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bmw-1045050__480-300x225Police officers from all over the state are being deployed to Ocean City this weekend to keep the peace at one of the largest pop-up car rallys in the region.  Each year at the end of September car owners and enthusiasts flock to Ocean City to socialize, drive and watch hundreds of customized rally cars cruise down Coastal Highway.  Unfortunately, the cruising often escalates into more aggressive driving activity and the town government and law enforcement have had enough.  The rally, also called the H2Oi, is an unofficial event that is not sanctioned by the city or the county, but nonetheless the government is forced to deal with the “chaos” that it brings.  In 2019 the event was too much for the Ocean City government to stomach, and the mayor swore the “chaos” would never happen again.  Rather than sit back and scramble to enforce the state and local laws as if it were a normal party weekend, the government made a conscious effort to come out swinging for the 2020 event that runs until this Sunday night.

The town is planning to deploy hundreds of extra police officers  from various jurisdictions to supplement the OCPD including the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryland State Police, the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the Wicomico and Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Offices.  These officers will now be armed with new criminal enforcement tools in the form of legislation that passed the General Assembly this year.  The legislation allows local governments to establish Special Event Zones, which include events that are sanctioned by the government or unsanctioned but expected to attract more than 1,000 people.  The H2Oi falls under the latter category, as it is not officially sanctioned by Ocean City or Worcester County.  Once the government has defined a Special Event Zone, it can give law enforcement the power to reduce speed limits, increase fines and even arrest individuals for certain traffic offenses that are normally classified as minor and only subject to fines and points.  Speeding in a Special Event Zone becomes punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and participating in Exhibition Driving becomes punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.  This week the hundreds of extra police officers will now have the authority to arrest a person for Exhibition Driving.

Exhibition Driving is defined under the new Maryland law as excessive or abrupt deceleration or acceleration, skidding, squealing, burning or smoking of the tires of a motor vehicle, swerving or swaying of a motor vehicle from side to side while skidding, producing an unreasonably loud, raucous or disturbing noise from a motor vehicle’s engine, grinding the gears of backfiring the engine of a motor vehicle, popping the wheels of a car off the ground and transporting a passenger on the roof or hood of a car.  Anyone who violates these provisions can be arrested and taken before a District Court Commissioner, and then face a mandatory court appearance down the road.  These laws have only been approved for Worcester County, as it certainly appears the legislature is directly targeting the H2Oi without explicitly saying so.

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police-850054_960_720-300x212Police have arrested and charged a 27-year old Prince George’s County man for allegedly hitting a woman with his car.  The incident occurred in a fast food restaurant parking lot in Howard County, and most of the it was caught on the restaurant’s security cameras.  The footage appears to show a woman exiting a white Audi SUV shortly before the SUV drives off.  The woman walks toward a pickup truck in the parking lot, which then blocks the camera’s view of her.  Less than a minute later the SUV returns to the parking lot and accelerates toward the parked pickup truck where the woman was last seen.  The SUV slams into the side of the white pickup truck and then the woman again appears on camera lying down in front of the pickup truck.  At first the driver of the pickup truck hastily leaves his car to avoid being injured himself, but then returns to render aid to the woman before police and EMS are called. The white SUV flees the scene at a high rate of speed shortly after striking the pickup truck.

An arrest warrant was issued for the suspect 3 days after the incident, and he was taken into custody in Washington D.C. 4 days after the arrest warrant became active.  The next day he was brought before a district court judge for a bail review, but the hearing was postponed and he was held without bond until 3 days later when the he had an attorney present to argue for release.  The judge was not swayed and the defendant remains in custody on charges including attempted first-degree murder, assault in the first and second degree, kidnapping and reckless endangerment.  A preliminary hearing is set for the case next week, but it will likely be transferred to the Circuit Court for Howard County prior to the preliminary by way of indictment or the filing of a criminal information.

