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And now the final protective order issue

gavel2 1 Maryland law provides for temporary protective or peace orders in an effort to prevent domestic violence, which may ultimately be followed by a request for a final protective order lasting for a year. The appellate courts have said that when fashioning relief in a domestic violence case, the court “is to do what is reasonably necessary no more and no less-to assure the safety and well-being of those entitled to relief.” How the Courts go about deciding such difficult cases is illustrated by a recent unreported opinion from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals called Gali v. Gali.

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Get ready for the subpoena for computers

gavel2 1 With the advent of personal computers, the courts have had to develop law on how to apply the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures to police efforts to obtain evidence from computers. How search warrants to obtain such information fit within the constitutional scheme was explored by Maryland’s intermediate appellate court in an opinion issued this week in a case called John Fone v. State of Maryland.

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The ultimate question for potential jurors

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The 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a criminal defendant’s right to trial by an impartial jury. Part of the process to assure impartiality in a jury panel is the process of voir dire, whereby the trial judge asks questions of the prospective jurors to make sure they are qualified to serve, and to seek to uncover any reasons a juror could not be fair and impartial. One of the questions which must be asked, if requested, in a criminal case is the Defense Witness question.

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Sometimes you restrain the defendant

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A criminal defendant has a constitutional right to be present in the Courtroom during his criminal trial. The Courts have made it clear that placing the defendant in criminal restraints, particularly in front of a jury, is inherently prejudicial to the defense. However, there are circumstances in which the courts are justified in restraining a disruptive defendant, as illustrated by a recent opinion from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals called Jeffrey Shiflett v. State of Maryland.

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Fight or flight and feelings of fright

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It may seem to be common sense that when the accused person flees the scene of a crime, a jury may consider that fact in deciding guilt. Maryland case law carefully defines, however, when a jury may consider flight as evidence of guilt. This is illustrated in a recent unreported opinion from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals called Sharnieli Nathanial Bingham v. State.

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And now we are goading a mistrial

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Ordinarily, the constitutional protection of double jeopardy bars a retrial of a criminal defendant for the same offense where a jury had been impaneled and a mistrial ending the trial proceedings occurs. This protection comes from the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life and limb.”  What happens when the prosecution is said to have deliberately goaded the defense into moving for a mistrial was explored in an unreported opinion this month from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Michael Stewart v. State.

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Electronic harassment and emails

In this age of email, abuses in using email to harass have led to Maryland and other States creating statutes that criminalize email harassment. A particularly egregious case reported recently from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals illustrates the penalties an offender can pay for such harassment. The case is called Michael Anthony Johnson v. State of Maryland.

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Another "Birther" bites the dust

There have been a number of lawsuits filed by persons referred to in the press and media as “birthers,” who allege that President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible under the U.S. Constitution to be President. While the President’s second term is approaching its end, last week the Maryland Court of Special Appeals addressed such a suit, in a case called Montgomery Blair Sibley v. John Doe.

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Marijuana is still considered illegal

In 2014 the Maryland General Assembly changed Maryland law as to the penalties that can be imposed for possession of marijuana, so that possession of less than 10 grams is now considered a civil offense punishable by a fine and not a criminal defense. Whether this change in the law affects searches and seizures in Maryland was explored in an opinion last month from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Joshua Bowling v. State.

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Fun with wiretaps and other things

Maryland has a Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, which regulates the interception or recording of wire, oral and electronic communications. Maryland law is even stricter than federal wiretapping statutes, because generally in Maryland both parties to a communication such as a telephone call must consent to the communication being recorded in order to be legal. One exception to this requirement involves the supervision of law enforcement over recording of call, as explored by Maryland’s highest Court in an opinion just filed by the Court of Appeals in a case called David Glenn Seal v. State of Maryland.

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