Articles Posted in Assault

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technology-2500010__480-300x200Carroll County Deputy Sheriffs recently arrested multiple individuals after an investigation of an alleged retail burglary turned into a multi-jurisdictional high-speed chase.  The incident began when a concerned citizen called police upon observing a suspicious U-Haul van that was parked at a residence in Westminster.  The van’s registration plate was apparently covered by a piece of cardboard.  Officers were unable to immediately locate the vehicle, though a short time later it was observed in a retail store parking lot where several individuals were seen walking from the area of the vehicle to and from the store.  Police surveilled the vehicle and the individuals and then decided to pursue the van as it pulled out of the store parking lot.  A traffic stop was initiated, and officers ordered the driver out of the vehicle, but he allegedly refused and sped away.   As the driver, a 56-year-old man from Baltimore, drove off he allegedly struck a deputy sheriff on the arm with his vehicle.

Deputies initially chased the van as it weaved in an out of traffic, allegedly reaching speeds of over 90 miles per hour.  At some point the chase was terminated due to safety concerns for the public and the officers.  Baltimore County Police was notified that the van was headed toward its jurisdiction and provided air support to locate the vehicle.  Air support by way of helicopter is not always available in the event of a terminated high-speed chase, but due to the allegation of a felony assault on an officer the helicopter team jumped into action.  The driver of the vehicle was ultimately detained and arrested in Baltimore City, and then transported to the Carroll County Detention Center.  He was charged with resisting arrest, 4th degree burglary, assault in the second degree and assault in the first degree.  A District Court Commissioner held the defendant without bail at his initial appearance, and a judge ordered the same during bail review.  His next court appearance is scheduled for mid-June, though this preliminary hearing will likely be cancelled in favor of an indictment or information filed with the Circuit Court.

The defendant also faces a slew of traffic infractions for fleeing, running a red light, negligent and reckless driving, and multiple speeding tickets.  Two other individuals were charged in the incident, but with less serious charges than the driver of the van.  One was charged with 4thdegree burglary and released by the commissioner shortly after his arrest.  The other was charged with 4th degree burglary and fraudulent personal identification to avoid prosecution under Maryland code 8-301.  This offense, which carries up to 1 year in jail, is often charged with false statement to an officer, though false statement to an officer carries a 6-month maximum penalty under 9-501.  The false statement cost the defendant a night of freedom, as he was held without bail by the commissioner and released by a judge the next day.

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handcuffs-354042_640-300x225Montgomery County Police recently arrested a 31-year-old Hyattsville man after responding to a call for an armed robbery at a Safeway in Kensington.  According to police the man and an 18-year-old co-defendant attempted to steal merchandise from the store but were confronted by a loss prevention officer or LPO.  The LPO apparently tried to recover the merchandise from the thieves when the older male defendant pulled out a knife.  During the scuffle the LPO was cut on his chest and transported to a nearby hospital.  Most large retail stores have at least one loss prevention officer always working, and some stores like Target, Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes have numerous LPOs walking the retail floor and monitoring surveillance cameras in the security office.  Loss prevention officers do not have the express power to arrest or detain individuals, but they can file charging documents on behalf of the store.  Typically, LPOs call the police when they observe a suspected shoplifting case, and the officer who arrives on scene issues a criminal citation or files charges with a District Court Commissioner.

The LPO in this case was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, which likely means he did not receive a deep puncture wound that is common in stabbings. Police did not provide a detailed description of the injuries though based on the facts he may have been cut in a slicing type of motion and suffered a laceration.  The defendant was charged with first degree assault, second degree assault, theft and false statement to a law enforcement officer.  He was initially held without bail by the commissioner but released on an unsecured bail the next day at his district court bail review.  The fact that a judge released the defendant tells us that he may not have intended to stab or even cut the victim.  It also likely means that the defendant does not have a history of violent crime or other criminal offenses.  This case is his only case in Maryland visible to the public, which leads to the conclusion that he has no prior convictions in the state.  The defendant has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 1 at the District Court in Rockville, though the State’s Attorney’s Office will make a decision about whether to file felony charges earlier than the preliminary.  To prove assault in the first degree the State must prove the defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury, as the actual injures here were not life-threatening or permanent.  Based on the defendant’s bail status the first-degree assault is likely a borderline proposition for the State, but we would not be surprised if they indicted him and then let it play out in circuit court.