Attempted first-degree murder is the most serious offense that the defendant will face, and it is no surprise the judge decided to hold him without bail.  Under Maryland law first-degree attempted murder carries a potential sentence of life in prison, while first-degree assault carries a 25-year maximum penalty and kidnapping a 20-year maximum penalty.  Reckless endangerment, which is defined as engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another, is a misdemeanor with a 5-year maximum penalty.  While it may seem excessive to charge the defendant with attempted first-degree murder under these facts unless the victim suffered life threatening injuries, the reality is that the state is not required to prove any type of injury in a Maryland attempted murder case.  All that is required is for the state to prove that the defendant intended to kill the victim, had the ability to kill the victim and took a substantial step toward killing the victim.  Most attempted murder cases involve shootings and stabbings, as these acts are easy for the state to establish ability to kill and taking a substantial step toward killing, provided they can properly identify the defendant and self-defense is not an issue.  Automobile attempted murder cases are less common, as it may be difficult for the state to prove the defendant actually intended to kill.  While it’s to argue that a person driving an SUV at a pedestrian did not have the ability to kill, and hitting someone is certainly a substantial step, intent to kill rather than injure is not as clear.  In most Maryland cases where a driver intentionally hits a person with their car the state ends up focusing on first-degree assault, where they must only prove the defendant intentionally caused or attempted to cause serious bodily injury to another.

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graphics-882726_640-300x207When a defendant agrees to go on probation his or her actions will be under a microscope until the supervision terms ends.   Unfortunetly, the success or failure of a probation sentence is not always up to the defendant.  Probation officers have a great deal of power and control over their defendants, and some have a tendency to abuse this power.  There are certainly fair and reasonable officers throughout Maryland, but some make it so difficult for a defendant that a violation is bound to occur.  Regardless of what type of officer is assigned to the case though, there will likely be violation paperwork filed if a defendant is charged with a crime or a serious traffic offense while on probation.  All defendants who are on probation are required to immediately inform their officer upon being charged with a crime or traffic offense that carries a possible jail sentence.  Civil citations such as possession of marijuana under ten grams or open container of alcohol do not count as crimes, and will not be the basis for a violation of probation.  One of the exceptions is an open container charge in Ocean City, as city law provides a potential 90-day jail upon conviction.  A defendant who does not report a new charge could face an additional violation for failing to inform the officer, but this will likely be overshadowed by the offense itself.

Once a probation officer receives notice that a defendant has picked up a new offense, he or she will send the judge an informative that describes the new offense.  Some probation officers will include a recommendation whether to issue a summons for the defendant to appear in court or a warrant to be issued, but the decision is completely within the discretion of the judge.  The less severe the new charge is, the higher the odds are that the judge will issue a summons or show cause order for the defendant to appear in court.  Any defendant that is arrested on a violation of probation warrant will still have the opportunity to file a motion for bail review.  If a warrant has been issued for a violation but the defendant has not yet been served or arrested, it is advisable to contact a lawyer.  A violation of probation lawyer can file a motion to convert the warrant into a summons, and these motions are especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Maryland judges have been more likely to consider converting warrants into summonses in order to limit the amount of COVID-19 exposure to defendants and to the jail population.  There is never a guarantee that a particular judge will grant a motion, but filing promptly is key.  We do not recommend waiting to file this type of motion, as this would likely result in missed probation appointments and the potential for a new violation to be filed for absconding.  Absconding (missing more than 1 appointment) is a non-technical violation and is not subject to the JRA limitations on potential jail sentences.

A violation of probation hearing will likely be scheduled prior to the new case being resolved.  When this happens the state and defense typically ask for a postponement in order for the new case to be worked out.  This becomes a problem when the defendant is being held in jail on the VOP, which is why requesting a bail review right away is important.  Anyone who is charged with a new offense while on probation should think twice about pleading guilty to the new charge, as this would almost certainly result in being held in violation.  Any guilty, Alford or no contest plea, even if the defendant receives a probation before judgment or PBJ, would be sufficient to prove a violation.  Too many defendants make the mistake of accepting a time served or PBJ offer, and then face harsh punishment when they go back to their violation judge.

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technology-2500010__480-300x200The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently announced that a 29-year old Baltimore County man has pled guilty to two felony charges in federal court, which stemmed from his use of a fake Secret Service badge.  According to facts presented in the plea agreement the Middle River resident was pulled over in Baltimore City by an MTA Police Officer for driving on a suspended license.  Upon being approached by the uniformed officer the defendant removed a law enforcement badge from his pocket and placed it in his lap, and then told the officer that he was a United States Secret Service Agent.  Rather than give him a pass and send him on his way, the officer become more suspicious of the defendant’s behavior, likely in part because he detected an odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle.  The driver was arrested and taken to the police station where he continued to maintain that he was a Secret Service Agent.  Police contacted the Secret Service, who unsurprisingly had no record of the man being employed in their agency or any other federal law enforcement agency.  Actual Secret Service agents made the trip to the police station to interview the defendant, who apparently admitted that the badge was fake.

