April 15, 2016

Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act

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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January 2, 2013

Trafficking Narcotics with Firearms Count DISMISSED - Client Avoids Mandatory 5 Year Sentence

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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May 11, 2012

Trafficking Narcotics with Firearms Case Successfully Defended

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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January 13, 2012

Possession of Marijuana Client Successfully Defended After Illegal Search Incident to Arrest

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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October 21, 2011

Defendant with 9 Ounces of Cocaine and no Defense gets Probation

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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September 2, 2011

Violation of Probation Dismissed on Speedy Trial Grounds

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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July 11, 2011

CDS Possesion Case Successfully Defended

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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November 30, 2010

Felony CDS Defendant Ineligible for Probation Before Judgment

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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September 1, 2010

CDS Possession Case Successfully Defended

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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June 24, 2010

Federal Drug Case Motion to Suppress

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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March 26, 2010

Client Successfully Defended in Manufacturing a Controlled Dangerous Substance Case in Baltimore County Circuit Court

Baltimore Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys/Lawyers are often called upon to represent defendants who are charged with manufacturing a controlled dangerous substance. Most of these cases involve the growing of Marijuana as this one did, but some involve the manufacture of methamphetamines or other drugs.

The case I had last week occurred on the West side of Baltimore County. My client, who is a 40 year old father of 3 with a college degree and various professional licenses to protect, was accused of growing 6 marijuana plants in his back yard. Unfortunately, Maryland law does not differentiate between manufacturing controlled dangerous substances for personal use and manufacturing for the purpose of distribution. Any manufacturing activity, including the growing of just one or a few marijuana plants is a felony under Maryland Law. Needless to say, the stakes were very high for the client in spite of the very small number of plants involved because a conviction would result in him having a felony on his record which would have a devastating effect on his career even if he avoided jail. Here are the facts:

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March 12, 2010

Suppression Hearings - Make Sure you have a Plan B in the Event that the Motion is Denied

Since I have been doing this Baltimore Maryland Criminal attorney/lawyer blog I have often been chided by my friends on the other side of the aisle (This is for you Joey D.) for only blogging about the cases that I win. So, in an attempt to show a little balance and humility, I will discuss a case that I lost the other day in this posting. The real reason I do this is to illustrate the point that a good criminal defense attorney always has a Plan B no matter how strong a case he believes he has. In other words, even in cases that I am confident that I will prevail, I always consider the possibility that we will lose and think about how to minimize the damage to the client if that should occur.

I had just such a case this week in Baltimore County Circuit Court. My client was charged with possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. I believed, and still believe, that I had an overwhelming case for suppression of the evidence because I believed the police had stopped my client without probable cause or even the lesser standard known as reasonable articulable suspicion, which allows police in certain circumstances to briefly detain a suspect for investigatory purposes. The facts of the case were as follows:

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February 1, 2010

Narcotics Distribution Repeat Offender's Case Successfully Resolved with Health General Exception to Mandatory Sentence

Of all of the cases that Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorneys/Lawyers are called upon to handle, some of the most difficult are cases involving repeat offenders in drug distribution cases. In Maryland, if a person who has been previously convicted of a either possession with the intent to distribute a narcotic such as heroin, cocaine or prescription controlled dangerous substances, is again charged, he will likely face a mandatory jail sentence that must be served without the possibility of parole. Some jurisdiction such as Baltimore County, pursue these mandatory sentences in virtually every case. Other jurisdictions such as Baltimore City more often than not use the threat of invoking the mandatory sentence to pressure defendants into plea bargain on terms that prosecutors view as favorable.

In Maryland, in cases where a person is charged with distribution of or possession with intent to distribute narcotics such as cocaine, heroin or prescription drugs, a second offender will be subject to 10 years in prison without the possibility of parole. A third offender is subject to a mandatory 25 year sentence without parole and a person with 4 or more convictions faces 40 years. However, in cases involving second offenders, a defendant who is convicted may be eligible for a modification of that sentence if the person is found to be in need of drug treatment by the Department of Health and Mental Hygene and to be sufficiently motivated to take advantage of the opportunity to receive treatment.

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October 23, 2009

Trafficking Narcotics With a Firearm - What Must the State Prove and What are the Penalties?

