Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's convictions for sexually abusing several female students while he was their elementary school teacher, holding that any error by the trial court in excluding character evidence of appropriateness with children in Defendant's custody or care was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge erred by excluding evidence from parents of students and from professional colleagues that, in their opinion, Defendant was the type of person who behaved appropriately with children in his custody or care. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals also affirmed, holding (1) character evidence of appropriateness with children in one's custody or care may be admissible in a criminal case where a defendant is accused of sexually abusing a child; (2) any error in excluding Defendant's proffered character evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) Defendant's constitutional arguments were not preserved for appellate review or abandoned and, in any event, lacked merit. View "Vigna v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the City of Baltimore's street vending ordinance that restricts a food truck from parking within 300 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant that primarily sells the same type of food (the Rule) is constitutional.The owners of two food trucks (the Food Trucks) filed suit against the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore claiming that the Rule violates Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights by restricting the Food Trucks' ability to practice their trade. The circuit court held that the Rule does not violate Article 24's requirements of equal protection and substantive due process but proceeded to enjoin the City from enforcing the Rule, concluding on its own initiative that the Rule is impermissibly vague. The Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court's grant of injunctive relief, concluding that the Food Trucks had not preserved a vagueness claim for appellate review and that, in any event, the claim failed on the merits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Rule does not deprive mobile vendors of their substantive due process and equal protection rights under Article 24 and that the Rule is not void for vagueness. View "Pizza di Joey v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the court of special appeals reversing the decision of the post-conviction court granting Petitioner post-conviction relief based on the court's finding that Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that Petitioner's counsel rendered ineffective assistance based on a conflict of interest.Petitioner pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because he was misadvised of the immigration consequences of his plea agreement and because his counsel failed to disclose a personal conflict of interest. The post-conviction court granted Petitioner relief based on the court's finding of an actual conflict of interest. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that defense counsel's conflict of interest rendered his representation of Petitioner constitutionally deficient under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. View "Podieh v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the odor of marijuana on or about a person, without more, does not provide law enforcement officers with probable cause to arrest and perform a warrantless search of that person incident to the arrest.Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that he was unlawfully seized and subjected to a search incident to arrest. In denying Defendant's motion to suppress, the suppression court ruled that the odor of marijuana gave police probable cause to arrest Defendant and, incident to the arrest, conduct a full search of Defendant's person. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the mere odor of marijuana emanating from a person, without more, does not provide the police with probable cause to support an arrest and a search of the arrestee; and (2) because the search of Petitioner was based solely on the odor of marijuana emanating from his person, the officer lacked the requisite probable cause to conduct that search. View "Lewis v. State" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case in which Defendant was charged with various drunk driving offenses the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trail court denying Defendant's motions in limine to exclude field sobriety tests and a breath test from the evidence, holding that, in giving advice of rights, law enforcement officers must use methods that reasonably convey the warnings and rights in the implied consent statute.Police officers found Defendant asleep at the wheel of his truck and brought him to the station after he failed several field sobriety tests. An officer read in English an "Advice of Rights" form, commonly referred to as a DR-15 form, to Defendant, who spoke Spanish. Defendant signed the DR-15, agreeing to take a breath test, and failed the test. Defendant moved to exclude the tests, arguing that he did not understand the field sobriety test instructions or the advice of rights because he did not understand English. The trial court denied the motions, and Defendant was convicted. