Assault Cases are among the most common cases Aggressive Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys handle. These are among the most serious cases that we see, particularly when the case involves significant injury or a vulnerable victim. The maximum penalty for just misdemeanor Assault, known as Second Degree Assault is a whopping 10 years! Of course people do not often the maximum penalty for this crime, but people are regularly incarcerated for assault cases in Maryland.
I had a case in Baltimore County last week involving a fight between two women. Prison was a distinct possibility for my client in the event of a conviction as the so called victim in the case was both seriously injured and at least claimed to be a vulnerable victim. Here are the facts of the case.
My client is a 35 year old mother of six. She went to a Subway shop last summer to purchase food for her children and herself. According to her version of the events, as she was getting back into her car, an empty soda can fell out onto the pavement. As she got back out of her car to pick it up and throw it away the alleged victim pulled into the parking lot with her 14 year old son in the car. According to my client, the alleged victim called her a white trash littering piece of sh*# and other choice names before she even had as chance to pick the can up to throw it in the trash. The women then got out of the car and a fight commenced.
According to the version relayed to the police by the alleged victim, it was my client who initiated the verbal confrontation after she simply advised her that there was a trash can right behind her. According to the alleged victim, she was basically an innocent victim who was viciously attacked by my client and seriously injured essentially without provocation. She also claimed to be handicapped and has used a cane for over 3 years to walk. Her injuries included deep scratches all over her face that admittedly looked very bad in the photos that were introduced into evidence. According to several witnesses, she was bleeding profusely from her face immediately after the fight.
We drew a very good judge whom I knew from past experience was not afraid to put the word “not” in front of the word “guilty”. Based on this fact, along with how bad the pictures of the alleged victim’s injuries looked (as well as her exaggerated use of a cane to move about the courtroom), we chose a court trial instead of a jury trial. The State presented 3 witnesses including an independent witness who had happened upon the fight. It is rarely a good thing in an assault case when the State presents an independent witness, but in this case the testimony was somewhat of a mixed bag. The most important factor was that she did not witness how the fight had started leaving that issue to be testified to only by the clients and one interested witness on each side. She did, however, offer some testimony that was quite damaging to my client and our version of the facts. She testified that after the fight was broken up and even after the police arrived, my client continued to scream and curse and continued to act in a very aggressive manner. She also testified that my client smell strongly of alcohol, a fact confirmed by the responding officer in his report.
The problem for the so called victim when she next testified was that according to her own story, she was seated safely inside of her car when the verbal altercation began. Under cross-examination she tried very hard to dance around the questions of how and why she got out of her car when, according to her, my “crazy” client was threatening and berating her right outside. Why not drive away, I asked? Why not simply lock the doors and call the police? Eventually she grudgingly admitted that when my client said she was going “kick, her ass”, she replied “oh, yeah, you think so?”. She admitted further that by that response, she meant that she might kick my client’ ass and not the other way around. The cross-examination got fairly easy at that point as it was clear to everyone in the room that, regardless of whose story one believed about who provoked whom into the fight, both women were very willing participants.
After that very productive cross, I opted not to call my client to the stand to testify. The reason for this was that her version of the events was already in evidence because the prosecutor and I had agreed to introduce the police report. I also had another witness who would testify that the alleged victim and not my client started the fight. So I didn’t really need her to testify to give her version. I also did not want her to be cross-examined on either her past criminal record or the taunting Facebook posts that she had put up after the fight bragging about the outcome. As a general rule I am always reluctant to let my client’s testify and for these reasons, was particularly so in this case. As the old adage goes – “The road to the House of Corrections is paved with the testimony of defendants”.
I rested my case after calling my witness and argued that this was really a mutual affray, not an criminal assault of one person on another. In short order the Judge found my client not guilty in spite of the serious injury that she had inflicted on the alleged victim. The court essentially said, and I agree, that one cannot voluntarily participate in fisticuffs and then cry foul if they do not like the outcome.