Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The law enforcement officers that stopped Defendant in this case had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop when they witnessed what appeared to be criminal activity immediately before the stop. Alternatively, even assuming the stop was unlawful, the evidence recovered from Defendant would be admissible because the attenuation doctrine would apply. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals to the extent that it held that the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant. Alternatively, the court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate appellate court and adopted the reasoning of the concurring opinion with respect to the application of the attenuation doctrine. Accordingly, Defendant’s motion to suppress should have been denied. View "Sizer v. State" on Justia Law

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The suppression court did not err in denying Petitioner’s motion to suppress the images of his fifteen-year-old girlfriend that the police found while executing the warrant to search Petitioner’s cell phone because the warrant-issuing judge had a substantial basis for issuing the warrant to search Petitioner’s cell phone. Petitioner was convicted of possession of child pornography based in large part on photographs and a video of Petitioner’s girlfriend that the police found on his cell phone while executing a warrant to search it. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Petitioner’s motion to suppress the photographs and video, concluding that the affidavit in support of the warrant provided a substantial basis who issued the warrant to find probable cause to search the cell phone. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that there was a substantial basis for the judge who issued the warrant to find probable cause that Petitioner’s cell phone contained evidence of suspected criminal behavior. View "Moats v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress of evidence obtained during a search of his cell phone seized by police incident to an arrest, holding that the affidavit in support of the warrant supplied a substantial basis for the judge who issued the warrant to find probable cause to issue it. The court also took this opportunity to explain that, even if the affidavit in support of the warrant did not provide a substantial basis for the warrant-issuing judge to find probable cause to search Defendant’s cell phone, Defendant was not entitled to suppression of the evidence by application of the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule outlined in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984). View "Stevenson v. State" on Justia Law

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A criminal defendant who is not competent to stand trial may not be continued in pretrial detention unless the government takes steps to provide treatment to restore the defendant to competency or to have the defendant civilly committed. Maryland law allows a court to determine whether a defendant is competent; if a defendant is incompetent with the potential to be restored to competency, the court may commit the defendant for appropriate treatment, Maryland Code, Criminal Procedure Article 3-104. The state Department of Health (MDH) adopted a policy on admission to state psychiatric hospitals to manage the demand for the limited beds available. That policy has resulted in a waiting list for admission, which has included criminal defendants who have been found incompetent and committed for treatment. The Circuit Court for Baltimore City adopted a practice of requiring admission of a defendant to a hospital within one day of the issuance of the commitment order. When MDH failed to comply, defendants challenged the MDH policy. The Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal, noting that the statute does not set a deadline for admission, nor does it authorize a court to do so; a delay in admission does not violate the statute, although it may violate the commitment order. Depending on the circumstances, a delay may violate the state due process guarantee. View "Powell v. Maryland Department of Health" on Justia Law

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Hosford, severely disabled and wheelchair-bound, has muscle spasms and pain.Since 1989, Hosford has resided at Foghorn's Baltimore CIty Ruscombe Gardens Apartments, subsidized through a federal “Section 8” project-based program. Hosford signed a “Drug-Free Housing Policy” with his lease. In 2014, the complex had a bed bug infestation. An extermination company entered Hosford’s unit and saw a marijuana plant growing in his bathtub. They reported this to the management office. A responding police officer concluded the plant was marijuana, confiscated it, and issued a criminal citation. A police chemist concluded that the plant was marijuana. A nolle prosequi was entered on the possession charge. Foghorn gave Hosford a notice of lease termination. When he did not vacate, Foghorn initiated an eviction. The Court of Appeals held that Maryland Code, Real Property 8-402.1(b)(1), which provides that a court ruling on a landlord-tenant dispute must conclude that a breach of a lease is “substantial and warrants an eviction” before granting judgment for possession of the leased premises, is not preempted by federal regulations mandating that subsidized Section 8 project-based housing developments include lease provisions that engaging in any drug-related criminal activity on or near the leased premises is grounds for termination of the lease. View "Chateau Foghorn, LP v. Hosford" on Justia Law

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A postconviction petitioner’s (Petitioner) trial counsel was not constitutionally ineffective by consenting to the presence of an alternate juror during deliberations, and the performance of Petitioner’s appellate counsel did not prejudice Petitioner's appeal by failing to argue that the alternate juror’s presence was plain error. The postconviction court granted Petitioner a new trial, concluding in part that Petitioner’s trial attorney was ineffective for failing to object to the presence of the alternate juror and that Petitioner’s appellate court was ineffective in failing to argue that the alternate juror’s presence was plain error. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to show that trial counsel’s performance prejudiced him at trial or that his appellate counsel’s performance prejudiced his appeal. View "Newton v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the suppression of certain evidence discovered upon detectives’ use of a cell site simulator - or an undercover cell tower - concluding that whether use of a cell site simulator is a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment or whether a court order authorizing its use fell short of a search warrant, the detectives here acted in objectively reasonable good faith. The circuit court suppressed the evidence on the ground that the use of the cell site simulator to locate the phone was a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment and that the court order authorizing them to use a “cellular tracking device” to locate the victim’s phone did not function as a search warrant. In reversing, the Court of Appeals held that, based on existing case law, it was objectively reasonable for detectives to believe that their use of a cell site simulator pursuant to the court order was permissible under the Fourth Amendment, and therefore, and evidence obtained as a result of the detectives’ use of the cell site simulator should not be suppressed because of use of that device. View "State v. Copes" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of armed robbery, robbery, and related offenses. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to twenty years’ imprisonment for armed robbery and merged the remaining offenses. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the trial judge abused his discretion in conducting the voir dire of the prospective jurors. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the voir dire process in this case reasonably assured that Petitioner was tried before an impartial jury. The Court, however, used the opportunity of this case to encourage trial judges to adopt certain best practices to help achieve the constitutionally requirement of an impartial jury. View "Collins v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder, among other crimes. Defendant was sentenced to four consecutive sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, one for each conviction of first-degree murder. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the murder convictions and sentences, holding that CR 2-304 does not give a defendant the right to have a jury determine whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) under CR 2-304(a), where a defendant is convicted of first-degree murder and the State has given notice of an intent to seek life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the trial court, not the jury, determines whether to sentence the defendant to life imprisonment or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; and (2) both the United States Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights permit a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole to be imposed in the same manner as every other sentence except the death penalty, which has been abolished in Maryland. View "Bellard v. State" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a former researcher employed by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHU), filed suit against JHU alleging (1) he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for his repeated protests of research misconduct in violation of 42 U.S.C. 289b and 42 C.F.R. 93; and (2) conversion because after the termination of his employment, he was denied access to stored research materials he had collected. The circuit court granted JHU’s motion to dismiss because Petitioner failed to identify a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine and because JHU “could not have converted what it in fact had ownership of.” The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff was not wrongfully terminated, and his at-will employment came to an end due to the expiration of his employment contract; and (2) Plaintiff’s claim of conversion must fail because JHU owned the research materials pursuant to its stated policies. View "Yuan v. Johns Hopkins University" on Justia Law