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Waldorf, MD Criminal Defense: Can I Be Convicted on Just Circumstantial Evidence?

Yes, in Maryland, a person can be convicted of a crime only on the basis of circumstantial evidence. In a Waldorf, Maryland criminal trial, there can be direct evidence introduced or what we call “circumstantial” evidence. Direct evidence is something like an eyewitness testifying to some fact or evidence from lab tests (like tests showing blood alcohol levels). By contrast, circumstantial evidence is evidence based on proper logic or inferences that are drawn from the circumstances of the case. Direct evidence is often best attacked by bringing the credibility of the witness or the evidence into question. Circumstantial evidence is often best attacked by questioning the logic and the inferences drawn from the evidence.

Both types of evidence can be attacked and undermined by experienced and proven Maryland criminal defense lawyers like the ones at the Law Office of Robert Castro. Call us at (301) 705-5137 if you have been arrested or charged. We are available around the clock, 24/7.

As an example, let’s look at the case of Johnson v. State. That case involved a passenger in a car and the crime of possession of marijuana. In that case, there was no direct evidence that Johnson possessed the marijuana in question. Johnson was riding in the car in the front passenger seat. Law enforcement pulled the car over. The police officer who approached the car from the rear did not see Johnson holding the marijuana or smoking it but smelled a strong odor of marijuana smoke. When the police officer arrived at the front window of the case, he saw there was a marijuana bud/cigarette on the gear shift “box.” The gearbox (and, thus, the marijuana) was between the driver and Johnson. Johnson did not admit to possessing the marijuana or smoking it. Further, the driver did not testify that Johnson possessed or smoked the marijuana. After Johnson and the driver were arrested, a search of the vehicle revealed a partially burnt marijuana cigarette in the vehicle’s ashtray.

What is described above is the circumstantial evidence related to Johnson’s arrest for possession of marijuana. In Maryland, the crime of possession generally requires proof of knowledge and proof of either actual possession or constructive possession (which is the ability and opportunity to possess or have control over something).

The jury ultimately convicted Johnson of possession of marijuana, and the conviction was upheld. Concerning the knowledge element, the court held that it was reasonable for the jury to find that Johnson had knowledge of the marijuana since:

  • The marijuana was right there on the top of the gearbox next to where Johnson was sitting, within easy reach
  • The police officer could see the marijuana in plain sight through the rear window of the car
  • There was a strong odor of marijuana in the car

From this, the court concluded that “… it is inconceivable to us that Johnson had no knowledge of the presence of marijuana in the vehicle.”

With respect to control, the court held that the circumstantial evidence was more than sufficient to justify an inference of joint control by the driver and Johnson. The marijuana was on the top of the gearbox, easily within reach of Johnson (and not, for example, on the floor near the driver’s clutch pedal). Given the strong odor emanating from the car, the court held that it was reasonable for the jury to infer from the circumstances that Johnson “… was participating with the driver in the mutual use and enjoyment of the marijuana.”

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301) 705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD, Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD 20601.