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Articles Posted in Gun Crimes

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pistol-1350484_1280-300x200Back in February law enforcement officers from the St. Mary’s County Sherriff’s Office began investigating the buying and selling of firearms to minors, and at some point if became clear to officers that the target of their investigation was barely an adult himself.  Police honed in on a then 18-year-old from Lexington Park, and their investigation led to a search warrant that was executed 4 days before the suspect turned 19.  According to reports a search of the teenager’s home produced multiple regulated firearms, ammunition and parts to manufacture a rifle.  It is unclear whether the suspect was at home during the execution of the warrant, but he was not arrested until two weeks after the search and seizure.  The young defendant is now being held at the St. Mary’s County Detention Center in Leonardtown after bail was denied by the commissioner and then a district court judge.  He is currently facing four misdemeanor charges including possession of a firearm by a minor, sale of ammo to a minor and two counts of illegal sale of a regulated firearm.  Trial is currently set in the District Court of Maryland for St. Mary’s County in roughly two weeks.  The Blog will follow this case and may post a follow-up article in the near future.  The rest of this post will provide a small refresher for some of the most common gun laws in Maryland.

This defendant is facing charges under the Maryland Public Safety Code, which contains the majority of the state’s most serious gun laws, including possession of a firearm by a person under 21 years old.  While wear, transport carry violations under 4-203 of the Maryland Criminal Law article remains the most common gun offense in the state, public safety code violations account for a much larger number of jail sentences.  The Maryland public safety code provides harsh punishments for defendants who have criminal records, and in some cases, defendants can face a five-year mandatory prison sentence without the possibility of parole.  Misdemeanor public safety code violations also result in higher guideline scores in cases that are handled in the Maryland circuit courts.

The main public safety law regarding the possession of regulated firearms is found in section 5-133.  A person who has been convicted of a disqualifying crime faces up to five years in prison if found to be in possession of a firearm, but the charge remains a misdemeanor much like the wear, carry transport statute.  Disqualifying crimes include all felonies and misdemeanors that carry more than a 2-year maximum penalty.  It does not matter if the defendant actually served jail time on the prior disqualifying crime, as the only thing that matters is the statutory maximum.  Prohibited individuals also cannot possess ammunition Maryland, and doing so could result in a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.  Disqualifying crimes also include violent crimes, but possession of a firearm by a person with a violent crime in their record faces a felony charge and up to 15 years in prison.  If less than 5 years has passed since the defendant finished his or her sentence (including probation) on the violent crime the minimum mandatory will apply.  Violent crimes include assault in the first or second degree, robbery, sexual offenses, felony burglary (first, second or third degree burglary), arson, attempted murder and several other offenses.  A defendant in possession of a gun will also face the 15-year felony and potentially the 5-year mandatory of he or she has been convicted of a drug felony such as possession with intent to distribute.  It is important to understand that probation before judgment or PBJ counts as a conviction for any of these offenses except second degree assault.  The one exception is that PBJ for a domestically related conviction counts as a conviction for a crime of violence, though once the case is expunged it will not count as a conviction.

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pills_money-300x199Back in February of 2020 a 33-year-old man from Waldorf was found guilty of several drug and firearms offenses in the Greenbelt federal courthouse.  It took more than two years for the case to go to sentencing, and the wait did not turn out to be in the defendant’s favor, as he was sentenced to 40 years of incarceration.  The lengthy sentence was handed down yesterday for charges including distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of firearm by a convicted felon.  The charges stemmed from incidents that occurred back in 2017, which included two drug deals that resulted in the overdose deaths.  The government was able to establish sufficient evidence to prove the charges through text messages, phone records, surveillance video and live testimony from multiple witnesses who purchased narcotics from the defendant.  A few months after the two overdose deaths law enforcement was able to secure a search warrant for the defendant’s Waldorf apartment.  The defendant was arrested on the day of the search and seizure in April of 2018, and has been held in custody without bail since that time.

