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Last week, Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera of the Maryland Court of Appeals called for the abolition of contested elections for Circuit Court judgeships in the State. As I say goodbye to this column, and the fine people at the Montgomery County Sentinel, I join in Judge Barbera’s call for a constitutional amendment to change […]

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With the dispute over the timeliness of commencement of the impeachment trial being much in the news, Maryland’s Court of Appeals last week issued an opinion in Anthony Marlin Tunnell v. State of Maryland regarding the timeliness of commencement of a criminal trial. Maryland, by statute and a 1979 case called Hicks v. State, has […]

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Under the famous Supreme Court Miranda case, persons who have been arrested must be advised of their rights, including the right to consult with an attorney and to have their lawyer present during police questioning.  Once a suspect requests an attorney, the extent to which the police may further interact with the suspect was explored […]

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Maryland’s Court of Appeals some years ago decided that Comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA) evidence was unreliable and inadmissible. Testimony about CBLA was based on comparison of lead in bullets which supposedly came from the same distinctive vat of lead, which was used to posit that bullets that struck a victim came from the defendant’s […]

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At this time of year, law enforcement is rightly concerned with enforcing laws against drinking and driving. Maryland law includes a requirement that a person arrested for driving or attempting to drive while intoxicated or impaired, after being given their rights, agree to submit to a breathalyzer test or face suspension of  driving privileges. Maryland’s […]

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While the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants a criminal defendant facing possible imprisonment the right to have an attorney at trial, there are occasions when defendants still insist on representing themselves. That scenario raises challenges for the trial judge trying to conduct a proper trial, particularly in front of a jury. What happens […]

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The courts in presiding over trials in criminal cases are careful in determining whether to admit evidence of criminal conduct other than that for which the defendant is on trial. This includes evidence of conduct that suggests a consciousness of guilt for the charges at issue. The admissibility of such evidence was considered in an […]

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Under Maryland law, the Circuit Court for certain crimes has jurisdiction over criminal cases involving minors between the ages of 14 and 18. However, in such cases the defendant frequently requests what is known as a “reverse waiver” of the case to Juvenile Court where a child found involved in conduct that would constitute a […]

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It has become common in many jurisdictions, including Montgomery County, for the police to wear body cameras that show their actions and record audio. The Maryland Rules of Evidence have been amended to allow, under prescribed circumstances, audio from police body cameras to be admitted in evidence against a criminal defendant. How those rules work […]

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Since 1991, a Maryland statute has made evidence of “Battered Spouse Syndrome” admissible to prove the defendant’s motive or state of mind at the time of a alleged crime of violence against her abuser. Such evidence may be important for the trier of fact in determining if self-defense is a viable defense to the killing […]

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Courts are frequently called upon to apply the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures to police procedures. Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals this week reviewed whether the use of fare inspections on a light rail train violated the Fourth Amendment in a case called Kenneth Carter v. State of Maryland. The opinion indicates […]

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Many criminal cases are disposed of by guilty pleas, in which the trial judge must be satisfied that the defendant’s plea is knowingly and voluntarily given.  Under Maryland law, even after conviction a defendant may file what is known as a petition for writ of error corum nobis (“before us”) arguing that some fundamental error […]

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Jury service has been described by the Maryland courts as a responsibility and a right. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and Maryland statutes, potential jurors who may have disabilities cannot for that reason alone be excluded from jury service.  How the Maryland courts seek to address issues regarding jurors with disabilities was explored […]

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There is an old saying that “good fences make good neighbors.” However, it is not unheard of that what starts out as a dispute between neighbors over borders of property can end up in litigation. This is illustrated by an unreported opinion this week from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Erwin […]

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Maryland law has long held that a person could not be convicted of a crime based solely upon the testimony of an alleged accomplice to the crime, without some other corroborating evidence. In August, by a 5-2 vote the Court of Appeals ruled that, going forward, that rule was abolished. What type of corroboration the […]

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The fact that a suspect flees from the police, under Maryland law, does not prove that the accused is guilty of the crime or crimes charged. However, under certain circumstances the prosecution is entitled to a jury instruction explaining that flight may be considered as evidence of guilt. When such an instruction is appropriate was […]

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We all respect the difficult job that public school teachers have, and that most of them do well. The Maryland Education Article does provide, however, in Section 6-202 that on the recommendation of a county superintendent the State Board of Education may terminate the job of a teacher for incompetency. How that process works, and […]

