Articles Posted in Criminal 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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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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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