As A Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney/Lawyer I represent many people charged with either handgun offenses or violations of the State's narcotics aka controlled dangerous substance laws. More often than not, so long as the defendant does not have an extensive criminal history, these matters can be resolved without the defendant having to serve much or any time in prison, even assuming that the State can prove the case. However, when a person gets charged with possession of firearms and felony narcotics offenses at the same time, things get a lot trickier.

This is because under Maryland Law and Federal Law there are minimum mandatory sentences that must be served without the possibility of parole associated with trafficking narcotics with a firearm - even for first offenders. Perhaps more surprisingly, these laws apply to the possession of any firearm and not simply handguns or regulated firearms such as assault weapons. So while a convicted felon may be in possession of a shotgun without violating Maryland Law (shotgun possession by a convicted felon is a violation of Federal Law) a person with no record who is caught trafficking narcotics with a shotgun would be in violation of these laws and face the mandatory penalties just the same as if he were caught with a handgun or an assault weapon; and the penalty is a stiff one indeed. Any person in Maryland who is convicted of trafficking narcotics with a firearm faces a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison but the real meat in the statute is that the convicted defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without the possibility of parole. I currently represent a person who finds himself in this exact predicament. I will explain the facts and then get into what exactly the State must prove to convict my client or any other similarly situated defendant of this charge.

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August 5, 2009

Man Chargd with Possession With Intent to Distribute Own Prescriptions

Baltimore Maryland Criminal Lawyer. I blogged last week about cases in which narcotics detectives essentially manufacture felony drug cases by asking defendants caught with prescription drugs if they intended to give or share the pills with someone else and if they answered in the affirmative, charging them with possession with the intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). In that blog I posited the question, "are the police really looking to make progress in the war on drugs or just stat to further their own careers?" I was retained in case recently that caused me again to think the detective's goal may be the latter.

In this case the police arrested an individual for possessing illegal prescription drugs. Instead of just charging the individual and moving on to the next case they chose to make him an informant and offer him the opportunity to "work off his charge". I certainly don't have a problem with what the police did up to this point. Informants are an essential investigative tool that have been used by law enforcement since the beginning of time. The problem I have is the way in which they used this informant which was to get him to set someone up who was otherwise not predisposed to sell drugs.

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July 30, 2009

Are Police Really Looking to Make Progress in the War on Drugs or Just Stats to furhter their own careers?

http://www.mdattorney.com/lawyer-attorney-1300820.htmlAs a Maryland Criminal Lawyer/Attorney I often have cases that make me wonder what it is exactly that the police are attempting to accomplish. Are they really attempting to win the so called war on drugs or is their strategy (or lack thereof) more cynical than that? Is it just to make as many felony drug arrests as possible regardless of whether the people arrested are really involved in the actual distribution of narcotics in order to give the false impression of progress? I have had several cases recently that have reluctantly made me think that it is the latter.

I have had several cases recently that have followed a very similar pattern:

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March 10, 2009

Is Legal for to Conduct a Strip Search After Arrest on Traffic Charges?

Maryland Criminal Attorney Brian Thompson successfully defends client charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine. The issue in this case was whether or not the police can conduct a strip search on a person who is arrested for a traffic violation. In Maryland, the police have the discretion to arrest or to simply issue citations and release people who are charged with incarcerable traffic violation such as Driving Under the Influence or Impaired by Alcohol, Driving While Suspended, Driving Without Insurance, Hit and Run, etc., In most instances, so long as the person is able to be conclusively identified, the officer with cite and release

However, in cases where the police are unable to conclusively identify a person because the person does not have proper identification or in situations where the police want the excuse to search the person's vehicle, they will arrest for these violations. My recent case falls into the latter category. Here are the facts:

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February 10, 2009

Michael Phelps Bong Photo Leads to Eight Arrests

According to a Fox News report, eight people have been arrested today in South Carolina in connection with the Michael Phelps bong photo. It is being reported that seven of the people are being charged with possession of marijuana and one for dealing. One of the arrests includes a suspect who was trying to sell the infamous bong on Ebay for $1000,000.00.

Apparently, the marijuana was smoked at a University of South Carolina party in November of last year. Putting aside my personal feelings on whether this is a prudent use of our law enforcement resources, from a legal standpoint, this case is a disaster that can never survive in court.

