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  • What is a Batson Challenge?

    Before a criminal trial begins, the prosecution and the defense are allowed to question potential jurors before they are seated. The purpose of jury selection is to screen out any biases that might compromise a juror’s ability to render a fair and impartial verdict. Either side may challenge a juror “for cause,” meaning they fail […]

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  • How Long Can a Person be Deemed Mentally Incompetent to Stand Trial?

    There are situations in which a person accused of a crime is considered “incompetent to stand trial” (IST). When a defendant’s mental competency is at issue, the trial court is required to conduct a hearing. If the court finds a defendant IST, the judge can release the defendant or order civil commitment to a mental […]

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  • Is Fleeing the Scene of a Crime Proof of Guilt?

    When a possible criminal act has occurred in your presence, your first instinct may be to get away from the scene as quickly as possible. But could such a split-second decision be later introduced as evidence that you were the person who committed the crime? The answer to that question is more complicated than you […]

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  • How Long Could I Go to Jail for Distributing Opiates?

    The opiate crisis has led Maryland prosecutors to crack down on anyone suspected of distributing drugs such as Fentanyl. Federal and state laws classify Fentanyl and similar opiates as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means that under Maryland law, a person convicted of distributing or possessing opiates with intent to distribute faces a maximum […]

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  • When “Knowledge” of a Crime is Not Required for a Conviction

    With certain exceptions, it is generally against the law in Maryland for an individual to “wear, carry, or transport a handgun, whether concealed or open, on or about the person.” Historically, Maryland has considered this a “strict liability” offense. This means that prosecutors do not have to prove mens rea–that the defendant acted with knowledge–to […]

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  • What is “Felony Murder” in Maryland?

    Murder refers to the intentional killing of another human being. When death is the result of accidental but reckless behavior, prosecutors will normally charge the killer with manslaughter instead. However, if an accidental death occurs during the commission of another, unrelated felony, then prosecutors may charge the accused with murder. This is known as the […]

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  • How Does Sentencing Work After a Criminal Trial?

    A criminal trial does not end when the jury delivers a guilty verdict. There is then the matter of determining the defendant’s sentence. The trial judge is responsible for sentencing the defendant after considering information offered by the prosecution and any statements from the victims (if any). The defendant also has a statutory right to […]

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  • When is Hearsay Admissible in a Criminal Case?

    In a criminal trial, a judge will not admit hearsay statements as evidence. Hearsay is formally defined as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered as evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” For example, a witness could lawfully testify that they saw […]

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  • When Can a Juvenile be Charged as an Adult in a Maryland Criminal Court?

    In most cases, when a minor is arrested on suspicion of breaking the law, they are tried in a juvenile court. But for certain offenses, a minor as young as 14 or 16 must be charged in adult court. In such situations, the minor can ask to have their case sent down to juvenile court, […]

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  • What are the Rules Governing Breath Tests in DUI/DWI Cases?

    A person commits driving while impaired (DWI) in Maryland if they operate a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.07%, and driving under the influence (DUI) if their BAC is 0.08% or greater. If police arrest you on suspicion of DUI/DWI, it is common practice to request a chemical test, i.e. […]

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  • Federal Appeals Court Rules Baltimore Police Department’s Aerial Surveillance Program Unconstitutional

    Technology makes it easy for us to keep track of people at all times. But this also raises special challenges for criminal defense. After all, if the police can simply track everyone’s whereabouts at all times, do they even need a warrant? In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Carpenter v. United States that […]

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  • What Happens if I Decide Not to Testify at My Own Criminal Trial?

    In any criminal proceeding where you are a suspect (or the defendant), you have the right to keep silent and not say anything. This applies not only to interrogations by the police, but also during any criminal trial. In other words, if you are tried for a crime, you cannot be compelled to testify as […]

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  • Can You Submit Character Evidence as Part of Your Criminal Defense?

    In general, a Maryland prosecutor cannot introduce evidence of your “character” to prove guilt. A trial is supposed to determine if you committed a particular crime, not whether you are a person of bad character who was possibly inclined to commit a crime. That said, as the defendant you do have a right to offer […]

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  • When Will a Maryland Court “Merge” Multiple Convictions for Purposes of Sentencing?

