Maryland Criminal Attorneys who represent defendants who are charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance need to have a solid understanding of what types of conduct by the police will lead to the application of the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule states that in circumstances in which the police violate a person’s Constitutional Rights, any evidence collected by the police will be excluded from use at trial.
The most common situation in which the exclusionary rule is applied is in the context of a car stop. In order for the police to lawfully stop a motorist, the police officer must either witness a violation of the rules of the road such as speeding or running a stop sign, or the officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion (RAS) that the operator of the vehicle is committing a crime. If it is determined by the court that the officer neither witnessed a violation of the traffic laws or had RAS to believe a crime was being committed, all evidence that is gathered as a result of the illegal stop will be suppressed. That is exactly what happened in my case today in Essex District Court, in Baltimore County. Here are the facts:
My client was driving an automobile that is owned by a friend at approximately 1:30am in the Turner’s Station section of Baltimore County. The officer wrote in his report and later testified that he recognized the car and knew from a previous MVA check that the owner of the vehicle had a suspended license. The officer acknowledged on cross examination that he did not run the registered owner of the vehicle through MVA on this occasion and did not specify when the “previous” occasion was that he did. The Assistant State’s Attorney did not revisit this issue on re-direct as she should have.
The officer, who was driving in the opposite direction made a u-turn to investigate. He then wrote in his report that as he was catching up to the vehicle, the operator put the vehicle in reverse and backed up “a few feet” down the street before parking and exiting the vehicle.
The Officer testified that he immediately recognized my client from previous encounters and on cross, acknowledged that he immediately knew that he was not the registered owner whom he (the officer) believed to have a suspended driver’s license. He testified that he confronted my client who refused to stop and eventually fled on foot. The officer called for back up officers who located my client and after a brief struggle, took him into custody. The other officers claim to have recovered cocaine from his person at the arrest scene and more cocaine back at the police station during a strip search. The officer then ran my client’s MVA record and found him to being driving without a license. He charged my client with unsafe backing, driving without a license, resisting arrest and possession of cocaine.
I argued to the court that the officer had no RAS to stop my client because he had no knowledge at the time of the stop that my client did not have a license and testified that he immediately recognized him and knew he was not the registered owner whom he believed to be suspended. Moreover, I argued that even if it had been the registered owner driving the vehicle the officer would not have had RAS to stop him without confirming his suspicion that he was suspended or at the very least clarifying when this “previous” occasion was.
I further argued that backing up “a few feet” in order to park did not violate the unsafe backing statute in the code. Indeed, I argued, I don’t know any other way to parallel park other than to pull past the spot and back into it. The judge agreed with my arguments and suppressed all evidence.