As a criminal lawyer that has been involved in the prosecution of over 3000 drug cases, I have yet to see a charge, let alone a conviction, on possession of a controlled dangerous substance based upon a photograph of someone allegedly ingesting a controlled substance.

The way it always works is the police seize a drug, the drug is tested by a crime lab, the analysis is submitted in court as evidence. No chance of a conviction here, period, based upon the information reported.

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December 4, 2008

What is "constructive possession" of a handgun or a controlled dangerous substance?

Maryland Criminal Attorney What exactly does it mean to be in "constructive possession" of contraband such as drugs or illegal weapons in Maryland? I was faced with this fairly common legal issue in a case in the District Court for Baltimore County in Catonsville this week. The facts of the case were as follows:

My client was operating a motor vehicle in the Catonsville area of Baltimore County one day this past summer. The police noted in their report that the car caught their attention because the operator was not wearing his seat belt. (I'm sure that the fact that he was a young black male had nothing to do with it). The officer's turned around and followed the vehicle and made several other observations such as speeding and frequent lane changes. They pulled the vehicle over and identified my client as the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle. My client produced a valid driver's license as well as the registration which confirmed that the car was registered to his father.

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October 19, 2008


Many federal criminal defense attorneys are not aware of the pitfalls of the federal safety valve provisions. Persons charged with federal drug crimes need to retain an experienced criminal attorney familiar with all aspects of federal criminal law. An inexperienced or unknowing lawyer can expose a client to catastrophic risks. Here is why.

As we are all keenly aware, the federal government’s “war on drugs” is ensnaring hundreds of people with little or no criminal records who are caught up, for a myriad of reasons, with the distribution of drugs. This can range from a person carrying cash for a friend to pay for an airline ticket, to delivering a package to another person in exchange for cash to pay the rent or feed a child. Because of very harsh federal sentencing laws, the smallest players in a drug ring often end up being the most harshly treated. Most of time this is because the leaders of drug operations very often end up cooperating against others – including those below them whose “loyalty” they often gained through fear and threats of harm. Oftentimes, those persons caught on the lowest rungs of a drug conspiracy find themselves with few alternatives because they do not have significant information to provide to federal prosecutors, who retain exclusive control over who gets cooperation departures under the federal sentencing guidelines. As a result, defendants with minor or minimal culpability in a drug operation frequently end up on the receiving end of prosecutions involving tremendously high sentencing guidelines and, more critically, large minimum mandatory sentences.

In many situations, the only relief from mandatory sentences for those with little or no criminal history is the so-called “safety valve.” Many lawyers talk about the safety valve, but very few understand what it is and what it truly entails. It is perhaps the most misunderstood and most difficult opportunity for relief from mandatory minimum sentences and the sentencing guidelines. Federal crimes lawyers who do not specialize in federal criminal defense work run the risk of harming their clients through misguided efforts to gain relief under the safety valve provision.

It is critical to remember that there are only two ways to avoid minimum mandatory sentences upon conviction for a drug trafficking or drug conspiracy offense in federal court. One way is to cooperate with law enforcement and provide “substantial assistance” in the prosecution of others under section 5K1.1 of the guidelines. The other is to seek relief under the safety valve -- Section 5C1.2 of the federal sentencing guidelines. (18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)) This section allows a judge to reduce federal sentencing guidelines and ignore mandatory minimum sentences in determining punishment for eligible defendants.

But while understanding the possible benefits of relief under the safety valve is easy, becoming eligible for the relief is more difficult and fraught with peril for the unwary defendant. In fact, a failed attempt to gain “safety valve” relief can have a tremendously negative impact on a federal criminal defendant.


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October 9, 2008

Possession of Handguns and Other Weapons by Convicted Narcotics Felons

Maryland Criminal Attorney - Baltimore Criminal Attorney Most people are aware that in Maryland a person who has been convicted of a violent crime or a felony may not possess handguns. People seem to be less aware of restrictions involving other weapons such as rifles, shotguns, assault weapons and antique firearms. I have blogged about this in the past and this blog is really intended to discuss possession of other weapons but I think an overview of the law on handgun possession will be helpful to the reader.

