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As a Former Assistant State’s Attorney and Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney for almost 20 years, I have prosecuted and defended thousands of people charged with Second Degree Assault and/or First Degree Assault. For reasons that I cannot understand, there is a very common misperception in the general population and even with some in law enforcement, that Maryland does not recognize the concept of Self-Defense. This is simply not the law. The State of Maryland and every other State for that matter, absolutely does recognize the legal doctrines known to every first grader as Self-Defense and Defense of Others.

The right of people to defend themselves against violent attack goes back at least to English common law and probably as long as people have gathered together in organized societies. It is an obvious fundamental human right so it is difficult to understand how how widespread this misunderstanding has become in Maryland. The only theory I can come up with is that people are confusing the concept of a Mutual Affray which Maryland does not technically recognize with the universally recognized theory of Self-Defense. I had a client come in and meet with me this week that I think illustrates this misunderstanding of Maryland Law on this subject well. Here are the facts:
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As an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys we often witness people make the big mistake of representing themselves in criminal court. The old adage is, “he who represents himself, has a fool for a client”. Truer words have never been spoken, particularly when dealing with criminal charges

The typical scenario is that someone is arrested and charged in a case that that they view as minor or at least something that they can handle themselves. Sometimes it actually works out and the person gets away with the mistake. Sometimes it blows up in their face immediately and they know it. But sometimes the mistake is latent and the person doesn’t realize how badly he messed up his life until years later. I had a case last week in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County in which my client was charged with Illegal Handgun Possession that fell into this last category. Fortunately, I was able to successfully resolve the current case but not before it cost the defendant far more than it would have cost to resolve the original matter had he contacted me then. And I was unable to undue the original conviction which will continue to cause collateral consequences for my client for many years to come and perhaps for the rest of his life. Here are the facts:
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It seems that Maryland Criminal Attorneys represent people charged in Domestic Violence Assaults with ever increasing frequency these days. As I have noted in the past, police and prosecutors seem to get more and more aggressive in charging and prosecuting these case by the day. In many of these Domestic Violence Assault cases, the alleged victim refuses to cooperate with the prosecution. Alleged victims will often recant the allegations that they made on the date of the incident, refuse to come to court, even when they have be summonsed 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 which often means if he goes to jail his family is devastated financially, or that the charges were fabricated in the first place. It is hard for some to believe that someone would fabricate charges against another person but unfortunately it happens all the time. And I believe that that is exactly what happened in a case I recently had had in the District Court for Baltimore County. Here are the facts:
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I am often confronted with clients who want to change lawyers because for one reason or another they have lost confidence in their current attorney. I have blogged about this issue often and usually do so by positing the rhetorical question, “did you hire the right lawyer”. I recently confronted this situation with a client who was charged with Second Degree Rape and related offenses. Obviously these are very serious charges that need to be handled by someone who knows what he or she is doing. In addition to facing serious jail time, anyone convicted of a sex offense faces the daunting prospect of being required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Unfortunately, there are many attorneys who will take on cases such as this one, who simply do not know what they are doing. Needless to say the results can be disastrous for the client depending upon at what point in the process the client determines that he is not be well represented. This particular client figured it out somewhere in the middle. That is, in time to prevent total disaster but not before suffering significant but unnecessary consequences. I have handled scores of sex offenses in my career but never one with facts quite like this one.
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I am very used to dealing with police tactics in my role as a criminal defense lawyer that some might consider to be overly aggressive. But the tactics I am seeing more and more of recently are going beyond aggressive and are, in my opinion, becoming down right counterproductive to the basic goals of law enforcement. What I mean by that is that the police are utilizing tactics that are breaking down the fundamental trust relationship between the police and the community that is necessary, indeed essential, for effective law enforcement – mostly in the pursuit of non-violent drug offenders.

Let me give you two examples from just the last hour. Here are the facts:
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I am and have been involved in a number of cases where law enforcement and criminal defendants attempt to punish victims of violent crime for reporting the crime and seeking justice. Sara Reedy’s case, discussed here is an excellent example of precisely how survivors, victim advocates and their lawyers should respond-by going on the offensive.