Upon execution of the search warrant law enforcement recovered five firearms including a loaded .45 caliber handgun that was found in a backpack next to 121 individually packaged baggies of fentanyl.  These facts supported the jury’s guilty verdict for the charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, which is a commonly charged offense in Maryland state courts as well as federal courts.  The government was also able to establish that the defendant had prior felony convictions that prohibited him from possessing firearms.  Police also seized over 200 grams of heroin/fentanyl mix, 40 grams of cocaine, 12 cell phones, $22,000 in cash, digital scales, money counters and jewelry including a Rolex and diamonds.  All of these factors tended in prove that the defendant was involved in a large-scale narcotics distribution operation in Southern Maryland, but the 40-year sentence was undoubtedly due to the two overdose deaths that the jury felt were caused by the defendant.

A few months after the defendant’s trial his co-defendant from St. Mary’s County was sentenced to 12.5 years in federal prison for distribution of fentanyl.  As part of the plea the co-defendant admitted his distribution led to the overdose deaths of same two individuals, though he did not actually plead guilty to the offense of distribution resulting in death.  It is likely that the co-defendant cooperated with law enforcement in exchange for his relatively lenient sentence, though the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release did not directly say that he was called as a witness during the main defendant’s trial.

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1249005_glock_29_replica_1-1-300x168There was significant movement last week in highly publicized state measures to curb the circulation of unserialized firearms commonly known as ghost guns.  Both the House and Senate preliminarily approved legislation that would eventually ban the sale and ownership of the untraceable firearms in Maryland.  These untraceable guns have been a major point of contention for police and law makers alike, and have undoubtedly contributed to an increased number of gun crimes over the past couple of years.  The gun components are often made of polymer or other materials that are easy to fashion yet strong enough to withstand the explosion of a cartridge being fired, and are relatively cheap.  Basically, anyone with internet access and a Venmo account could order the components to make a working firearm in a matter of hours.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that a state like Maryland that already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country is making serious moves to eliminate untraceable firearms.

Ghost guns are generally defined as firearms that lack an identifiable serial number and are manufactured privately or in the home.  The parts are typically purchased in kits or created at home using 3D printers, thought the kits are more common these days.  Federal law does not prohibit private individuals from manufacturing their own firearms for personal use, but does place firm restrictions on the manufacture of firearms for sale or distribution.  Gun parts manufacturers that sell these kits are able to skirt federal restrictions by only selling parts that are considered unfinished.  The difference between a finished and unfinished gun receiver (the part that joins the firing components) is a fine line in which the manufacturers are fully versed.  They intentionally sell receivers that are less than 80% finished and require some basic machining, for which they provide the drill bits and instructions.  Obtaining ammunition is still a task that presents a challenge for those prohibited from possessing firearms, but ammo is cheap and small, and thus easy to purchase or obtain unofficially.

After a bit of back and forth over the last couple of months it seems the General Assembly has settled on a timeframe for implementing the ghost gun ban, and also prospective punishments for those who violate.  First, the prohibition will not become law until March 1, 2023 at the earliest.  Second, the punishments for violating the ghost gun laws have been slightly reduced to a maximum of two years in jail for possession and a maximum five years in jail for sale or distribution.  Both of these offenses would be misdemeanors, thought a defendant may still be charged with additional applicable felonies such as possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime.  There may also be a provision in the law that requires the State to prove an element of knowledge.  In other words, it may be a defense if the person charged did not reasonably know the firearm was a ghost gun.  Under potential ghost gun laws, the State Police would be tasked with establishing databases for ghost guns and tracking serial numbers to make sure there are no duplicates.
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money-943782_960_720-300x225The U.S. Attorney’s office recently announced that a 31-year-old Montgomery County man has been arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, distribution of controlled substances and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  A criminal complaint was filed against the defendant on March 4, 2022 and he was arrested on March 7.  The Germantown man was ordered to be held without bail at his detention hearing in the Greenbelt federal courthouse two days after his arrest.  According to the sworn affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, the defendant was identified as a suspected narcotics and firearms dealer.  In February of this year the defendant sold guns and drugs to an undercover law enforcement officer three times in Montgomery County.  The sales allegedly included more than 45 grams of crack cocaine, gel caps containing heroin and fentanyl and numerous firearms including multiple ghost guns.  The term ghost gun is used to describe any privately made firearm that does not have a serial number and cannot be individually identified or traced.  These weapons have become a point of focus for law enforcement over the last few years, and will continue to be a major issue for state and federal legislators.