First of all, what exactly is the definition of a handgun under Maryland Law? One would think that this would be a relatively straightforward and easy question to answer. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are two separate definitions under two of the three sections of the Maryalnd Code that criminalize handgun and firearm possession. Under Public Safety 5-101(n) a handgun is defined as a firearm with a barrel less than 16 inches. Under this section a handgun includes signal, starter and blank pistols. Under Criminal Law Section 4-201(c) a handgun is defined as a pistol revolver or other firearm capable of being concealed on the person. Under this definition a handgun includes short-barrelled rifles which is defined as a firearm having a barrel less than 16 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches; and shotguns with a barrel less than 18 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches. Under this definition a standard rifle, shotgun or any antique firearm is not deemed to be a handgun. Presumably this definition would also include starter pistols since they are included in the definition of a firearm under the Public Safety Article definition, but would not include signal or blank pistols as they are not included in that definition. Very confusing to say the least.

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October 1, 2008

Towson University Student Charged With Possession With Intent to Distribute Marijuana

Maryland Criminal Attorney - Baltimore Criminal Attorney I was hired today to represent a freshman at Towson University who got charged with possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. It is a typical case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time as well as a clear case of overcharging by the police as I have discussed in previous blogs. Although I believe the case will work out favorably in the long run, it will certainly have some short term criminal and administrative consequences.

My client moved into the dorms at Towson University just a few weeks ago. He didn't have any high school friends who were also attending the university so he signed up to be randomly assigned roommates. He soon learned that his new roommates were marijuana smokers who frequently smoked in the dorm room. This past Saturday that careless habit came back to haunt them because one of the RA's apparently smelled the smoke coming from their room and called the police.

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September 25, 2008

Overcharging in Baltimore County Narcotics Case - A Common Practice

Maryland Criminal Attorney - Baltimore Criminal Attorney I represented a client today on a possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance case today in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. In this case the particular substance was amphetamines and the case presents a good example of how many narcotics detectives overcharge certain cases - presumably to inflate their own felony arrest statistics.

In this case the client was pulled over for a routine traffic offense. The officer claimed, as they frequently do, that he smelled the odor of burning marijuana coming from the car. (The Court of Appeals ruled approximately 15 years ago that the smell of marijuana alone constitutes probable cause. As one might imagine after that ruling was handing down, police officers across Maryland began to smell marijuana on car stops with increasing frequency). The officer ordered my client out of the car and commenced a search of the vehicle. Inside the vehicle the officer found a small amount of cocaine and two percocets, which for anyone who doesn't know, is a prescription narcotic. He arrested my client and charged him with possession of a controlled dangerous substance.

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September 25, 2008

Online Prescribing of Controlled Substances

Our firm has represented both doctors and and Web sites who are under investigation or have been charged with prescribing controlled substances via the Web.

The growing number of Web sites that offer consumers the opportunity to obtain prescription medications pursuant to an online medical consultation have been attracting considerable regulatory scrutiny from state and federal health officials.

For example, in Illinois, the Department of Professional Regulation suspended the license of Dr. Robert Filice for prescribing Viagra via an Internet pharmacy for patients he had never seen. Dr. Filice was working as a consultant for The Pill Box, a San Antonio, Texas-based pharmacy chain that sells online. The state suspended Dr. Filice's license immediately because it determined his actions put people in danger. The agency later reinstated his license when he admitted that his conduct was "unprofessional." The physician was fined $1,000, put on a two-year probation, and ordered to not prescribe medication to patients without personally interviewing and examining them.

Patients who wanted a prescription drug like Viagra logged onto The Pill Box's site and filled out a health questionnaire. The completed form went to the company's medical consultants, including Dr. Filice, who would reviewed the forms, and, if he found no health conditions that would preclude him from prescribing the drug, he would write a prescription for the drug, which the Pill Box would fill.

Many state legislators have passed or are considering bills to regulate online and mail-order pharmacies that sell products in the state. The laws would require Internet pharmacies to register with the state annually.

Recent enforcement actions in several other states highlighted below are indicative of this increased scrutiny at the state level:

• In Washington, the Board of Health fined an orthopedic surgeon $500 for engaging in "unprofessional conduct" by writing Viagra prescriptions for patients without performing a physical examination.

• In California, state regulators recently shut down two web sites—www.drpropecia.com and www.deyarmanmedical.com.com—run by a San Diego osteopath who was using the Web to prescribe baldness treatments without performing a traditional medical examination. The state is likely to fine the doctor, who has been practicing medicine for nearly a quarter-century, and could take away his license.