Maryland Transportation Police originally charged the defendant with DUI and driving on a suspended license as well as multiple criminal violations.  The criminal charges included obstructing and hindering, resisting arrest, false statement to a law enforcement officer and impersonating an officer under public safety code section 3-502.  All of these charges were ultimately dismissed in the Baltimore City District Court, as the feds decided to prosecute the man for more serious offenses.  Further investigation into the defendant revealed that in addition to using the fake law enforcement badge to attempt to avoid being arrested, he had also posed as a federal agent on several other occasions to defraud at least 8 civilians from early 2017 to early 2019.  The plea agreement described numerous incidents where the defendant would use his fake law enforcement status to get free food and parking.  He also used his fake credentials to gain entry into people’s homes where he would steal their bank checks and credit cards and then go on spending sprees.  The total losses to the victims was more than $20,000.

The Baltimore County man is currently scheduled for sentencing in November, where he faces us to 10 years in prison for access device fraud under 18 U.S. Code section 1029.  He also faces a 2-year mandatory prison sentence for aggravated identity fraud, which will run consecutively to any sentence he receives on the access device fraud charge.  It will not be the first lengthy jail sentence for the defendant, as he was sentenced to 6 months in the Baltimore County Detention Center for unlawful taking of a motor vehicle in April of 2019.  The Blog will continue to follow this case and may post a follow up article in November after the sentencing hearing.  It is rare for a person to be charged in federal court for impersonating an officer, but this case clearly had much more going on than just a futile attempt to avoid a traffic citation.

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police-224426__180Another former member of the Baltimore Police Department’s notorious Gun Trace Task Force has been found guilty of a serious crime in federal court.  The 49-year old veteran officer, who retired earlier this year after 26 years with the BPD, is the 15th member of the task force to face charges for various felonies including robbery, falsifying police reports, theft and public corruption.  This officer was never prosecuted for direct acts of public corruption related to his involvement with the task force, but he could not fully outrun his past transgressions.  Federal agents were not able to bust the officer for selling cocaine that was seized during a drug bust back in 2009, but the feds got the former officer on charges for lying to federal investigators about said cocaine last year during an interview.  It was an interesting turn of events for a man who thought he had avoided what 14 of his former colleagues could not.

According to facts presented at the plea, the former officer was called in by the FBI to answer questions about a major drug bust that occurred in Baltimore City back in 2009.  During this bust, city police officers discovered 44 kilograms of cocaine in a pickup truck after obtaining a search warrant for the home of a suspected large-scale dealer.  The bust was so large that the BPD’s SWAT team was called in to escort a police van to headquarters to lock up the cocaine in an evidence room.  Apparently only 41 kilograms were entered into evidence control and 3 kilograms were left in the transport van.  After being advised that the interview was voluntary and that he could be prosecuted for lying to the federal agents, the former officer proceeded to tell agents that he was unaware that anyone had taken and sold the missing 3 kilograms of cocaine.  The former officer probably didn’t know it at the time, but the agents were likely working on information from a cooperating defendant that he indeed participated in the theft and sale of the missing 3 kilos.  The agents likely did not give the former officer any reason to believe he was the target of their investigation, and he probably casually denied involvement without knowing he had just sealed his own fate.

The FBI obviously had insufficient evidence to prosecute the former officer back in 2009 for stealing and selling the cocaine, and likely did not even know he was part of the theft until recently.  While the statute of limitations most certainly barred prosecution for his involvement in the heist (most federal criminal violations have a 5-year statute of limitations), they were able to stick him with charges for lying about his involvement 10 years later.  In order to induce a guilty plea, the feds likely had reliable witnesses that were more than prepared to testify in court.  These witnesses could have been other officers involved in the task force, including an officer that was found guilty for planting a BB gun in a citizens’ car in order to protect a fellow officer from prosecution.  The officer convicted of the BB gun scam was one of the officers that split the proceeds of the sale of the 3 missing cocaine kilos.  As part of the plea agreement the defendant in this recent case admitted that he received $20,000 for his role in selling the stolen cocaine to a confidential informant.

