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This week, the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed all criminal charges against our client after the entirety of their evidence—incriminating statements coupled with the recovery of more than twelve pounds of cannabis and a loaded firearm—was suppressed by Circuit Court Judge Richard S. Bernhardt, following a three-hour suppression hearing held earlier this year.

In February 2023, our client was driving a rental car with California license plates and tinted windows when he was pulled over on I-95 for allegedly committing two traffic violations: (i) speeding and (ii) driving through a “gore area” of the Maryland House rest stop (the striped triangular area between the highway and the exit ramp). Upon initiating the traffic stop, the officer ordered our client to exit his vehicle and sit in the officer’s patrol vehicle, while the officer purportedly completed the traffic enforcement paperwork.

After isolating and detaining our client in the patrol vehicle, the officer delayed the traffic stop for several minutes, asking more than a dozen questions unrelated to completing the traffic stop paperwork and without ever advising our client of any Miranda warnings. During the interrogation, our client imprudently revealed that he was a cannabis farmer from California and that he possessed marijuana. Shortly thereafter, the officer asked for permission to search the vehicle, which our client refused.

Ippei Mizuhara, an interpreter for L.A. Dodger’s star Shohei Ohtani, was recently charged by federal authorities in California with one count of bank fraud related to his alleged theft of millions of dollars from Ohtani, which Mizuhara used to bankroll his prolific gambling habit. Though federal investigations often take a long time, the IRS was investigating the illegal gambling ring Mizuhara used to place his bets, so they had a substantial head start on their investigation.

News outlets often report the maximum penalties associated with criminal charges. But the reality is that the maximum penalties are seldom imposed. Instead, federal courts are required by law to calculate a range of imprisonment based on the sentencing guidelines. The federal sentencing guidelines are advisory – meaning the court need not impose a sentence within the guideline range – but they are the starting point for every federal sentence imposed. If a court decides to impose a sentence outside the guideline range, it must provide specific reasons for doing so. As a result, the guidelines provide a far more accurate estimate of the potential penalty that a federal defendant might face.

The guidelines work like a mathematical formula. The facts of the case determine whether certain guidelines apply, and any dispute about the application of the guidelines is resolved by the court at a sentencing hearing. These factors include the criminal history of the defendant, his role in the offense, and whether any aggravating circumstances exist.

The Rights a Defendant Waives: Qualification Guide for Defense Attorneys

As a service to members of the Maryland Bar, below you will find a typical criminal litany given by the defense attorney to the defendant before a guilty plea is accepted. Different lawyers have different styles when advising a defendant of the rights he/she is giving up in exchange for a guilty plea. This framework is typically effective and comprehensive as long as the proper elements and below questions are included.

As an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney, I have essentially given the same litany over 5,000 times in Circuit Courts throughout Maryland, dating back to my days as a felony Public Defender in Baltimore City (1991-1994). There are rare occasions when this litany needs tweaking due to the uniqueness of a particular case, but you should feel confident in using this verbatim in almost all instances.

At Silverman Thompson, we put our experience as former federal prosecutors to work to secure favorable outcomes for our clients. In March 2024, we successfully secured the dismissal of felony charges including armed carjacking, kidnapping, and armed robbery, among a host of related charges, against our client before he even appeared in Court.

What is the Interstate Agreement on Detainers?

The Interstate Agreement on Detainers (“IAD”) is an agreement between 48 states and the District of Columbia that streamlines the resolution of charges pending against sentenced prisoners. Louisiana and Mississippi are the only states that have not adopted the IAD.

What is the maximum penalty for a DUI in Maryland?

The maximum penalty for a DUI in Maryland is 1 year imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine for the first offense, and 2 years imprisonment and/or a $2,000 fine for a second offense.  See MD Code, Transportation §§ 21-901(a)(1), §27-101. If the offense involves the transportation of a minor, the maximum penalty increases to 5 years imprisonment and/or a $ 5,000 fine.

Do first-time DUI offenders go to jail in Maryland?

Sam Bankman-Fried was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in defrauding users of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX. While this sentence certainly seems harsh, and many commentators are stressing that the harm caused to investors was immense, several important federal sentencing statutes and programs will operate to significantly reduce the amount of time that Bankman-Fried actually spends in jail.

Under the First Step Act, Bankman-Fried will be able to receive “earned time credits” that will likely make him eligible for release from prison after serving 12.5 years. Under this act, inmates, like Bankman-Fried, who are convicted of qualifying fraud offenses and who complete “productive activities” can be eligible for pre-release custody (for example, home detention) at the halfway point of a sentence. The Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) encourages inmate participation in these “productive activities” because they reduce recidivism.

Additionally, federal inmates can earn a reduction in their sentence if they are eligible for and complete the “Residential Drug Abuse Program” or “RDAP.”  The RDAP program is the BOP’s most intensive treatment program in which inmates participate in half-day programming and half-day work, school, or vocational activities lasting nine months. If an inmate successfully completes the RDAP program, they can receive up to a one-year reduction of their prison sentence. In Bankman-Fried’s case, he would receive a one-year reduction of sentence if he completes the RDAP program.