    The Constitution prevents a person from being tried or convicted twice for the same crime. This is known as the prohibition against double jeopardy. At the same time, prosecutors often charge defendants with multiple crimes arising from the same set of facts. To avoid a potential double jeopardy violation, the trial judge can “merge” these […]

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  • When Can a Criminal Defendant Ask for a New Trial Based on “Newly Discovered Evidence”?

    What happens if a person is convicted of a crime but evidence is discovered later that casts doubt on that conviction? Under the rules governing criminal trials in Maryland, the defendant may ask for a new trial or other relief, but they must do so within a very strict time frame–typically one year after their […]

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  • Can You Waive Your Right to a Jury in a Criminal Trial?

    Most of us associate a criminal trial with the jury. This goes back to the founding of the United States, when the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the right of the accused in all criminal prosecutions to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” In Maryland, this means if you are accused […]

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  • Can the Police Arrest You for Having a Plastic Vial in Your Pocket?

    Criminal drug laws do not just apply to controlled substances. They also make it illegal to possess certain items as “drug paraphernalia,” which can include anything that may be used to store a controlled substance. For example, a vial or a plastic bag may be considered drug paraphernalia. This means that if the police lawfully […]

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  • Can a Judge Actually Reject My Plea Bargain?

    Although high-profile criminal trials get a lot of attention, in reality it is rare for any criminal case to make it that far. According to the federal government’s own statistics, roughly 97% of all federal prosecutions end in a plea bargain of some sort. A plea bargain is basically an agreement between the prosecution and […]

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  • Can the Police Stop You Based on an Anonymous 911 Tip?

    The Fourth Amendment guarantees your right to be free from “unreasonable” police stops. In plain terms, the police cannot randomly stop you without a reasonable suspicion that you might be guilty of a crime, such as drunk driving. But can that reasonable suspicion be based on something like an anonymous tip from a 911 call? […]

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  • What the “CSI Effect” Means for Criminal Trials in Maryland

    Television crime dramas often present a misleading picture of how the system actually works. One example of this is the so-called CSI effect. If you recall, the CSI franchise is a series of fictional dramas that focus on the work of crime scene investigators–in particular, how they gather and use forensic evidence to identify potential […]

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  • Maryland Approves New Rules to Compensate the Wrongfully Convicted

    We all know that the criminal justice system is far from perfect. Too many people are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes every year. As a result, there are innocent people who continue to languish in prison, sometimes for decades. When a wrongfully convicted person is later exonerated, Maryland law does make it possible for them […]

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  • Can I Get a Federal Criminal Arrest Expunged?

    In the United States there are separate federal and state criminal justice systems. This means that certain rules followed by one may not be applicable to the other. For example, while there are fairly detailed procedures in place in the State of Maryland to expunge certain records of a criminal arrest, these same rules do […]

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  • How Using a Firearm Can Lead to Stiffer Criminal Penalties in Maryland

    Anytime a weapon is involved in a crime, the suspect is likely to face serious criminal charges. Indeed, it is itself a crime to use a firearm in the commission of another crime under Maryland law, regardless of whether or not the weapon is loaded or actually used to injure someone. For instance, if you […]

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  • How Maryland’s Problem Solving Courts Can Offer an Alternative to Prison

    Alcohol and drug addiction are serious social problems that often land abusers in trouble with the law. To enable individuals to recover from their addictions many states, including Maryland, have established alternative “drug courts” that provide an alternative to imprisonment for individuals charged with crimes like DUI or possession of a controlled substance. Maryland refers […]

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  • What Questions Can You Ask Prospective Jurors in a Criminal Trial?

    Every person on trial for a crime in Maryland has the right to have their case heard by an impartial jury. At the start of the trial, the prosecution and the defense are given the chance to ask questions of prospective jurors. This process is known as voir dire, and it is intended to screen […]

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  • Could I Really Go to Prison for Perjury?

    If you have ever testified under oath or signed a legal document making statements “under penalties of perjury,” you might be asking if anyone is ever actually prosecuted for perjury. The answer is yes. If prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly made a misstatement of fact while under oath, you can […]

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