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The Gun Trace Task Force was an elite unit within the Baltimore City Police Department tasked with getting illegal guns off the streets.  But as a blockbuster federal investigation revealed, GTTF members were themselves criminals of the worst kind: crooked cops who conspired to terrorize the very same citizens they swore to protect and defend.  Their misconduct was shocking even for a City accustomed to police scandals: suspicion-less stops and arrests, writing false police reports and fake search warrants, lying in court, planting evidence, beating detainees, robbing citizens, and on and on.  Some measure of justice was achieved after the officers involved were convicted of federal conspiracy charges, but the battle to ensure appropriate compensation for the victims is ongoing.  A recent decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals in two cases brought by GTTF victims represents an important victory in that battle.

In Baltimore City Police Department, et al. v. Ivan Potts, Misc. No. 6, September Term, 2019, and Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Estate of William James, No. 51, Sept. Term, 2019 (https://mdcourts.gov/data/opinions/coa/2020/6a19m.pdf), the Court considered whether Baltimore City and the Police Department should be forced to pay judgments against GTTF officers obtained by two victims, Ivan Potts and William James.  The facts of their cases are egregious, but sadly typical of the crimes committed by the GTTF officers.

Ivan Potts

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 an Aggressive Former Baltimore County Prosecutor and DUI/DWI Attorney, I have prosecuted and defended well over 5,000 DUI’s in my almost 20 year career. These cases are prosecuted very aggressively in Maryland with few dismissals and even fewer acquittals. The police have been trained to write highly detailed reports describing their interactions with defendants too include their performance on field sobriety tests. These detailed reports are then testified to in court and are very often viewed as sufficient evidence to convict, at least of Driving While Impaired, even with low blood alcohol readings such as .05 or .06.

I handled a case in Baltimore County this week in which my client blew only a .06. The prosecutor initially refused to dismiss the case. However, after speaking with me in detail about the circumstances of the police officer’s stop of my client and his performance on the field sobriety tests, I convinced her that she would be unable to prove the case. Here are the facts:
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As an Aggressive Criminal Attorney and Former Baltimore County Prosecutor, I have defended dozens if not hundreds of individuals who have been charged with Possession and/or Distribution of Child Pornography. I have been practicing exclusively criminal defense for the last 17 years since leaving the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office and handle these types of cases all over the State. There is simply no question that they are prosecuted more aggressively in Baltimore County than in most any other jurisdiction. For this reason, it is imperative to find a full time criminal attorney who has substantial experience handling Child Pornography cases, in Baltimore County.

I recently defended an individual in Baltimore County that is a good illustration of how aggressively these cases are prosecuted there. Here are the facts:
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As an aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney, who is also a former Assistant State’s Attorney, I have helped numerous clients accused or charged with possession or distribution of child pornography. These serious charges can be prosecuted in State court or Federal court. Since State criminal charges are different than Federal criminal charges, which often carry far more severe punishment, I team up with my partner and former Federal Prosecutor Andrew White, who led the sex offense unit of the United States Attorney’s Office for more than 7 years. Over the years Andy has had tremendous success using his connections to have these cases prosecuted in State courts where there are no minimum mandatory sentences, as there are in the federal system. However, even in State court, these serious crimes may result in a felony conviction, extended prison sentences and the requirement to register as a sex offender.
Serious consequences In Maryland, a conviction even for Misdemeanor Possession of Child Porn mandates registration as a Tier I Sex Offender for 15 years. A conviction for Felony Distribution or Possession with the Intent to Distribute Child Porn mandates registration as a Tier II Sex Offender for 25 years. Additionally, a charge of possession for distribution of child pornography will likely impact every aspect of your life. From job prospects, to where you can live, to not being able to step on the property of your child’s school, to having the police notify your neighbors of your status, as well as inclusion on sex offender websites with your exact home address and picture.
I recently had a young man facing these daunting consequences. Here is what happened:
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As an Aggressive and Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney and former Assistant State’s Attorney, I have prosecuted and defended well over a thousand First and Second Degree Assault Cases. These serious cases can carry substantial penalties to include lengthy jail sentences upon conviction – particularly when a serious injury is involved. The maximum penalties are 25 years and 10 years respectively. Many people are shocked to learn that second degree assault carries such a long jail sentence in spite of it being a misdemeanor.