The Blog will continue to follow this case and may post a follow up article in the future.  If you or a loved one has been charged or is being investigated for an adult or juvenile crime in state or federal court, contact Maryland assault lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in domestic violence cases such as assault by strangulation, false imprisonment and protective order violations.  He is also a skilled gun crime lawyer who handles assault with a firearm, which is considered a felony regardless of whether the gun was fired or otherwise caused actual physical harm.  Simply brandishing a gun in a threatening manner can result in felony assault under Maryland law.  Finally, if you have been charged with theft or theft scheme Benjamin will fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced.  Typically, when there is a theft and an assault the defendant will also face robbery charges, but this case presents yet another unique set of facts in the criminal justice system.

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1398073_security_fence_4-300x200Back in February a Wicomico County jury found a 49-year-old man guilty of assault in the first and second degree and an additional count of reckless endangerment.  The domestically related incident occurred last summer, but the case was not closed until a recent sentencing hearing.  According to facts presented at trial the defendant and the victim began arguing while traveling in the victim’s vehicle.  The argument then turned physical when the pair arrived at the victim’s residence, and at one point victim lost consciousness while being assaulted.  Testimony from the victim revealed that when she regained consciousness the defendant had his hands around her neck, thus triggering first degree assault charges based on strangulation.  Trial lasted two days at the Circuit Court for Wicomico County in Salisbury, and then sentencing was postponed until May after the jury announced its verdict.

Delayed sentencing hearings are commonplace in most jury trials, especially violent felony cases where a conviction typically leads to a prison sentence.  The delay allows the state and defense to prepare for sentencing as well as for the judge to order a pre-sentence investigation or PSI.  In this particular case the judge handed down a 15-year prison sentence on the first-degree assault charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years.  The other counts of assault second degree and reckless endangerment merged into the 15-year sentence.  Based on the fact that first degree assault is defined as a crime of violence, the defendant will have to serve at least 7.5 years before he is eligible for parole.  The defendant, who filed an appeal shortly after being sentenced, also faces an additional 3-years for a probation violation that is scheduled for sentencing in June.  The defendant is on probation in Wicomico County for a second-degree assault charge from that occurred in 2018, but was resolved in 2019.  Considering the defendant was given a straight 15-year sentence (no probation) on the felony assault, his probation will likely be revoked.  The only thing left to determine is whether the back-up time will be concurrent or consecutive to his new sentence.

Upon first glance, 15 years in prison may seem like an overly harsh sentence for a case where there was no weapon used and seemingly no allegation of permanent injury to the victim.  On the other hand, the defendant was already on probation for an assault, and has an extensive criminal history including at least three prior assault convictions.  Factoring in prior probation violations and his criminal record the defendant likely qualified as a major offender under the Maryland Sentencing Guidelines.  Therefore, his guidelines range for first degree assault with a minor victim injury would be 10 to 20 years of incarceration, and it looks like the judge gave him a sentence right in the middle of the guidelines.  First degree assault carries a harsh sentence under Maryland law, as the guidelines ranges are significantly higher than second degree assault.  The Blog may post a follow up article after this individual appears at this violation of probation hearing, and again if his appeal ends up being successful.

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jaguar-1366978_960_720-300x169Over the past week Prince George’s County Police officers arrested six boys in connection with two separate carjacking incidents.  The boys were also charged with illegal firearm possession after police located ghost guns in their possession.  The first arrest occurred at the end of last week when police located a vehicle that had been carjacked three days earlier.  After making a felony traffic stop, officers located four teenaged boys from Washington D.C. inside the vehicle and also recovered a loaded ghost gun.  All four were arrested and charged with multiple serious crimes, though it appears they will be charged as juveniles due to the fact that they were 15 at the time of the incident.  It is unclear whether the juveniles were released to their parents or remain detained at a secure juvenile facility.

