Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant, who was charged with solicitation, conspiracy, and first degree premeditated murder after contracting with a third party to kill her abusive husband, presented sufficient evidence that she felt as though she was in imminent danger to be entitled to a jury instruction on imperfect self-defense. A jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder, and use of a handgun in commission of a crime of violence. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the trial court gave an erroneous instruction on imperfect self-defense. The court of special appeals concluded that Defendant had not presented sufficient evidence to be entitled to an imperfect self-defense instruction, and therefore, any error in giving the instruction was harmless. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial on all counts, holding that the trial court’s misstatement of the law in its imperfect self-defense jury instruction was not harmless. View "Porter v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals that upheld all but one of Petitioner’s convictions. Petitioner was convicted by a jury of second degree murder, attempted second degree murder, and related offenses. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not err in concluding that a board-certified neuropsychologist’s testimony about the effects of traumatic brain injury failed to meet the Frye-Reed standard; and (2) the trial court did not err when it permitted the State in closing argument to impeach Petitioner’s testimony based on a witness’ failure to disclosure to police that Petitioner had acted in self-defense. View "Savage v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Greco v. State, 427 Md. 477 (2012) announced the rule that a term-of-years sentence for first degree murder is an illegal sentence that must be corrected by adding a period of probation. At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether a sentence for first degree felony murder containing such an illegality must be corrected when the illegal sentence was imposed pursuant to a plea agreement. In this case, pursuant to a plea agreement, Respondent pleaded guilty to first degree felony murder and armed robbery. For his murder conviction, Respondent was sentenced to life in prison, all but thirty-five years suspended, with no mention of probation. Respondent later brought this action challenging the legality of his sentence. The circuit court vacated Respondent’s sentence, resentenced him to life imprisonment, all but thirty-five years suspended, with four years of supervised probation. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that the sentence as modified was illegal because it added four years or probation not included as a term of the plea agreement. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court’s imposition of a period of probation removed the illegality in the sentence and did not constitute an abuse of discretion. View "State v. Crawley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Evidence of a convicted defendant’s membership in a gang is admissible at sentencing even where the gang membership is unrelated to the underlying criminal conviction but where the State establishes that all gang members are aware of, and required to participate in, the criminal acts of violence of the gang. Petitioner in this case was convicted of reckless endangerment; wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun; and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. At sentencing, the State sought to introduce evidence that Defendant was a member of a gang. The trial court permitted admission of the evidence. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in admitting evidence of his gang membership at sentencing. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the sentencing court did not err in admitting evidence of Defendant’s gang membership and considering it in fashioning an appropriate sentence. View "Cruz-Quintanilla v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the denial of Petitioner’s motion to correct illegal sentence. Petitioner pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit theft and making a false statement to the police and was sentenced to ten years’ incarceration with six years suspended and four years’ probation. Petitioner argued in his motion to correct illegal sentence that the circuit court imposed an illegal sentence after it bound itself to a cap of four years on any executed incarceration. Specifically, Petitioner argued that a reasonable lay person in his position would not have understood that he could have received a total sentence in excess of four years - including a suspended sentence and probation in addition to incarceration. The court of special appeals affirmed the denial of Petitioner’s motion to correct illegal sentence. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner’s sentence was legal because the plain language of the cap was clear and unambiguous. View "Ray v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals answered a question certified by the court of special appeals regarding whether a trial judge may pose a broad occupational bias voir dire question when the parties requested that the trial judge inquire as to whether the venire persons would give undue weight to the testimony of a police-witness, based on the police witness’ occupation as a police officer. The Court of Appeals answered the question as reformulated by holding that when a party requests that an occupational bias question be asked during voir dire, including the police-witness question, the trial judge is required to initially determine whether any witnesses testifying in the case - based on their occupation, status, or affiliation - may be favored or disfavored on the basis of that witness’s occupation, status, or affiliation, and then propound a voir dire question that is tailored to those specific occupations, statuses, or affiliations. View "Thomas v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. 4-102 provides that in a circuit court proceeding a defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing when charged by information with felonies but not when the defendant is charged by information with misdemeanors. Defendant was charged by information with misdemeanor offenses. Defendant moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that his case was improperly before the circuit court because he had been charged with misdemeanors by means of a criminal information without a preliminary hearing resulting in a finding of probable cause. The circuit court granted the motion and dismissed the case with prejudice. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the court of special appeals did not err in concluding that when the State charges misdemeanors by criminal information in the circuit court no preliminary hearing is required. View "Brown v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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The court of special appeals did not abuse its discretion by denying the State’s motion for reconsideration requesting a remand for the coram nobis court to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the merits of Defendant’s claim. Defendant had filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis challenging the voluntariness of his guilty plea to distribute marijuana. The coram nobis court denied Defendant’s petition without holding a hearing. The court of special appeals determined that, based on the record of the plea hearing, Defendant’s guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary, and therefore, the coram nobis court erred by denying Defendant relief. The State then filed a motion for reconsideration arguing, for the first time, that the record of the plea hearing was inadequate for the intermediate appellate court to determine whether Defendant’s guilty plea was knowing and voluntary. The court of special appeals denied the motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the intermediate appellate court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion because the State effectively waived any argument that a remand on the merits was, in fact, necessary. View "State v. Rich" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Evidence of a medical diagnosis is not required to establish that a victim is mentally defective as defined by Md. Crim. Law 3-301(b). Petitioner challenged his convictions of second-degree rape and third-degree sexual offense, arguing, in part, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions where the convictions were contingent on the victim’s status as a mentally defective individual and the State failed to establish that she had been diagnosed with either mental retardation or a mental disorder. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the jury was able reasonably to infer that the victim suffered from a mental defect that rendered her incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse and sexual contact under Md. Crim. Law 3-304(a)(2) and 3-307(a)(2); (2) the prosecutor erred by informing the jury during closing argument that Petitioner had admitted to taking advantage of the victim’s mental diminished capacity in an interview that was never introduced at trial, but the error did not influence the verdict; and (3) the trial court’s exclusion of the victim’s employment records was legally correct. View "Fuentes v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law