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There have been many civil lawsuits against churches in recent years, seeking damages as a result of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.  One issue that may come up is whether in such a case mental health records of the alleged abuser can be obtained. This issue was addressed in a recent reported opinion […]

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The recent measles outbreak in several states has highlighted issues confronted by the courts in balancing parents who object to immunization of their children with public health. Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals recently addressed this issue in the context of a child placed with the Juvenile Court after being adjusted to require assistance, in an […]

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It is well known that for many years the police have at times utilized traffic checkpoints, for example to look for intoxicated drivers. What exactly constitutes a traffic checkpoint for purposes of analyzing whether the stop of a driver constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was explored […]

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The bounty of the Chesapeake Bay is one of the treasures of the State of Maryland, including its seafood such as crabs and oysters. In the 19th century, the bay was most famous for its oysters, and the state has regulated oyster harvesting since then. How the law enforces those regulations was explored in a […]

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In this age of gangs and other criminal conspiracies, the prosecution more than ever faces the problem of trying to get witnesses to testify against some criminal defendants. When a witness is granted immunity from prosecution in order to secure his or her testimony, alleged fears of reprisal may still make a witness uncooperative. Whether […]

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There is an old saying that a person who represents himself or herself in court has a fool for a client. The Maryland Rules provide procedures to protect individuals charged in criminal cases from foolishly terminating the services of an attorney in order to represent themselves. How this works was explored last week in an […]

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Maryland along with other states in recent years has changed its laws on possession of marijuana, in 2014 making possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana not a crime but subject to a civil citation. The police have long used the distinctive odor of marijuana as grounds to arrest and search suspects or vehicles, […]

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It is well known to the police that persons may conceal illegal drugs they are transporting, even in the private parts of their bodies. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and the courts are frequently called upon to adjudicate particularly whether searches without a warrant are constitutional. How this applies […]

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Trial attorneys have to decide whether to object to arguments presented by the opposing attorney in closing arguments to a jury, or balance whether they think an argument is legally improper with highlighting damaging arguments. Whether a prosecutor was simply arguing the credibility of a witness, as opposed to improperly “vouching” for that witness, was […]

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One of the crimes that may be charged as a result of participating in crimes such as robbery leading to the death of a victim is “felony murder,” involving the death of a person while the robbery is being committed. Proof of such crimes may depend on the sequence of events, as illustrated by an […]

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It is not often that an appellate opinion starts off quoting The Beatles. But, this week Maryland’s Court of Appeals began its opinion in Board of County Commissioners of Washington County v. Perennial Solar with: “Here comes the sun, and I say, its all right.” Since at least 2004, Maryland law has encouraged the development […]

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The operation of criminal gangs in this country is a problem that has been widely reported. As a result, Maryland has specific criminal laws outlawing gang behavior, in addition to traditional criminal laws on such crimes as murder and firearm violations. How the prosecution may prove gang membership was explored by an unreported opinion this […]

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Under the law in Maryland (and most other states), a surviving spouse in lieu of any assets left to them in the decedent’s will may elect to take a “statutory share” of their late spouse’s estate, which in the case of surviving children of the deceased is one-third of the net estate. Maryland’s Court of […]

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The Supreme Court last week finally resolved a constitutional challenge to the Bladensburg “Peace Cross,” ultimately ruling seven to two that the cross may stand. What is much less clear is whether there is any consensus as to how the Court will resolve future cases regarding the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, that “Congress […]

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There have been a number of television series and movies that focus on the trial process and the use of experts.  Whether an expert can be called to testify as to how witnesses remember and perceive events was explored in an unreported opinion from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Raminder Haur […]

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It is common in cities today to see food trucks parked on the street that sell a variety of types of food. Such mobile food vendors are licensed and regulated. Baltimore has an ordinance that limits parking of such food trucks within 300 feet of a restaurant selling the same type food. This was challenged […]

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We are all familiar with online retailers like Amazon, which are involved in a huge number of sales of products. Whether under Maryland law Amazon can be sued for a defective product that it shipped to a customer was explored by the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a recent case called Erie Insurance […]

