Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

Aggressive Maryland Criminal Attorneys and Domestic Attorneys are frequently confronted with the issue of whether or not Domestic Violence Protective Orders or Peace Orders can be expunged. This is an extremely important question given how readily available court information now is on the internet. Anyone with a computer or even a smart phone can bring up Maryland Judiciary Case Search and find out a person’s entire legal history in seconds. This information is available to potential employers and undoubtedly costs people job opportunities on a daily basis.

That is, of course, unless the person has been able to get the court records expunged. Under the criminal code a person is entitled to have any case expunged that resulted in either a Nolle Prosse, a Dismissal, a Stet or a Not Guilty Verdict also called an Acquittal. There are exceptions to this general rule such as a situation in which a person has a subsequent conviction or has pending charges. In these instances, expungement is typically not permitted even in the case of an acquittal, as unfair as this may seem. But what about a Domestic Violence Protective Order or a Peace Order? Are these civil orders subject to being expunged from a person’s record:

Unfortunately the answer is no. Expungement is available only in criminal cases and only in the limited circumstances that I outlined above. What is available is a process called “Shielding”, but it is also available only in limited circumstances and is not nearly as complete a cleansing of the record as is expungement.

Any Experienced Baltimore Criminal Defense Attorney will tell you that it is a very bad idea indeed to take your divorce lawyer ( or personal injury lawyer, or real estate lawyer or…) with you to criminal court. I have blogged many times about this issue but it still never ceases to amaze me how many people do just that, in spite of the stakes.

Legal situations obviously don’t get more serious or perilous than ones in which your very freedom is on the line. Unfortunately, too often people in these situations tend to simply call the only attorney they know or retain whoever their Aunt Lucy or Uncle Joe tells them to call. For whatever reason people rarely investigate an attorney’s background or qualifications prior to retaining the attorney. This is in most instances a colossal mistake that can have devastating consequences for the client. I was retained last week by a client in exactly this situation in a case. Here are the facts.
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As an Aggressive Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney, I have represented hundreds of people over the last 15 years who were charged with domestic violence assaults. Before that, I prosecuted hundreds more as an Assistant State’s Attorney. These cases are among the most difficult cases criminal defense lawyershandle because prosecutors are under tremendous pressure to prosecute these cases aggressively. There is simply no quicker way for a prosecutor to find him or herself out of a job than failing to prosecute one of cases only to have the defendant assault the victim again.

For this reason, even seemingly minor cases resulting in little or no injury are often prioritized by Assistant State’s Attorneys for aggressive prosecution. I had a case falling into this category last week in the District Court in Baltimore County. Here are the facts:
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As a Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney I have written frequently about the critical importance choosing the right lawyer if you find yourself charged with a serious felony. As I have noted in the past there are many lawyers out there who are primarily domestic or accident lawyers or have other specialties who occasionally take on a criminal case very often with tragic results for the client. These bad results for the client are usually the result of inexperience and lack of expertise by lawyers who don’t regularly operate in the criminal realm. These lawyers should not take these cases but the simple fact is that they do.

I don’t mean to impugn the integrity of these lawyers as I’m sure that they have convinced themselves that they are in fact qualified to handle criminal cases and may even have successfully resolved the majority of the few criminal cases they have handled. But it only takes one mistake to have devastating consequences on your life if that mistake is made on your case. I handled a domestic violence assault and handgun case in Baltimore County Circuit Court recently that illustrates this reality in rather stark terms. Here are the facts:
Continue reading › Maryland Criminal Attorneys handle a wide variety of criminal cases. Among the most common types of cases we see are domestic violence or family violence assaults. Prosecutors and Police categorize a case as domestic violence if it involves people who are involved in a romantic relationship whether or not they are married or children.

As noted, these cases are increasingly common in the District and Circuit courts primarily because the police and prosecutors have become increasingly aggressive over the past few years in investigating, charging and prosecuting these matters. In many cases by the time these matters make it to court the parties have reconciled and the alleged victim will not cooperate with the authorities in the prosecution of the case. In other cases the alleged victim exaggerates or even fabricates the incident entirely because of some other motivation such as child custody or simple revenge. I tried a case falling into this latter category this week in the District Court for Baltimore County. Here are the facts:
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Maryland Criminal Attorneys represent people accused of domestic violence assaults more and more often these days. As I have noted in the past, the numbers of these cases that are being pursued by the police and prosecutors have increased exponentially over the last decade and a half after the acquittal of OJ Simpson of the murder of his wife.