Sara Reedy was assaulted at gunpoint at the gas station where she was working as a cashier. The perpetrator pulled a gun on her, emptied the till and forced her to perform a sex act on him. The detective who interviewed Sara and thought she invented the story to steal money from her employer. While pregnant, she was arrested on theft and false reporting charges. Her perpetrator later admitted to committing a similar sexual assault not long before Sara’s assault and the charges against Sara did not stick.

Sara sued the detective and, after a protracted legal battle, won a $1.5 million settlement. I commend Sara and her legal team for having the courage and fortitude to fight this clear injustice and I believe all of us who advocate for victims of crime should heed the lesson that the only way to really change victim-blaming behavior is to fight back and wins.

Some of the more difficult cases that confront Aggressive Baltimore Criminal Attorneys are charges involving the possession of illegal firearms or possession of firearms by people who are prohibited to possess them due to a prior criminal conviction. Prosecutors in Baltimore City in particular are instructed to prosecute these cases under a zero tolerance policy and to seek incarceration in every cases.

Last week I successfully defended a man charged in a 10 count charging document of various charges alleging illegal possession and use of firearms. The charges included illegal possession of a short barrel shotgun, illegally discharging a firearm within the city limits, handgun on person, reckless endangerment and other related offenses. This case is a good example of how aggressively the State’s Attorney’s Office is prosecuting firearms cases, even in a situation like this one where the evidence was quite weak and the defendant had no prior criminal record. Here are the facts:
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As Experienced and Aggressive Criminal Attorneys we often represent people charged with Possession with the Intent to Distribute Controlled Dangerous Substances such as Cocaine, Marijuana and Prescription Drugs. In these types of cases there are typically 2 categories of defenses that can be pursued – factual and legal defensese with legal defenses being more common. A factual defense usually involve claims that the person was not in fact in possession of the substance, that the substance was not in fact the illegal substance claimed by the police or that the amount is insufficient to be for the purpose of distribution.

Legal defenses involve claims that the police violated the defendant’s Constitutional rights while investigating the crime. Usually these claims relate to illegal search and seizure but sometime involve illegally obtained confessions. These claims are often referred to as “loopholes”. I successfully defended a defendant charged with possession over 10 pounds of marijuana in the Baltimore County Circuit Court. The case involved several hearings and dragged on for well over a year before we finally prevailed and had all charges dismissed. Here are the facts:
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As for the last 15 years I have seen just about every factual scenario possible when it comes to people charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. I have blogged many times about the fact that it has become increasingly difficult over the last 15 years to secure a “not guilty” finding in a DUI case. The laws have become much stricter with the introduction of the “Per Se” violation and the reduction of the legal limit for DUI for .10 to .08. So in an increasing number of cases, experienced attorneys need to recognize quickly whether or not a case is defensible or whether to focus on mitigation instead.

Most not guilty results in DUI cases these days come by attacking the stop and suppressing the evidence. Even that has become more difficult over the years as groups such as MADD have begun monitoring court rooms and applying other grass roots pressure to persuade judges to get “tougher” on DUI’s. I had a case today in Howard County that was both a rare first factual scenario for me and also a reflection of the increasing intolerance for drinking and driving in Maryland courts. Here are the facts:
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STSW attorneys Andrew White gained a high stakes victory in the Baltimore City Circuit Court in a case in which an STSW client was charged with multiple felony counts involving the possession of a handgun. The client had been charged after a car in which he was riding crashed on a northern Baltimore City roadway. According to witnesses at the scene, a handgun was thrown from the vehicle after the car flipped over multiple times and came to rest on its side. The witnesses described how the driver of the vehicle threw the gun from the car, which witnesses told police was being operated at a high rate of speed prior to the crash. The driver testified as a prosecution witness and testified that the STSW client gave her the firearm after the crash occurred. She also testified that the client possessed the firearm because he wanted to confront persons who had reportedly hurt his son. At trial, Mr. White and Ms. Murphy discredited the cooperating witnesses and used the physical evidence from the crash scene to show that the prosecution’s version of events was not possible. In issuing the “not guilty” verdict, the Circuit Court Judge agreed that the prosecution’s version of the case was undermined by the evidence adduced by Mr. White and Ms. Murphy at trial as well as by the extensive cross-examination of the cooperating witness.

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