The four boys will  cclappear at the Prince George’s County Circuit Court for their respective trials.  While the cases will start out in the juvenile court, the State may choose to seek a discretionary waiver for some or all of the juveniles.  Maryland law allows a judge to order the transfer of a case to adult court for a 15-year-old defendant if a finding is made that the child is not fit for juvenile rehabilitative measures.  A child under 15 can only be prosecuted in adult court for an offense such as murder that carries life in prison.  Juvenile discretionary waivers are rare, and in all likelihood would not be utilized for a carjacking case unless the juvenile has an extensive history of violence.  Carjacking by definition is a serious offense, but if the facts are especially egregious the Court certainly could consider a discretionary waiver.

Just four days later Prince George’s County officers made yet another carjacking arrest.  The suspects in this case were also juveniles, with one being a 16-year-old from Fort Washington, and the other a 17-year-old from Temple Hills.  Police received a call for an attempted armed carjacking on April 3 at around 1:30 p.m. in District Heights.  When officers arrived, they observed two suspects running from the scene and were ultimately able to take them into custody.  Search incident to arrest revealed that both juveniles were in possession of loaded ghost guns.  In the first three months of 2023 alone 32 juveniles and 19 adults have been arrested for carjacking in Prince George’s County.  This alarming trend

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technology-2500010__480-300x200Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer season in Maryland’s only beach town, but these days tourists from the region begin traveling to Ocean City to attend events and enjoy the night life as soon as the weather turns warm.  With graduations completed and school about to let out, it’s safe to say that summer is now in full swing down at the ocean.  This being a criminal law Blog we’re not here to report on the calendar of events in OCMD, but rather the host of new arrests and police activity that comes with the dramatic uptick in visitors.  This week one notable arrest took place after a New York man was pulled over for multiple traffic infractions including aggressive driving, and traveling roughly twice the 35 miles per hour speed limit on the Philadelphia Ave. section of coastal highway.  This area is one of the busiest and most heavily trafficked areas of Ocean City, so needless to say officers rushed to pull the vehicle over as soon as possible.  It seems that the actual traffic stop was effectuated without much drama, but the defendant’s alleged actions that followed were anything but calm and collected.

According to an Ocean City Police Department press release, officers detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage upon approaching the defendant, and shortly thereafter determined that he was driving on a suspended out-of-state driver’s license.  The defendant was then requested to complete standardized field sobriety exercises, and was arrested after becoming uncooperative during the tests.  He was initially arrested for DUI, fleeing and eluding and disorderly conduct, but it turns out these charges only represented a fraction of what was yet to come.  While the defendant was seated in the backseat of the patrol vehicle, he attempted to make a phone call from his smartwatch.  Making unauthorized phone calls while in custody is a huge no-no with police and correctional officers, but the defendant was not happy about giving up his watch to the police.  He allegedly became aggressive and kicked the arresting officer in the face chest and arms, and then kicked another officer who came over to offer assistance.  Ocean City EMS arrived on scene to treat the defendant and the officer, and the defendant was taken to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin for treatment.  After receiving treatment for what the police deemed were minor injuries, he was taken to the police station and booked for a total of 5 criminal charges including two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct and obstructing and hindering.  He also received 16 traffic citations for charges including DUI and driving under the influence of drugs.  The defendant faces hefty fines and potential points for aggressive driving, reckless driving and negligent driving, and according to the charges the defendant’s license was already suspended in the state of Nevada.

The defendant was denied bail by the District Court Commissioner, but granted release on a $25,000 bail the following day when he went before a judge.  He posted bail and now will return to court in July for his trial date.  The Blog will continue to follow this case as it progresses through the court system, and we anticipate whichever judge hears this case will not be pleased with the defendant’s alleged conduct.  Aggressive driving combined with driving under the influence is a dangerous combination, especially in a crowded area such as lower Ocean City. The driving behavior combined with the alleged assault on police officers made a bad situation even worse, though the defendant may be able to challenge many of the charges in court.  He certainly is going to require a strong defense to avoid jail time and permanent convictions on his record.