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It is becoming more and more common for buildings such as businesses to have surveillance cameras, and the police commonly search for and obtain surveillance video in an effort to identify suspects. Even with modern technology, such videos or photographs. They are often not of the clearest quality, and the prosecution may seek testimony to […]

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In criminal cases, the courts are very careful to make sure that it is not suggested that the defendant has any burden of proof, but that it remains with the prosecution. Maryland case law also makes it clear that a witness cannot give any opinion about whether another witness is lying or telling the truth. […]

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Ever since awareness grew of the risks of pesticides in the 1960s, governments at the federal and state level have enacted laws to ban or regulate pesticide use. The Maryland Agriculture article is one set of such laws. Last week Maryland’s intermediate appellate Court addressed the power of a local government to enact more stringent […]

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All too often we hear about crimes of sexual violence where the victim claims that he or she was too intoxicated to consent, and the defendant claims the activity was consensual. How Maryland law addresses this situation was explored in a recent unreported opinion from Maryland’s intermediate appellate Court in the case of Andre Marquis […]

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Criminal gangs such as “MS-13” are unfortunately frequently in the news, either because of illegal activity or political disputes about the prevalence of gang violence. Maryland’s highest Court last week addressed the admissibility of federal gang related convictions when a gang member testifies as a witness in a criminal case, in an opinion called Wilfredo […]

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Video surveillance cameras are a common fact of life, and even if many of us do not notice them, they are often recording what is happening on the streets. How such video images are admitted in the Maryland courts was explored in an unreported opinion filed this week in Maryland’s intermediate appellate Court in a […]

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It is not unusual during a trial for an attorney to attempt to get into evidence unrelated to the issues at hand, claiming that opposing counsel had “opened the door” to allow inquiry to an otherwise inadmissible topic.  How that doctrine operates in criminal cases in Maryland was explored by Maryland’s highest Court in a […]

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Under Maryland law, there are various statutes involving controlled dangerous substances with which persons who possess or sell drugs may be charged, including possession with intent to distribute the narcotics, possession of drug paraphernalia or items associated with sale or use of drugs and related offenses. Maryland’s intermediate appellate Court this week addressed a lesser […]

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In jury trials, the lawyers are generally allowed wide latitude in what they can say to the jury in their closing arguments. They are allowed to discuss the evidence at trial and reasonable inferences they think the jury should draw from the evidence. Whether a lawyer has crossed a line into mere speculation in a […]

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It is common in criminal cases for the police to show to victims of crimes a series or array of photographs, one of which is the suspect, to see if the victim can pick out who she believes was the perpetrator. How the Maryland courts go about analyzing whether such identification from a photo array, […]

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The NPR podcast “Serial” has received a great deal of publicity, as it explored the criminal case brought by the State of Maryland against Adnan Syed. Maryland’s highest court last week, in a divided decision, ultimately held that Syed would not be entitled to a new trial because of ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. […]

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Suits for injuries at public events, even celebrations like a Super Bowl victory, can occur where persons who attend are injured. Whether such a suit can go forward to trial was explored in a recent reported opinion from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Sutton-Witherspoon v. S.A.F.E. Management. The case involves the […]

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The opioid abuse epidemic has led to a number of legal efforts to prevent improper access to prescription medications. In Maryland, this includes provisions in the criminal code that make it illegal to improperly prepare or present supposed prescriptions. How this law works is illustrated by an unreported opinion filed this week in Maryland’s intermediate […]

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It is a common technique for trial lawyers to use objects as demonstrative evidence at trial, in order to illustrate how certain events took place. Objections may be raised by the opposing lawyer arguing that the use of such evidence is somehow misleading. How the courts deal with such issues is illustrated in an unreported […]

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There has been much public debate about laws, particularly in the federal system, that mandate heavy mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenses. However, such statutes are also on the books in Maryland, designed by the Legislature to enhance penalties for “drug kingpins” found with large quantities of illegal narcotics. Such a statute was […]

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There is, of course, much national debate about illegal immigration, and the nature and extent of any rights of illegal immigrants. Whether the immigration status of a witness to crime is admissible in a criminal trial was explored in a reported opinion this week from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Tshibargu […]

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In criminal prosecutions the police focus much of their efforts on obtaining physical evidence to link a suspect to the crime. We have all seen fictional portrayals of the police interview where they confront the suspect and get a confession. Sometimes the police interview can provide enough to support a conviction even without the perpetrator […]