“Moving forward, our office will continue to pursue stiff penalties [for child pornography cases] …”

That was the strong message delivered by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy on November 20, 2023, following the sentencing of Patrick Wojahn. Wojahn, the former mayor of College Park, pled guilty to 140 counts of possession and/or distribution of child pornography and was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison. The prosecutor assigned to that case explained during the sentencing hearing, “The reason why he pled to 140 counts was because our office is not going to take a position as to which child deserves to have their rape—that was memorialized on video and forever lives on the internet—pled to.”

So, you can imagine the angst my client felt when he learned on December 7, 2023—just a little over two weeks after the Wojahn sentencing—that he had been indicted with the same criminal offenses, in the same jurisdiction, by the same prosecutor. Like Wojahn, my client had no prior criminal record, was well-educated, a devoted family man with a good paying job. Yet here he was facing the possibility of decades in prison.

Section 16-303(d) of the Transportation Article of the Maryland Code criminalizes driving while your “license or privilege to drive is revoked in this State.” A new reported opinion from the Appellate Court of Maryland clarifies that to obtain a conviction for driving on a revoked license, the State must prove that the driver knew or was willfully blind to the fact of his or her revocation.

The case, Christian Eric Adkins v. State of Maryland, involved a challenge to the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury that the State needed to prove that the driver had knowledge of his revocation. Rather than give the instruction, the judge simply read the statute, which does not specifically mention the knowledge element. The Appellate Court of Maryland held that the requested instruction should have been given because the statute requires proof of knowledge to convict.

This is a sound decision as a matter of common sense and prior case law governing similar offenses. The Court relied on cases analyzing Transportation Article, § 16-303(c), which governs the offense of driving on a suspended license.  Those cases interpret the suspension statute as requiring knowledge as an essential element of the offense because “mens rea is required for the charge of driving while suspended.”’ Steward v. State, 218 Md. App. 550, 560 (2014) (quoting State v. McCallum, 321 Md. 451, 457 (1991)).  As explained in Steward, “the State must present evidence that the defendant either had actual knowledge that his or her drivers’ license was suspended, or that the defendant was deliberately ignorant or willfully blind to the suspension.” Id. In fact, Transportation Article § 12-114(a) provides that the MVA will give notice by either personal delivery to the person to be notified or by mail to the person at the address of the person on record with the MVA. Therefore, in the usual case, the State may be able to prove that a driver had knowledge.

What is Your Right to Remain Silent?

Most people are familiar with Miranda warnings from TV police procedurals and movies: you have the right to remain silent, any statement you make may be used against you, and you have the right to an attorney. In practice however, many people don’t invoke their right to silence or to an attorney. They may think that refusing to speak to police makes them look guilty, or simply wish to assist law enforcement with their investigations. Additionally, police are allowed to lie about the evidence against you, and can withhold information that, if revealed, might cause the interviewee to invoke their right to remain silent. Thus, speaking to the police without an attorney creates a very real risk that a person, even an innocent person, may unwittingly make incriminating statements to police.

The recent news coverage of the October 2021 shooting on the “Rust” film illustrates this point. Alec Baldwin, a wealthy, A-list celebrity, presumably with access to world-class lawyers, waived his Miranda rights and spoke to police without an attorney just hours after the gun he was holding discharged, killing one person, and injuring another. Baldwin’s response makes sense – he had just witnessed a terrible accident, and he wanted to help police understand what happened. For approximately one hour Baldwin spoke to police without an attorney present, describing details of the incident and on set gun protocols. He was not informed until the end of the interview that one of the victims had died. With involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin announced just last week, it isn’t yet clear what, if any, role Baldwin’s statement will play in the prosecutor’s case. However, the admissions he made during his police interview will likely foreclose defense strategies that may have otherwise been available to his attorneys.

On August 25, 2020 the Court of Appeals issued an important ruling regarding the modification of mandatory sentences for drug offenders who had entered into a guilty plea.  The Court unanimously ruled that the trial court does in fact have the authority to modify mandatory sentences given to certain drug offenders who entered into a guilty plea.  The Court went further and said these sentences may be modified even over the objection of the State.  The further concluded that these mandatory drug offense sentences may be modified by the trial court even in instances in which the defendant failed to file a timely motion to modify sentence.  This important decision will allow thousands of inmates the right to file a request to have their mandatory drug offense sentences be modified.  The attorneys at Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White have combined criminal experience of well over 100 years and include both a State Court of Appeals Judge and a former Federal Judge.  Our aggressive and experienced attorneys stand ready to file motions to modify mandatory sentences in any jurisdiction in the State.

Here is a synopsis of this important case:

In State v. Brown, Bottini, Wilson v. State-  decided August 24, 2020   The Court of Appeals addressed four questions of law concerning the application of the Justice Reinvestment Act which eliminated mandatory minimum sentences without the possibility of parole required by existing law for defendants who were convicted of certain drug offences and who were repeat offenders.  Further, the Act provided that a defendant could ask the trial court to reduce that sentence and provided the court with criteria which is now codified in Criminal Law Annotated Section 5-609.1.

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