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Medical-Cannabis-300x200Earlier this year a former state lawmaker entered a guilty plea in the Baltimore federal courthouse for accepting bribes and committing wire fraud while in office, and the ex-delegate recently learned that her fate would include a prison sentence.  The defendant was a well-known lawmaker who had been in office since January of 2007, and served right up until the charges were unsealed and made available to the public roughly 7 months ago.  She had been instrumental in making medical marijuana a reality in Maryland, and actually sponsored the original bill.  In fact, the state’s medical marijuana program is named after the defendant’s mother, who never had access to medical marijuana to help ease the effects of her cancer.  According to evidence obtained by law enforcement, the former delegate accepted multiple bribes related to awarding lucrative licenses to grow and dispense medical marijuana.  In total the government presented evidence that the former lawmaker accepted 5 bribes in 2018 and 2019, which totaled approximately $34,000.  The first bribe was for $3,000 in exchange for a vote to increase the number of grower licenses from 15 to 22.  This bribe was reportedly paid by an agent of an out-of-state company that was seeking to angle its way into the Maryland medical marijuana market.  She also took money to help a Maryland company secure its growing license and another company to secure a license to dispense medical marijuana.  A Baltimore based business man has also pled guilty for offering a bribe to the former lawmaker, and he is awaiting sentencing in federal court.

The defendant’s lawyer argued that the 69-year old Democrat from Baltimore did not deserve a prison sentence, and that a felony conviction combined with home detention and probation would be a sufficient sentence.  The defense argued that the defendant had otherwise lived a crime free and exemplary life, and fell on hard times after the death of her husband.  The government countered by urging the judge to impose a 3-year prison sentence, and cited similar cases of public corruption where 3 or more years was imposed.  After taking both sides into account the Baltimore federal judge ultimately settled on a two-year prison sentence followed by 3 years of supervised release.  The judge explained the sentence by citing the multiple separate criminal acts, and reiterated that this was not a one-time lapse in judgement but a well-though out course of criminal conduct.  In addition to the medical marijuana bribes, the former delegate also accepted $20,000 in exchange for drafting a bill to establish additional liquor licenses, and another $5,000 to file a bill that lowered the age required for a person to become medical director of a state opioid addiction clinic.  The judge is allowing the defendant to turn herself in at a later date in September, and may consider pushing the report date further out based on the current COVID-19 situation.

It is no surprise that the medical marijuana program produced this level of corruption from a veteran lawmaker, and there are almost certainly more instances of foul play going on throughout the state related to the lucrative medical marijuana business.  The setup of the program was a breeding ground for public corruption and payoffs due to the limited number of licenses being issued and the amount of money at stake for those who received them.  Anytime government officials have control over the ability for private citizens and business to make millions of dollars there is going to be corruption, and the state would have been much better served to allow all qualified applicants to obtain licenses.  There is no logical reason in preventing qualified applicants from engaging in the medical marijuana business, and it’s a real shame that arbitrary limits were created.  The Blog will continue to follow all future instances of public corruption, and we will pay special attention to any cases related to medical and recreational marijuana.  Benjamin Herbst is a Florida and Maryland criminal defense lawyer who handles cases in state and federal court.  Benjamin specializes in defending white collar crimes such as bribery, fraud, and misconduct in office, and is available anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598.  He handles cases in all Maryland jurisdictions including Montgomery County, Baltimore City and County, Prince George’s County, the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland and Anne Arundel County.  Benjamin is also license in Florida and accepts cases in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County.

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hammer-802296__480-300x225In a rather bizarre case, a Maryland State Trooper recently pled guilty to perjury and misconduct in office for falsifying DUI arrests.  The guilty plea was heard in the Baltimore County Circuit Court just a couple of weeks after the trooper was formally charged by the Attorney General’s Office.  It does not appear that the 36-year old trooper was ever arrested, as his case did not originate in the district court as a typical statement of charges.  According to facts presented in the guilty plea the trooper made 6 fake DUI arrests over the course of the last two years.  He authored completely falsified citations and police reports and submitted the same to the District Court Clerk and the State’s Attorney’s Office.  The fake citations and reports turned into actual court cases, and fictitious defendants were summoned to appear for court.  When these ghost defendants did not show up for court the judges ordered bench warrants to issue, and in some cases, officers actually responded to fake addresses to arrest fake people for failing to appear in court.  The trooper, who has been with the MSP for about 10 years, was a corporal in the specialized DUI enforcement unit, which has been lauded for its effectiveness.  The whole situation is even stranger considering the fact that the State Police denies the existence of numerical requirements for DUI arrests.  The trooper, who is currently suspended with pay, may have felt pressure to up his numbers, but there may have been more to this story.

