Articles Posted in Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS)

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The Maryland Assembly has recently passed the Justice Reinvestment Act which is generally aimed at significantly reduces Maryland’s prison population. Our partner, Judge Joe Murphy (ret.) played a key role in formulating much of this legislation. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 122-19 and the Senate 46-0. Gov. Hogan is expected to sign the bill into law this spring.

Many major policy changes are highlighted below in this text but include a unique opportunity for inmates serving mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses an unprecedented opportunity to return to court and ask for a sentence modification.

Some other highlights to the bill include:
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As Aggressive Maryland Criminal Attorneys, the Criminal Defense Team at STSW represents scores of defendants each year who face Mandatory Sentences that must be served without parole for violating Narcotics and Firearms Laws. I have written about many of these cases in the past as they tend to be among the most difficult cases that criminal defense attorneys confront. A few weeks ago I represented three members of a family who had been charged with Trafficking Narcotics with a Firearm.

In addition to this count, the father was also charged with being a Felon in Possession of a Handgun. Both of these counts carry Minimum Mandatory Penalties of five years in prison without the possibility of parole. Needless to say it was a very serious case. Here are the facts:
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As an Aggressive and Experienced Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney, I have handled thousands of felony narcotics cases including Possession with the Intent to Distribute CDS and Distribution of CDS cases. These cases are serious matters in and of themselves with the potential of serious incarceration for a defendant. These cases become exponentially more serious when handguns and/or other firearms are seized along with the drugs.

Narcotics trafficking with firearms charges subject a defendant to an additional 20 year jail term on top of any sentence for the Felony CDS charges. More importantly, these charges carry a MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCE of five years in prison without the possibility of parole. In most instances, prosecutors reserve these charges for the worst and most violent offenders. Occasionally however, a prosecutor pursues these charges against defendants who don’t appear to fall into that category. I successfully defended a case in Baltimore County Circuit Court last week in which narcotics trafficking with firearms charges were pursued against 3 defendants who most certainly did not represent the worst of the worst violent drug dealers. At least that is my opinion. I found the decision to pursue a “five no parole count” against these defendants troubling to say the least, but I became even more troubled when I learned the details of how the police came to suspect these men as well as the nature and extent of the investigation into them. Here are the facts (as always I will be somewhat vague where necessary to protect my client’s anonymity and privacy).
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Can the Police search your car without a warrant? As a Criminal Defense Attorney, this is one of the questions that I am asked most often. The answer to the question is generally speaking yes so long as the police have probable cause. This is an exception to the warrant requirement in the Constitution known as the Automobile Exception. The rationale is that unlike a person’s home for instance, automobiles are by their very nature movable objects creating a sort of inherent exigency that justifies allowing police to search without requiring them to leave the scene to obtain a warrant.

While the automobile exception is certainly a long recognized exception to the warrant requirement, it does not mean that the police can search a person’s car without a warrant in every situation. As I said, the police must have probable cause or some other basis upon which to rely to search the vehicle. One common situation in which police search a person’s vehicle without probable cause is the so called “search incident to arrest”. However, the Supreme Court recently changed the rules regarding searches incident to arrest in a very significant way in a case called Arizona v. Gant. Prior to Gant the police would routinely search a person’s car after affecting a lawful arrest, even if the arrest was for relatively minor traffic offenses such as driving while on a suspended license. In the Gant case, the Court limited the searches incident to arrest to situations in which the person arrested was within reaching distance of the passenger compartment a the time of the search and it was reasonable to believe that the vehicle contained evidence of the offense for which the person was being arrested. I successfully defended a client charged with Possession with the Intent to Distribute Marijuana utilizing this new case in Baltimore City Circuit Court last week. Here are the facts:
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Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney discusses case evaluation and the plea bargain process. The ability to objectively and dispassionately evaluate a case is critical to being an effective criminal defense attorney. Far too often I witness inexperienced or simply ineffective attorneys taking cases to trial only to pursue defenses that have no realistic chance of success. The unavoidable fact of this business is that sometimes your client is guilty as charged and the State can easily prove it. In defense attorney parlance these are known as “dead up cases”. Criminal defense attorneys need to recognize and accept that this is true when confronted with such a case and advise their clients honestly as to their situation.

This is not to say that there is nothing an attorney can do for their client in a situation like this – far from it. I have represented thousands of clients throughout my career who have been able to significantly reduce the consequences of a conviction by recognizing that trial was not an option and pursuing an effective strategy to minimize the damage. I had a case last week that is a terrific example of this in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. The client accepted the situation as I explained it to him and did what I told him to do and it worked out extremely favorably by any measure. Here are the facts:
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Most Experienced and Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorneys handle many cases in which the client is charged with Violation of Probation. Typically when a judge places a criminal defendant on probation, the judge will require the person to do certain things while on probation such as report to an agent, perform community service, participate in drug treatment. The probation also requires the defendant to remain law abiding and very often to be randomly tested for drug use.

