that, unlike in a criminal case where the State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of the offenses with which he is charged, under drug asset forfeiture law, once property or money is seized by the police pursuant to a narcotics arrest or even a narcotics investigation, it is presumed that the property or money is subject to forfeiture and the owner bears the burden of proving otherwise. Not only that but the government maintains possession of the asset throughout what can be a long and expensive legal battle to have the property or money returned.
I was retained yesterday in a case in Baltimore County Maryland District Court that is troubling to me as a Maryland Criminal Attorney and as a citizen of this state on several levels. The facts are that an anonymous caller contacted 911 and advised that he had just witnessed two black males try to rob a white male (my client) as he attempted to enter his apartment. The caller went on to say that the black males beat the white male with a handgun and that during the scuffle one of the black males was knocked down the steps. The caller went on to say that during the scuffle, a bag of marijuana had fallen from one of the three men's pocket and had spilled down the steps and on the ground. He noted to 911 that as they spoke the white male was sweeping the marijuana up.