I recently secured an acquittal for a Maryland school teacher who was charged in such as case. The incident, which I will describe below, resulted in the alleged victim sustaining a traumatic brain injury and was charged as a First Degree Assault. Needless to say, given the serious injury to the victim, the State was aggressively prosecuting the case. He are the facts:
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Sex Offenses including Second Degree Rape charges are among the most serious criminal offenses that are handled in the criminal just system. Anyone who is charged with Rape or any other Sex Offense requires the assistance of an Aggressive and Experienced Criminal Attorney who has substantial experience handling these types of cases. In the twenty years that I have been practicing exclusively criminal law, I have handled scores if not hundreds of Rape and Sex Offense cases both as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney.

I have written many times in this space about the importance of hiring an experienced criminal specialist when charged with any criminal offense. When dealing with Rape of Sex Offense charges, it is not just important, it is an imperative. I just finished successfully defending a 19 year old charged with Second Degree Rape in St. Mary’s County that was a shocking example of what can happen if this imperative is not observed. I was brought into the case 8 months after the charges were filed and just after the client’s current lawyer told him that he should plead guilty to Second Degree Rape and accept a 12 year prison sentence. His parents then reached out to me for a second opinion. Here are the facts:
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The charge against the officers of 2nd Degree Depraved Heart Murder is a real stretch in the Freddie Gray Case. Manslaughter is the most appropriate charge under these facts. Here is why:

Second Degree Depraved heart murder is the killing of another person while acting with an extreme disregard for human life. In order to convict, the state must prove (1) that the conduct of the defendant caused the death, (2) that the defendant’s conduct created a very high degree of risk to the life of Freddie Gray, and (3) the defendant, conscious of such risk, acted with extreme disregard of the life-ending consequences.

Analysis:

Now that all police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray have been charged by the Baltimore State’s Attorney, I will lay out what to expect in the next 30 days.

Charged by Criminal Information:

There are two ways to charge a felony in Maryland, one way is by Criminal Information and the other way is by Indictment. The Gray defendants have been charged by Criminal Information. Criminal Information means that the State’s Attorney believes their is probable cause the officers have committed one or more felonies. Under Maryland law, there must now be a judicial “rubber stamp” or independent finding of probable cause.

As of now, these defendants will automatically have a preliminary hearing scheduled within 30 days. At the preliminary hearing, a judge will listen to the evidence and make a determination if there is some link between the defendants and the felonies alleged. This is known as probable cause hearing. Most preliminary hearings involve a police officer simply taking the stand and reading the police report into the record . Defense counsel can ask limited questions as the questions relate to probable cause. In cases such as this, it is rare for a district court judge not to find probable cause that a felony has been committed. Upon the judicial finding of probable cause, the case is then forwarded to Circuit Court for trial.
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Defendants in DUI cases who have commercial driver’s license pose a unique set of challenges and considerations for Maryland DUI Attorneys. I have blogged often about the importance of selecting an attorney who specializes in DUI/DWI defense. Unfortunately, all too often we see attorneys with little or no experience with these types of cases appearing in court on these cases. Because of their lack of experience, these attorneys often make mistakes that can have serious consequences for their clients.

Often these attorneys make simple mistakes that no experienced DUI/DWI attorney would ever make. I was representing a client in the District Court of Baltimore County a few days ago. While waiting for my case to be called I witnessed an attorney whom I had never seen representing a client in a DUI case at all much less one involving a defendant with a commercial driver’s license. I found out later that this attorney was a so called “general practitioner” who spends the majority of his time handling divorce and personal injury matters. In other words, he was NOT a DUI/DWI specialist. As the reader may have guessed, it did not go well for the defendant. Here are the facts:https://criminal.silvermanthompson.com/brian-g-thompson.html
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