If a defendant violates any of these conditions, the agent will notify the judge who will usually order a hearing to determine if he probation has been violated and very often issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Many judges routinely order that the defendant be held without bail until such hearing takes place. Many attorneys wrongly assume that violations of probation are not defensible since there is no prohibition on the use of hearsay testimony and the State must only prove the violation by a preponderance of the evidence standard, not beyond a reasonable doubt as is the case in criminal trials. Many defenses are in fact viable in violations of probation including speedy trial type defenses. I successfully defended a client in a violation of probation hearing this week in Baltimore County District Court using this type of defense. Here are the facts:
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As an Aggressive Maryland Criminal Attorney, I represent people charged with violations of the controlled dangerous substance laws virtually every day in Maryland courts. I have blogged many times in the past about the importance of hiring an experienced full time criminal attorney if one finds him or herself charged in a criminal case. As I have noted in the past, I witness far too many instances in which accident or divorce lawyers represent (or should I say misrepresent) people in criminal cases and it usually doesn’t work out very well for the person charged.

I had an a case today in Baltimore County Circuit Court that was an excellent example of a person realizing before it was too late that her attorney was not really qualified to represent her. This is unusual. More often than not, people don’t figure it out until they suffer a very bad result. Here are the facts of the case.
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As an Experienced Baltimore Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney I have often written about the mistakes that are made by inexperienced attorneys when representing people in criminal cases. I often pose the question, “did you hire the right lawyer to represent you?”. In many of my previous postings I have written about cases in which the criminal defendant has hired an attorney who was in reality a domestic (divorce/child custody) attorney, an accident attorney or a general practitioner, who had claimed to be experienced in criminal defense. Upon closer inspection of his or her case history, these claims turned out to be false.

Recently I have become aware of several instances of poor representation in cases where the criminal defendant hires an attorney who sends him an unsolicited letter shortly after they are charged in a criminal case. These “letter lawyers” as they are known, very often offer legal services at well below the customary fee charged by experienced criminal lawyers. The reason for this in most instances is that the attorneys sending these letters are inexperienced (many are just out of law school) and are unable to attract criminal clients any other way. Truly experienced criminal defense attorneys are able to get most of their clients from referrals from past satisfied clients or from people who do the necessary research to find a qualified lawyer to represent them. And as the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for”, as very often these inexperienced attorneys do what one would expect from an inexperienced attorney and that is, they make mistakes.

I have written in this blog about many instances where the mistakes made by “letter lawyers” or other inexperienced lawyers are immediately apparent – usually because the defendant ended up in jail on a case where he wouldn’t have had he been properly represented by a criminal defense specialist. In other cases the mistake may not become apparent for many months or even many years after the case is mishandled. I was recently hired by a client who falls into this latter category. Here are the facts:
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http://www.mdattorney.com/lawyer-attorney-1300820.htmlExperienced Maryland Criminal Attorney’s probably handle more simple drug possession cases than just about any other kind of case in the system. On any given District Court Docket in any jurisdiction in Maryland, a large percentage of the cases will be simple possession cases. Although the majority of these cases so not result in incarceration of the defendant they nonetheless need to be taken seriously as a conviction for possession can result in a permanent criminal record even for first time offenders. Second or subsequent offenders are all but certain to end up with a permanent criminal record and possible jail time, as Maryland Law only allows a person to receive probation before judgment one time for a drug conviction whether it be possession of CDS or possession of CDS with the intent to distribute.

I successfully defended a case in Baltimore County District Court this week in which my client was in this exact position. He was charged with simple possession of marijuana having been caught by the police with just a few grams of the banned substance. Unfortunately for him, he had received probation before judgment for a possession charge a few years ago and was therefore barred by law from receiving this disposition a second time. Here are the facts:
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As a Former Assistant United State’s Attorney and current Maryland Federal Criminal Attorney I have handled hundreds of Federal Drug Cases. Before as a prosecutor and now as a defense attorney I am often amazed at how quickly and often lawyers plead their client’s guiilty in highly defensible cases.

I take the opposite approach and employ a scorched earth policy of fighting every case on every level before even considering a plea to include attacking the validity of search warrants which many attorneys never even consider. Here is a written motion to suppress we filed in a case recently attacking the warrant and moving to suppress the evidence.
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