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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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fist-bump-1195446_960_720Today marks the final day of the 2016 General Assembly’s legislative session, and there is still much left to be decided on the criminal law front. We wrote extensively about the Justice Reinvestment Act, which has grabbed headlines for much of the last month. But there are other criminal law bills that will likely go into effect this fall, and these bills deserve some attention as well. One such bill was a measure originally taken by the House that looked to expand protections for victims of domestic violence. Currently a victim of domestic violence may petition the court for a protective order if he or she alleges that some form of abuse has taken place. Under the Maryland statute, abuse is now defined as an act that causes bodily injury or places the victim in fear of imminent bodily harm. Abuse also includes the crimes of rape, false imprisonment and stalking. Lawmakers from the House sought to expand the definition of abuse by adding harassment and malicious destruction of property but this measure failed to gain traction and was shut down after an unfavorable report by the judiciary. But now the bill has been revived in the form of an amendment to another Senate domestic violence bill, and it appears to be gaining steam.

Opponents of the amendment take issue with harassment being defined as a form of abuse. This is likely due to the broad definition of harassment, which is defined as maliciously engaging in a course conduct that alarms or seriously annoys another. No physical harm is necessary, and there is no exact definition of what a course of conduct actually means. This is a crime that while serious, is often the subject of false accusations because little objective proof is required to bring the charges; the word of the alleged victim is usually enough it initiate a case. While false accusations of harassment rarely stand up in court, they can have drastic effects on the accused if a temporary protective order is sought. Temporary protective orders can have immediate collateral consequences that can occur before the accused has his or her day in court, and this is the main reason while some lawmakers are hesitant to expand the definition of abuse to include harassment. But it appears that those in favor of expanding the abuse definition will be on the winning side of this debate.

The Blog will provide a final summary of the criminal law bills that will be heading to the governor’s desk this summer, and we will post a follow up article after all the dust settles. For now though, we expect that in October smoking marijuana in public will be a crime once again, and minimum mandatory prison sentences for drug felonies will come only at the discretion of the trial judge. Violation of probation procedures are also headed for drastic changes that will benefit defendants, and many prison inmates are looking at shorter sentences. As always, feel free to contact The Herbst Firm with any questions about these legal issues, as well as if you or a loved one has a criminal matter that calls for experienced representation. Benjamin Herbst handles all types of domestic violence cases including assault, harassment, and stalking, and is available at 410-207-2598.

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gunpoint-308107_960_720A jury recently found a former police officer guilty of multiple violent crimes after a two-day trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. The shamed officer was indicted for an incident that occurred in May of 2014, when the officer questioned a man for sitting in a parked car. The man was parked in front of his Bowie home along with his cousin, and exited the vehicle after exchanging words with the officer. As the man was walking toward his front door the former patrol officer pulled out his firearm and ordered the man back in the car. The officer then pointed his gun at the victim’s back as he directed him to the vehicle. After the cop pushed the victim they turned to face each other, and at this time the cop had his gun pointed directly at victim’s head and then with the barrel mere inches from his face. The victim was then arrested for disorderly conduct, a case that was dismissed by prosecutors six months later.

The verdict came down earlier this week, and shortly thereafter the county police department release video of the incident, which was filmed on a cellphone. After viewing the video it was immediately apparent why the twelve jurors found the officer guilty of all the serious crimes for which he was charged. The charges included first degree assault, second degree assault, use of a handgun in a crime of violence, and misconduct in office. First degree assault is a felony that carries a maximum 25 year sentence, while second degree assault is a misdemeanor with a 10 year maximum. Misconduct in office is a common law crime with no specific maximum penalty. While each of these three crimes certainly carries severe punishments, it is the misdemeanor use of a handgun during a crime of violence charge that will carry the most weight. A conviction for this offense carries a mandatory minimum 5-year prison sentence that may not be suspended. In addition a defendant sentenced under this statute is not eligible for parole. Sentencing is set for early January, and will likely include a term of probation after expiration of the mandatory prison time.

