Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming in part and reversing in part the judgment of the post-conviction granting Respondent a new trial, holding that certain actions on the part of Respondent’s trial counsel did not violate Respondent’s constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. Respondent was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. Respondent later filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief. The intermediate appellate remanded the case. On remand, the post-conviction court concluded that Respondent’s trial counsel’s performance was deficient and that this deficiency prejudiced Respondent. As a result, the post-conviction court vacated the convictions and granted Respondent a new trial. The court of appeals reversed in part, but the court’s ultimate disposition left the new trial granted by the circuit court in place. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that trial counsel’s deficient performance in one aspect of her representation did not prejudice Respondent within the meaning of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). View "State v. Syed" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the administrative law judge ruling that Petitioner was fully advised of the sanctions imposed upon him after refusing a chemical test, holding that Petitioner received his statutory right to full advisement. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held (1) Defendant’s due process rights were not violated, nor was full advisement of the administrative penalties that shall be imposed for refusing a breath test pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1 negated when, after reading the Motor Vehicle Administration’s DR-15 advice form, a police officer’s oral restatement of the penalties for failing and refusing a breath test omitted the most severe mandatory penalty for refusal; and (2) the DR-15 is unambiguous regarding the duration of participation in the Interlock Program and is consistent with Petitioner’s right to due process and the statutory right to full advisement under section 16-205.1. View "Owusu v. Motor Vehicle Administration" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals finding that the trial court did not deny Petitioner due process by permitting the State to question him about his failure to disclose an alibi defense after he invoked Miranda. Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and other crimes. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the trial court denied him due process by allowing the prosecutor to question him about “what he did not tell the police about his alibi defense, even though the omissions were a result of [Petitioner’s] post-arrest, post-Miranda invocation of silence and were not inconsistencies with his trial testimony.” The State countered that even statements taken in violation of Miranda can be used to impeach a witness’s prior inconsistent statement. The Court of Appeals held that an invocation of Miranda does not preclude the State from impeaching a witness concerning prior inconsistent statements, even after a suspect invokes his right to remain silent. View "Reynolds v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a circuit court’s exercise of its coercive powers to incarcerate a drug court program participant is subject to appellate review and can violate a participant’s right to due process. Respondents in the two underlying cases participated in the circuit court’s drug court program as a special condition of probation. Each respondent violated the program conditions, and the circuit court imposed immediate sanctions. The Court of Special Appeals concluded that Respondents had the right to seek appellate review of the incarceration sanction and held that the circuit court’s procedure did not comply with due process requirements. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a participant in a drug court program seeking to appeal from the circuit court’s imposition of sanctions may do so by filing an application for leave to appeal pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Judgment. Proc. 12-302(g); (2) when a circuit court administering a drug court program considers imposing a sanction involving the loss of liberty or termination from the program, it must provide minimum due process protections; and (3) the process followed by the circuit court in imposing sanctions violated constitutional due process guarantees. View "State v. Brookman" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, which held that the police did not have probable cause to search the trunk of a car owned and driven by Respondent. The suppression court denied Respondent’s motion to suppress, ruling that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion that the individuals in the vehicle were involved in criminal activity, permitting the continued detention, and that by the time the officers searched the trunk of Respondent’s vehicle they had amassed probable cause - based in part on drug evidence found on the person of Respondent’s front-seat passenger - to believe the trunk contained evidence of drug-related activity. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, holding that the intermediate appellate court failed to review, in their entirety, the facts and circumstances that led the police to search the trunk of Respondent’s car and instead isolated certain facts while ignoring or minimizing others. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, which held that the police did not have probable cause to search the trunk of a car owned and driven by Respondent. The suppression court denied Respondent’s motion to suppress, ruling that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion that the individuals in the vehicle were involved in criminal activity, permitting the continued detention, and that by the time the officers searched the trunk of Respondent’s vehicle they had amassed probable cause - based in part on drug evidence found on the person of Respondent’s front-seat passenger - to believe the trunk contained evidence of drug-related activity. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, holding that the intermediate appellate court failed to review, in their entirety, the facts and circumstances that led the police to search the trunk of Respondent’s car and instead isolated certain facts while ignoring or minimizing others. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court affirming the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Respondent was coerced into submitting to an alcohol breath test required by Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1. In affirming, the circuit court concluded that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s decision that Respondent did not voluntarily submit to the testing. The ALJ found, specifically, that the due process afforded to Respondent was insufficient and that the officer’s actions impermissibly induced Respondent to submit to an alcohol breath test. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the ALJ’s determination was erroneous because Respondent failed to establish that there was an insufficient advisement of rights in violation of her due process protections. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court affirming the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Respondent was coerced into submitting to an alcohol breath test required by Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1. In affirming, the circuit court concluded that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s decision that Respondent did not voluntarily submit to the testing. The ALJ found, specifically, that the due process afforded to Respondent was insufficient and that the officer’s actions impermissibly induced Respondent to submit to an alcohol breath test. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the ALJ’s determination was erroneous because Respondent failed to establish that there was an insufficient advisement of rights in violation of her due process protections. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Smith" on Justia Law

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In the context of a probable cause determination, the issue of a drug detection dog’s reliability is a legal question to be reviewed de novo. Sergeant Christopher Lamb initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle that Petitioner had been driving. A drug detection dog arrived at the scene of the traffic stop, scanned the vehicle, and alerted to it. Sergeant Lamb searched the vehicle and found drugs inside. The circuit court determined that the drug detection dog was reliable. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the ultimate question of probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle based on a drug detection dog’s alert is reviewed de novo, but the issue of a drug detection dog’s reliability is a factual question, and accordingly, an appellate court reviews for clear error a trial court’s determination as to whether a drug detection dog is, or is not, reliable; and (2) the circuit court in this case did not clearly err in determining that the drug detection dog was reliable, and under the totality of the circumstances, that the arresting officer had probable cause for the search. View "Grimm v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether victim impact evidence in the form of a video displaying more than one hundred photographs of Defendant’s victims, with accompanying music, is permissible at a sentencing hearing. Defendant entered an Alford plea to two counts of first-degree murder, one count of robbery, and one count of child kidnapping. During sentencing, Defendant moved to exclude a video with approximately 115 photographs of the two victims set to background music. The sentencing judge allowed the video to be played. The Court of Appeals held that showing the video at the sentencing hearing did not violate Defendant’s constitutional rights. Specifically, the Court held (1) a sentencing judge has discretion to permit any additional form of victim impact evidence outside the constraints of Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. (“CP”) 11-402 and CP 11-403; (2) all prepared victim impact evidence, not including victim impact testimony, must be limited to the content prescribed under CP 11-402(e); (3) the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit a sentencing judge from considering victim impact evidence at a defendant’s noncapital sentencing proceeding; and (4) Defendant’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were not violated because the disputed victim impact evidence did not inflame the passions of the sentencing judge more than the facts of the crime. View "Lopez v. State" on Justia Law