Articles Tagged with Criminal defense

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.

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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Recent reporting is a good example of both the increasing severity of federal sentences as well as an increased emphasis on federal prosecutions for those who are caught possessing and/or trading in child pornography. As a former Assistant United State’s Attorney for the District of Maryland I have both prosecuted as well as defended hundreds of cases involving child pornography.
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I recently defended a DUI case in the District Court in Baltimore, Maryland. My client had an acceptable performance on the field sobriety tests, but when he took the breathalyzer he “blew” a .23. The legal limit in Baltimore and Maryland for drunk driving (DUI) is .08. This was almost three times the legal limit. The case was dismissed, however, when it was pointed out that the Baltimore City Police breath technician did not give the defendant the breath test within two (2) hours from the time of the stop.
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