Articles Posted in Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS)

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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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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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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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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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.
Continue reading › 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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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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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 $100,000.00.

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.

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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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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