The trooper was charged at the end of July and elected to immediately have his lawyer begin plea negotiations.  The AG’s office did not agree to dismiss either of the two counts pursuant to a guilty plea, but likely did not push too hard for an active jail sentence.  After accepting his guilty plea, the judge sentenced the soon to be former trooper to a suspended jail sentence and supervised probation.  As a condition of his probation the trooper will have to perform 300 hours of community service and pay a $6,000 fine, which is no slap on the wrist.  On the other hand, avoiding jail time and a felony conviction under these circumstances is certainly a victory for the defense.  Had the trooper received some sort of financial gain for his misconduct the result may have been different, but his intentions were not so devious as they were just strange.  The trooper tried to cover his tracks to some extent; all of his fake drunk driving suspects refused their breathalyzer tests, which meant he did not have to include fake breath alcohol test results in the reports.  On the other hand, breathalyzer tests are conducted by a certified breath tech so fabricating these reports would have required an accomplice.  A breath tech being in on this crime would have been one of the few things to make this story more bizarre.

Perjury, which is a misdemeanor with a 10-year maximum penalty, is not a particularly common criminal charge in Maryland because it is difficult to prove a person was lying under oath.  This officer was in a different position due to his sworn police reports and citations being easily proven as fictitious.  We have posted numerous stories about charges involving misconduct in office, and unfortunately there is no shortage of government authority figures breaking the law these days.  It seems like state lawmakers, mayors, city administrators and police officers are routinely appearing as defendants in criminal court, and the media is always there to report on their cases.  The Blog will continue to follow public corruption cases so stay tuned.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland criminal defense lawyer who is also licensed to practice in all state and federal courts including Baltimore County, Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County.  Benjamin is also an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in perjury, misconduct in office, drug offenses, gun crimes, theft and fraud.  Call Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598.

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car-1531277__480-300x200A veteran Anne Arundel County police officer has been arrested and charged with numerous felony offenses for allegedly stealing from the home of a deceased man in Pasadena.  Back in April multiple officers responded to the residence after a report of an unattended death.  The officer in question then returned to the house the next day in full uniform, and according to reports took cash and firearms with him.  A witness observed the officer removing the firearms from the house, but thought it was routine police activity.  The witness never mentioned what he saw until months later when a family member of the deceased homeowner called the department in search of the missing firearms for estate purposes.  The department started asking questions and ultimately came across the witness.

Detectives were probably surprised to learn their prime suspect was one of their own, but nonetheless proceeded to hone in on making an arrest.  Police executed a search warrant on the officer’s home in Linthicum and he was arrested soon thereafter.  The 5-year veteran officer was released on his own recognizance by a district court commissioner after being booked and charged with 6 different offenses including first-degree burglary, felony theft and misconduct in office.  He was also charged with third-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary and felony theft scheme, and has been placed on leave without pay by the Anne Arundel County Police Department.  There is currently no preliminary hearing date set for the officer’s case, but regardless it will ultimately be forwarded to the Circuit Court for a resolution.

It is too early to tell whether this case will end up going to trial, but if detectives found the firearms during the execution of the search warrant then a guilty plea is almost a foregone conclusion.  While the officer is facing 6 total charges, his attorney will likely argue for the four felonies to be dismissed.  The State will probably push for a plea involving the misconduct in office charge, and one additional theft or burglary charge.  Misconduct in office is a common law offense in Maryland that does not have a set maximum penalty, but it is considered a misdemeanor. Whether the defense can convince the State to go on misdemeanor fourth-degree burglary remains to be seen, as this would ensure the officer does not end up with a felony conviction.

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joint-200x300Ocean City Police have issued more than 7 times the number of marijuana citations in May and June as they did those same months in 2019, and some local officials are getting concerned.  Last May police officers in Maryland’s only beachfront town wrote a measly 8 civil citations for marijuana possession less than 10 grams, and the number jumped slightly to 41 last June.  This May, Ocean City Police officers wrote 108 pot citations in May and 241 in June.  Marijuana has only been decriminalized for a couple years in Maryland and officers may not have thought it was worth their while to write the citations initially, but still the jump is far too significant to blame it on officers looking the other way.

City officials may attribute the jump to more and more citizens receiving their medical cannabis cards, but this likely is not the full story.  While we will never quite know the percentages of people who only started using marijuana when it became legal in Maryland, we suspect that most medical cannabis card holders used marijuana long before they were able to legally purchase it.  The drastic increase in marijuana citations is likely a result of beachgoers becoming more cavalier about public marijuana use.  OCMD tourists have traditionally been careless/ignorant when it comes to the town’s open container laws (open container of alcohol is punishable by jailtime in Ocean City), and now the word is out that you cannot be arrested for smoking pot in public.  Many tourists are in vacation mode and just not genuinely concerned about receiving a civil citation.  Also, based on last year’s statistics the word may be out that the police have looked the other way when it comes to lighting up around the boardwalk.  The high citation numbers this year may go a long way to changing that narrative, and we could less public consumption and fewer citations being issued to finish off the summer.  Town officials certainly hope this is the case, as they are always trying to preserve the family fun atmosphere around the boardwalk.