• In Kansas, the Attorney General on June 9 filed civil petitions alleging violations of consumer protection laws against seven companies that were selling prescription-only medications, including Viagra and weight-loss drugs, over the Internet. The Attorney General alleged that the companies violated a variety of state laws. Primarily, the alleged misdeeds stem from the distribution of prescription drugs by a doctor or pharmacist who was not licensed in the state. The state went after not only the sites that prescribe the medications, but also three pharmacies that filled the prescriptions. One of the suits alleges that Viagra was illegally dispensed to a 16-year old boy using his mother's credit card. If found liable, the companies could face penalties of $5,000 to $10,000 per violation.

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August 26, 2008

Drug Asset Forfeiture under Maryland State Law - A Discussion By A Baltimore Criminal Attorney

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.

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August 13, 2008

Update of Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana Case involving Confidential Informant

Maryland Criminal Attorney Last month I blogged about a Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana Case that I was handling in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City that involved a Confidential Informant. I wrote that in many cases involving the Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin or other controlled dangerous substances, the police have utilized a confidential informant known in the street vernacular as a snitch. In the case I was handling I believed that I could force the disclosure of the informant's identity because I believed that the person may have been the brother of the person whom my client was with when he was arrested. I filed a written motion based on the facts as laid out in the statement of charges. Unfortunately, a Criminal Defense Attorney never really knows what the facts will be in their entirety until the police officers get on the stand and testify because they invariably add facts that were not in the charging document. This makes it somewhat difficult to prepare for these cases because, again the attorney doesn't know the complete factual scenario until the court date when the motion has to be argued. As a reminder, the facts as laid out in the statement of charges is a follows:

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July 21, 2008

Mandatory Sentences in Maryland for Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Dangerous Substance Offenses

As an experienced and aggressive Maryland Criminal Attorney I regularly represent defendants in Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County and throughout the State of Maryland who are charged with violating state laws criminalizing the manufacture of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), distribution of CDS or with possessing these substances in sufficient quantities and/or under certain circumstances which would lead to conclusion that the defendant possessed the substance with the intent to distribute it. The CDS's mostly commonly involved in these cases in Maryland are cocaine, heroin and marijuana although an increasingly large percentage of these cases involve prescription pain killers such as Percocet, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone and others. A small percentage of cases involve so called "club drugs" such as MDNA also known as ecstasy, ketamine and others. Occasionally a Maryland criminal lawyer will run into a case involving PCP or methamphetamines.

Under certain circumstances, individuals charged with violating these Maryland laws, primarily dealing with schedule 2 and 3 narcotics as well as marijuana, are subject to mandatory prison terms that may not be suspended and must be served without parole.
In Maryland there are two classifications of offenders who qualify for mandatory prison terms. The first involves defendants who have been previously convicted of distribution or possession with the intent to distribute CDS. These defendants are commonly termed repeat offenders or subsequent offenders. The second classification deals with defendants who are charged with possessing large quantities of CDS, so called "weight counts" and situations where in addition to possessing large amounts of CDS, the defendant is charged with being an organizer or leader of a particular drug organization; so called "kingpins".

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July 15, 2008

Possession of Controlled Dangerous Substances and Confidential Informants

Maryand Criminal Attorneys or Criminal Lawyers in Baltimore and around the State deal with a high volume of cases involving the possession of controlled dangerous substance (CDS) such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, methamphetamine, etc., and cases dealing with possession with intent to distribute these substances. Confidential informants are one of the primary sources of information for narcotics detectives and are regularly utilized by them in narcotics investigations. In some instances the informants are registered and paid, in others they are facing charges themselves and are seeking leniency with the authorities also known as "working off their charge". Other informants are simply concerned citizens who are reporting criminal activity but are unwilling to testify in open court. Typically in these investigations, narcotics detectives will use information provided by the confidential informant either to secure a search warrant for a particular place or to establish probable cause to stop a particular individual, usually in the context of a car stop. These warrantless encounters are more frequently litigated than are cases involving warrants. The reason for this is that searches based upon warrants that are duly signed by a judge or magistrate are afforded a presumption of reasonableness. In challenging a search warrant the defense attorney has to get over the additional hump that is the "Leon" good faith exception. The good faith exception basically states that even if the probable cause for a search warrant is found to be deficient or some of the information contained in the statement of probable cause is found to be incorrect, the court will still uphold the constitutional validity of the search so long as the police officers acted in good faith. In other words a defense attorney basically has to show that either the police intentionally lied in order to get the warrant or that the warrant application is so completely devoid of probable cause that no police officer acting in good faith could have believed it to be sufficient. Obviously, this is a very difficult standard.

