Articles Tagged with baltimore city police

The Gun Trace Task Force was an elite unit within the Baltimore City Police Department tasked with getting illegal guns off the streets.  But as a blockbuster federal investigation revealed, GTTF members were themselves criminals of the worst kind: crooked cops who conspired to terrorize the very same citizens they swore to protect and defend.  Their misconduct was shocking even for a City accustomed to police scandals: suspicion-less stops and arrests, writing false police reports and fake search warrants, lying in court, planting evidence, beating detainees, robbing citizens, and on and on.  Some measure of justice was achieved after the officers involved were convicted of federal conspiracy charges, but the battle to ensure appropriate compensation for the victims is ongoing.  A recent decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals in two cases brought by GTTF victims represents an important victory in that battle.

In Baltimore City Police Department, et al. v. Ivan Potts, Misc. No. 6, September Term, 2019, and Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Estate of William James, No. 51, Sept. Term, 2019 (https://mdcourts.gov/data/opinions/coa/2020/6a19m.pdf), the Court considered whether Baltimore City and the Police Department should be forced to pay judgments against GTTF officers obtained by two victims, Ivan Potts and William James.  The facts of their cases are egregious, but sadly typical of the crimes committed by the GTTF officers.

Ivan Potts

A few weeks ago I defended Baltimore County Police Officer Christopher Spivey in a use of force assault case.  After listening to 3 days of testimony and evidence, the jury took less than 30 minutes to find him not guilty of all charges.  Then at least six members of the  jury waited around to shake Officer Spivey’s hand and thank him for his 10 years of service to the community as a police officer.

A few days later the Editors of the Sun wrote what I view as an outrageous editorial in which they dismissed the juries’ verdict and all but lamented the fact that there were no demonstrations of social unrest as a result of the acquittal.  Below is a link to the editorial as well as the response that I sent to the paper.  Not surprisingly the editors lacked the journalistic integrity to print my response.

My Response:

Most Experienced and Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorneys handle many cases in which the client is charged with Violation of Probation. Typically when a judge places a criminal defendant on probation, the judge will require the person to do certain things while on probation such as report to an agent, perform community service, participate in drug treatment. The probation also requires the defendant to remain law abiding and very often to be randomly tested for drug use.

If a defendant violates any of these conditions, the agent will notify the judge who will usually order a hearing to determine if he probation has been violated and very often issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Many judges routinely order that the defendant be held without bail until such hearing takes place. Many attorneys wrongly assume that violations of probation are not defensible since there is no prohibition on the use of hearsay testimony and the State must only prove the violation by a preponderance of the evidence standard, not beyond a reasonable doubt as is the case in criminal trials. Many defenses are in fact viable in violations of probation including speedy trial type defenses. I successfully defended a client in a violation of probation hearing this week in Baltimore County District Court using this type of defense. Here are the facts:
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I recently filed a multi-million dollar case against the Baltimore City Police Department involving an illegal and unwarranted body cavity search. Having received many inquiries since than on the law in this area, I will explain the nuts and bolts of the legality of strip searches in Maryland.

The key Maryland cases regarding the reasonableness of a strip search are State v. Nieves, 383 Md. 573 (Md. 2004) and Paulino v. State, 359 Md. 341 (Md. 2007). Both cases reiterate that it is well established both that the State has the burden of proving the legality of a warrantless search and that warrantless searches are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment absent some recognized exception. Although a search incident to arrest is a recognized exception to the warrant requirement, a strip search incident to arrest is held to a much higher standard.

The Nieves court held that the reasonable, articulable suspicion standard applies in the strip search incident to arrest context. Nieves, 383 Md. at 596. While strip searches for felony arrests may always be justifiable, strip searches following arrests for minor offenses are generally ‘found wanting’, unless the officer had information that would have led to a reasonable suspicion that the person was carrying weapons or contraband at the time of the arrest. Id. at 592. Nieves was arrested for traffic offenses that included driving on a suspended license, negligent driving, failure to control speed, and giving false accident information. The court found that a strip search following Nieves’ arrest was not reasonable because the nature of the traffic violations for which he was arrested failed to create a suspicion that he was carrying weapons or contraband. Id. at 596. The justification for the search of Nieves based on his prior drug offenses and the fact that he was driving a car whose owner was associated with drugs was also found lacking. The court held that allowing a strip search based on prior drug arrests would amount to allowing a search based on a person’s status, rather than an individualized assessment of the circumstances. Id. at 597.
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