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial at which the breath test evidence must be suppressed, holding that the officer in this case did not use methods that reasonably conveyed the warnings and rights in the implied consent statute. View "Funes v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals holding that a police-initiated procedure resulting in the identification of Defendant was not governed by constitutional criminal procedure law concerning out-of-court identifications made by an eyewitness, holding that the identification of Defendant was a "confirmatory identification" not subject to constitutional scrutiny.Shortly after a murder, investigating detectives focused on Defendant as the suspected killer. The detectives were aware that the murder victim's current girlfriend, Jennifer McKay, knew Defendant and until recently had been in an intimate relationship with him. When interviewing McKay at the police station the detectives asked her to review camera footage captured with a surveillance camera mounted on a building adjacent to the apartment where the murder occurred. McKay did so and determined that a person depicted on the footage looked like Defendant. Defendant moved to suppress McKay's identification of him, arguing that the identification was obtained during an impermissible suggestive process. The circuit court granted the suppression motion. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the identification at issue in this case did not implicate the constitutionally-based identification law paradigm. View "Greene v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the circuit court holding that the General Assembly's amendment of the Maryland tax code authorizing the State Comptroller to pay refunds to taxpayers affected by a provision held to be invalid and providing for the State to pay interest on those refunds at a certain rate did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause of the federal Constitution.This litigation arose when Appellants challenged the credit allowed by State law against a Maryland resident's income tax liability based on taxes the resident paid to other states on income derived from those states. The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court agreed with Appellants' argument that the tax scheme violated the dormant Commerce Clause. In response, the General Assembly amended the tax code. After the Comptroller issued Appellants a refund in compliance with the new legislation, Appellants appealed, seeking a higher rate of interest on the refunds. Following an administrative ruling in Appellants' favor, the circuit court held that the interest rate did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Appellants failed to meet their burden of showing discrimination in effect. View "Wynne v. Comptroller of Maryland" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the circuit court invalidating, on due process grounds, an order ratifying the sale of Prime Realty's vacant property, holding that Maryland Rule 3-124(o), which allows for substituted service of process on an LLC by service on the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT), satisfies a litigant's due process rights.The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (the City) initiated a receivership action against Prime Realty Associates, LLC when property owned by Prime Realty fell into disrepair. The City attempted to serve Prime Realty's resident agent at the address on file with SDAT. When those attempts proved unsuccessful, the City made substitute service on SDAT pursuant to Maryland Rule 3-124(o). The property was subsequently sold, and the district court ratified the sale. Thereafter, Prime Realty moved to vacate the sale, arguing that its due process rights were violated because the City did not adequately serve Prime Realty. The district court denied the motion. On appeal, the circuit court vacated the sale of the property, holding that Prime Realty's due process were violated. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the method of substituted service upon SDAT prescribed by Maryland Rule 3-124(o) satisfies a litigant's due process rights. View "Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. Prime Realty Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the circuit court's judgment denying the petitions for writs of actual innocence filed by David Faulkner and Jonathan Smith under Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc, 8-301, holding that new trials were warranted for both Smith and Faulkner.More than a dozen years after Adeline Wilford was murdered and the case had gone cold, the Maryland State Police reopened the investigation and charged Faulkner and Smith with burglary, murder and related offenses. Both Smith and Faulkner were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Several years later, Smith and Faulkner filed petitions for writs of actual evidence, contending that, if newly discovered evidence had been provided to their juries, there was a substantial or significant possibility that the juries would have reached different results. The lower courts denied relief. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered new trials for both petitioners, holding that, in light of the newly discovered evidence discussed in this opinion, Smith and Faulkner were entitled to new trials. View "Faulkner v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of second-degree murder, holding that non-mutually admissible evidence was admitted at trial, prejudicing Defendant, and the seizure of a cell phone from Defendant's person exceeded the parameters of the Fourth Amendment and Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.Defendant was tried in the circuit court along with a co-defendant for murder. Both defendants were convicted of second-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial should have been severed from that of his co-defendant since a substantial amount of the evidence against the co-defendant was not admissible against him. Defendant further argued that the trial court erred in failing to suppress a cell phone that was seized from his pocket. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that (1) the trials should have been severed because the joint trial unfairly prejudiced Defendant, and the resulting prejudice could not be cured; and (2) in the absence of a valid search and seizure warrant for the search of Defendant's person or an applicable exception to the warrant requirement, the seizure of the cell phone was unlawful. View "State v. Zadeh" on Justia Law