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July 15, 2008

Confidential Informants - When the Government must disclose their identity?

For a Maryland Criminal Attorney it is imperative to understand the law regarding the use of confidential informants by police and prosecutors. There are generally two issues when dealing with confidential informants: The first issue is does the confidential informant provide sufficiently detailed information about which he or she can demonstrate a basis of knowledge to justify probable cause for a search or at least reasonable articulable suspicion for an investigatory stop. The second issue is whether or not the government must disclose the identity of the informant. I will discuss this second issue in this blog and leave the first issue for another day. The issue of whether or not the government must disclose the identity of the confidential informant issue turns on whether the informant is a "mere tipster" or an actually participant in the transaction. I have a case that I am currently working on where I intend to request the disclosure of the identity of the confidential informant. Here is my memorandum of law in support of that motion. I have deleted the last names and other identifying information of the participants including my client for privacy reasons.

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July 10, 2008

Speedy Trial in the District Court of Maryland - Discussion by Baltimore Maryland Attorney

An Aggressive Maryland Criminal Attorney will always review all criminal cases for Constitutional Violations such as Speedy Trial, Illegal Search and Seizure, Illegal Confessions in violation of a person's Miranda Rights and, Illegal Traffic Stops. I have a case scheduled for next week in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City at the North Avenue location that involves a significant Speedy Trial issue that I believe will result in the dismissal of all charges.

The client allegedly had a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend at the time, way back in March of 2006. The ex-girlfriend went to the court commissioner and swore out a warrant against him alleging that he had assaulted her in the second degree and repeatedly harassed her and committed telephone misuse by repeatedly calling her with the intent to harass her. The warrant was issued that day but there was apparently never any attempt to serve this warrant on my client until April of this year, over two years after the warrant was issued. This obviously puts the issue of Speedy Trial in play. Speedy Trial is an issue that comes up often in serious felony cases in the Circuit Court, particularly in Baltimore City. In felony cases that are charged in Circuit Court, either by way of indictment or criminal information, Speedy Trial commences upon the filing of that formal charge, not when the original warrant is issued. That is because the original warrant in the majority of circuit court cases is issued by way of a District Court charging document, known as a Statement of Charges, a charging document upon which the defendant cannot be tried.

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June 23, 2008

Illegal Search and Seizure and other Constitutional violations leading to Suppression of Evidence under Maryland Law

Maryland Criminal Attorney - Maryland Criminal Lawyer - Baltimore Criminal Attorney - Baltimore Criminal Lawyer In all criminal cases there are basically two types of defenses: legal defenses and factual defenses. Legal defenses are common in possession with the intent to distribute narcotics cases, rape, robbery, murder and burglary cases, as well as driving under the influence (DUI) and domestic violence cases. To determine whether a legal defense exists in a particular case an aggressive criminal attorney will typically ask several questions of the defendant such as: Were you read your Miranda Rights prior to giving the police a statement? Did the police show you a search warrant and leave you a copy of same? Did you consent to the search of your home, car or person? These questions will help an aggressive criminal attorney begin his investigation into whether the police violated the client's rights either by conducting an illegal search or illegally obtaining a statement.

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June 10, 2008

Baltimore Drug Cases-Common Themes

Having been an active Baltimore criminal defense lawyer for 18 years, I have represented over 4000 criminal defendants charged with felony drug (CDS) crimes in Baltimore City Circuit Court. I have come to realize that the vast majority of drug cases in Baltimore fall into three categories: 1) hand-to-hand, 2) dropsy, and 3) search and seizure.
Hand-to-hand cases involve the Baltimore police observing a drug transaction between two or more criminal defendants. When defending these cases, experienced criminal defense lawyers look to see if the alleged seller has any drugs or money on his person. Also, if the "buyer" is not arrested, Baltimore city jurors are very skeptical that a crime has been committed.

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