Very often in domestic violence cases the alleged victim refuses to cooperate with the prosecution. Alleged victims will often recant their allegations, evade service of process and refuse to appear in court or, if the couple is married, invoke the marital privilege and refuse to testify. There are many reasons why alleged victims do this including that the couple has reconciled their relationship, the defendant is the primary breadwinner in the family and his incarceration would cause economic hardship for the family, or that the charges were fabricated in the first place which, believe it or not, happens quite often and, I believe, it is what happened in the case I had this week in the District Court for Baltimore County.
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Maryland Criminal Attorneys are commonly called upon to represent defendants who are charged with domestic violence assaults. As I have noted in previous blogs on the subject of domestic violence, there was an explosion of new domestic violence arrests in this country after the OJ Simpson acquittal in 1994. Police officers were encouraged to aggressively enforce the law in domestic cases where they previously might have considered these cases family matters and not law enforcement matters.

Additionally special domestic violence police units and prosecution teams were created throughout the country and new laws were enacted to allow the police and prosecutor to more aggressively pursue perpetrators of domestic violence. For instance in Maryland, new laws were enacted to allow for the warrant-less arrest of those suspected of domestic assaults under certain circumstances – even when the defendant is only suspected of committing a misdemeanor. Unfortunately, some people have taken advantage of these new laws and the new tactics of the police and prosecutors to have others falsely arrested. I had just such a case in Baltimore County Circuit Court this week.
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Ever since the OJ Simpson verdict (the first one) Maryland Criminal Attorneys and criminal attorneys across the nation have seen a steady increase in the number of domestic violence cases charged as well as substantial increase in the vigor with which these cases are prosecuted. It seems that no prosecutor or judge wants to be asked “why didn’t you do something when you had a chance?” after an alleged domestic violence victim is killed in a subsequent incident.

Not only are prosecutors pursuing these cases with ever increasing vigor, they are also charging many of what used to be considered routine or garden variety misdemeanor cases as first degree felony assaults or even as attempted first degree murder cases. Many of these cases are charged this way based simply on the allegations of the complaining witness are without any medical evidence to corroborate the allegations. An allegation that a victim was choked or strangled can cause a case such as this to be charged as a felony. I have had three such cases in the last year, two are which are still pending.
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Any experienced criminal attorney in Maryland will tell you that the answer to this question is yes, at least in cases where the State has evidence other than the testimony of the alleged victim. In fact, in a non-domestic violence assault case that was recently decided by the Court of Appeals, Edmund v. State, the Court held that the State need not even identify the victim by name. The only requirement, according to the COA is that the victim be “substantially identified”. In the Edmund case, which incidentally I tried in the Baltimore County Circuit Court for the trial of this case, the defendant was alleged to have fired 5 shots from a handgun at nearly point blank range at a man whom the defendant claimed had been bullying him for some time. Remarkably, the victim was apparently not hit and he fled the scene. The police canvassed the area and checked the local hospitals with negative results. The police recovered the gun and shell casings and my client and his brother (a correctional officer) both gave written statements describing the incident. My client was indictment on attempted first degree murder, first degree assault and various handgun offenses.

In the charging document the alleged victim was only identified as a black male, five feet eight inches tall with a beard and a mustache. The COA held that there was simply no requirement that the victim be named or even identified beyond the vague description contained in the indictment and upheld his conviction. The good news for my client is that he was facing life in prison but I secured him a sentence of just eight years. He’ll be home in four.
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As a Maryland Criminal Lawyer/Attorney I frequently handle cases involving Domestic Violence Assaults. I was hired yesterday to represent an individual who is charged with a domestic violence second degree assault. He was arrested on Monday and then taken to the Court Commission who set the bail at $25,000. Unfortunately, his family did not get him bailed out prior to his bail review the next morning. Many people are not aware but a Judge can not only decrease a person’s bail at the bail review, the judge can also INCREASE THE BAIL.

This is exactly what happened in this particular case. The judge not only increased his bail, she ordered him to be held without bail. This is the second time that I have seen this happen in the last few weeks on relatively minor cases. I blogged about a client who was ordered to be held without bail by a judge in a DUI/DWI case last week in Baltimore City District Court. As in that case the client’s only option is to file a petition for habeas corpus bail review in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County and try to convince a Circuit Court Judge that holding a person who is charged with a misdemeanor assault without bail is unreasonable and amounted to an abuse of the District Court Judge’s discretion, which I certainly think is the case here.

However, these motions take at least a week to get into court so even if we are successful in getting the bail reduced, which I believe we will be, the client will have to remain in jail for that week. This may cause him to lose his job or have other serious consequences for him. This case is yet another example of why people who are charged with criminal or serious traffic charges need to get representation as soon as they are arrested so their rights can be protected. An experienced Maryland Criminal Lawyer would likely have been able to have prevented the bail from being revoked in this case which would have saved this individual from spending a week or more in prison on a case in which he is unlikely to be incarcerated even if convicted.

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