During a press conference this week the police commissioner for Prince George’s County condemned the officer’s actions, and implored the public to refrain from passing judgment on the other 2,000 plus officers in the department. He stated that this was a criminal act of a single man and will not be tolerated in any way. While the officer is technically still with the department, his firing is a mere formality at this point. He has been suspended without pay since the indictment came down, and the only thing preventing his termination is the administrative process that government employees are afforded before being fired. This is certainly a busy week in Maryland for police misconduct cases, as Baltimore City police officer is currently in trial for his role in the death of Freddie Gray. The Blog will continue to follow both of these cases and may post a follow up article in the near future.

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graphics-882726_640A jury recently found a veteran FBI agent guilty of assault after a three-day trial in the Montgomery County Circuit Court last week. The charges stemmed from an incident involving the custody exchange of a child, where the father was allegedly two hours late. A bystander captured the entire incident on a cellphone camera, which ultimately led to the agent being indicted for felony first degree assault, use of a firearm in a crime of violence, and misdemeanor second degree assault.   Video shows that the agent, a friend of the mother of the child, was angry with the father for being late and repeatedly called him disrespectful. The agent, who was off duty and dressed in plain clothes, kept pressing the father and followed him outside of a Chevy Chase apartment building to continue to voice his displeasure. During the argument a 15 year-old boy intervened and questioned why the agent was getting involved, as he was not part of the family. At that point the agent suddenly struck the boy with and open hand to the chest that sent him tumbling down to the sidewalk on his back. As the boy picked himself up the off duty agent then attempted to place him under arrest. A brief struggled ensued, but ended quickly when the agent pulled out a handgun and threatened to shoot the boy if he didn’t comply.

After receiving a copy of the video the State’s Attorney decided to present the case to a grand jury, which ended up finding probable cause to charge the agent with the three aforementioned offenses. The jury sitting in the trial court did not feel the evidence warranted convictions for the two felony offenses and acquitted the defendant on the most serious counts. But the jury agreed with the state of Maryland that the evidence supported a finding of guilt for second degree assault, as the agent had no legal authority and no defense for striking the boy. The agent’s lawyer argued unsuccessfully that the agent felt imminently threatened by the 15 year-old boy, and therefore struck him in self-defense. But the jury saw through this argument, which was hardly supported by the video.

As the verdict was announced the agent, a 20 year veteran of the FBI and current high ranking counterterrorism officer, became faint and had to be transported from the courtroom by ambulance. The case was reset until this week to deal with post-verdict matters such as setting a sentencing date and deciding whether the defendant will be allowed to keep his firearms. In Maryland a person convicted of a crime of violence such as assault is not permitted to possess a firearm. Although the defendant has been found guilty, he has not been convicted. The judge could impose a probation before judgment, which would not be considered a conviction at the January sentencing date. The Blog will track this case and may post a follow up article after the sentencing hearing, which is bound to be a tense affair. If the agent is adjudicated guilty it’s hard to see how he could remain an active duty federal law enforcement officer. But the FBI will make its own decision on that matter, and will not likely offer any explanation either way. Discipline from his employer as well as from the court seems like a given though, due to the agent’s embarrassing and violent outburst. As a law enforcement officer he was supposed to keep the peace, but instead the agent provoked a situation and ended up assaulting a private citizen, who happened to be a 15 year-old boy no less.

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badge1.jpgThe Maryland State Police have officially charged one of their own this week, as a criminal summons has just been issued for a 28 year-old trooper. The trooper is a five-year veteran of the force who just two years ago received national recognition for his role in rendering first aid to an assault victim at an Orioles game. Now it’s the trooper himself who faces a second degree assault charge, coupled with another charge for misconduct while in office. Ironically the summons was issued to the state police headquarters in Baltimore County, and not the home address of the trooper, who is on paid leave. Police officers and other certain government employees have the right to keep their home address private, which is undoubtedly why the MSP issued the criminal summons to their Pikesville office.
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