In addition to marijuana citations, OCPD has also been busier charging offenders with drug and weapons crimes.  Ocean City officers arrested 40 people each on drug and weapons charges in June of 2019, but this June those numbers jumped to 62 for drug crimes and 73 for weapons crimes.  Overall arrests also increased from 552 to 600 this June compared to last.  It is interesting to note that Ocean City police officers only issued 25 criminal citations.  Maryland allows its sworn law enforcement officers to issue criminal citations in leu of making an arrest, which is beneficial to both the suspect and the criminal justice system.  An arrest triggers a host of events including the time-consuming booking process.  Defendants must then see a District Court Commissioner, who determines the conditions of their bail or release on recognizance.  In addition to being held for a minimum of several hours, suspects who are arrested and booked will have a permanent arrest record that will become part of the FBI database.  These records are not eligible for expungement even if the case is dismissed, which is a huge and avoidable injustice.  The only legitimate reasons to arrest a suspect in leu of issuing a criminal citation would be serious concerns about public safety and the suspect’s ability to return to court.  Many Ocean City Police officers justify an arrest over a criminal citation based on the fact that the defendant does not live locally, and is thus less likely to return to court.  Realistically almost everyone who is charged with a crime in Ocean City during the summer is not an Ocean City resident, so this should not on its own support a decision to arrest.  We can only hope that police begin to think twice about arresting a suspect when they could just write a criminal citation.

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courtroom-898931_1280-300x226Federal law enforcement has made fentanyl a major priority, and last week a 26-year old Baltimore County man was sentenced to a decade in prison for possession with intent to distribute the deadly narcotic.  According to the statement of facts in the guilty plea, a Woodlawn man fled from Baltimore County Police after they tried to initiate a traffic stop.  During the pursuit officers allegedly observed the suspect throwing objects out of his car window as he fled.  Eventually police caught up with the suspect and search incident to arrest produced a digital scale and a baggie with 40 grams of fentanyl.  Had law enforcement stopped there the man would likely have been prosecuted in state court, but a search of his home pursuant to a warrant produced far more incriminating evidence.  Police ultimately discovered 3 kilograms of fentanyl and a loaded .380 caliber handgun.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated in its press release that this amount of fentanyl would be enough to kill 1.5 million people.  The suspect was also prohibited from possessing firearms based on a previous drug conviction in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.  He also had an earlier drug possession conviction in Baltimore City and a probation before judgement for driving on a suspended license.

The facts of the case were not especially unique and from what we can see the defendant was not alleged to have been an interstate drug trafficker, but the federal government still elected to prosecute this case.  For the last several years the feds have picked up gun and drug cases arising from Baltimore City, but with the sheer amount of fentanyl plus a gun being involved it is no surprise this Baltimore County case went federal.  Most of the time a defendant would much rather be prosecuted in Maryland state court, as the sentencing guidelines are typically lower and there is parole.  However, under these circumstances the defendant likely would have received a similar sentence in state court, as he would have been subject to three Maryland mandatory sentence provisions.  Anyone who is found to be in possession of more than five grams of fentanyl faces a mandatory 5 years in prison.  Additionally, the possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime carries a 5-year minimum prison sentence under state law.  The Woodlawn man may have also been subject to charges for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon/ person with a drug conviction under 5-601.  This offense also carries a 5-year mandatory sentence that cannot be suspended unless the prior offense had been closed for more than 5 years.  Closed means probation and parole must have been completed.

The Blog will continue to follow cases traditionally prosecuted in state court that are picked up by federal law enforcement.  A general rule is that any convicted felon who is arrested with a gun in Baltimore City could face federal prosecution, but now it is clear the feds are branching out to the County and other Maryland jurisdictions.  Based on this press release it is also clear that federal law enforcement agencies are actively pursuing anyone involved in fentanyl distribution.  If you have been charged with a gun or drug crime anywhere in Maryland or Florida call criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598.  Benjamin specializes in charges for drug possessiondrug distribution, possession with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon or disqualified person.  He offers free consultations and is available to defend clients from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland.

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