In addition to the three alleged sales in February, the defendant and the undercover law enforcement officer also met a fourth time.  During this meeting the defendant allegedly sold the cop three fully assembled Glock style handguns for a total of $3,000.  The sale was observed by additional law enforcement surveillance units, and memorialized by several calls and text messages.  In addition to the four meetings, the defendant also apparently admitted to the undercover officer that he could not legally purchase a firearm due to a previous felony conviction.  The defendant faces up to 10 years in prison for felon in possession of a firearm and up to 20 years for distribution of controlled substances.  He also faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  This federal offense is almost identical to the Maryland state law that prohibits the possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime.  The government is not required to prove that the firearm was actually used or brandished during the drug trafficking crime.  Rather, all that is required is for the government to prove a nexus or connection between the gun and the drugs.  Courts have consistently held that drug dealers possess firearms to protect themselves against theft and robbery, which makes it difficult for the defense to argue that the guns and drugs are not related.  A drug trafficking crime includes all felony drug charges such as possession with intent to distribute, manufacturing and distribution. Despite the use of the term trafficking, there is no requirement that the government prove the defendant was a volume dealer or drug kingpin for this law to apply.

The Blog will continue to follow this case and many other federal gun and drug prosecutions.  We may post a follow up article on this case depending on the outcome so stay tuned.  If you or a loved one has been charged or is being investigated by the ATF, FBI, DEA or any other federal or state law enforcement agency contact Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin is a Maryland criminal defense lawyer who specializes in drug crimes and weapons charges, and is available 7 days a week to explain what defenses may be available in your case.  He handles charges including wear transport or carry of a handgun and illegal possession of a regulated firearm, and practices in all state and federal courts in Maryland.  Benjamin can be reached at 410-207-2598 and is also licensed to practice law in the state of Florida.

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bullet-408636_640-300x200A 26-year-old Washington D.C. man has been charged with attempted 2nd degree murder and related firearms offenses after shooting at police officers during a foot chase.  The incident began at an Olney indoor swimming center, when employees called the police to report a suspicious individual on the property.  The Maryland National Capital Park Police responded to the scene to investigate, but the suspect had already left the area.  Police officers eventually caught up to the suspect’s vehicle, but he fled when police attempted to initiate a traffic stop.  Park Police officers declined to initiate a high-speed chase, but continued to canvass the area to locate the suspect’s vehicle.  A short time later the suspect’s vehicle was in fact located, though the suspect had fled on foot after his car was involved in an accident.  Police found the suspect in a residential neighborhood within minutes, but before they were able to place him into custody, he allegedly fired one shot at officers in pursuit.  Thankfully, the bullet struck an empty parked car and nobody was injured.  The suspect was then taken into custody and then booked into the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville.  He was charged with attempted 2nd degree murder, first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and use of a firearm in a crime of violence for shooting at the officers.  Additionally, he was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and loaded handgun in vehicle, and is being held without bail.

The defendant was already on probation in Montgomery County after he pleaded guilty to robbery almost two years ago.  This guilty finding is the reason he was prohibited from possessing a firearm.  In that case he was sentenced to 18 months in jail with an additional 6.5 years of suspended time, which will now be on the table when he appears for a violation of probation.  This could explain why the defendant was so motivated to avoid being captured by police.  In reality, his decision to fire at the police officers will likely far outweigh any possible punishment for the violation of probation.  The defendant also has three new additional criminal cases that will also likely take a back seat to the attempted murder.  He has two theft and credit card fraud cases out of Montgomery County, as well as an additional armed robbery case from Prince George’s County for an alleged incident that occurred just three weeks ago.  It is safe to say that the defendant will be held in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility until a trial or a plea is scheduled, with the only exception being the potential that he is charged in federal court for his actions.

The Blog will continue to follow this case and may post a follow up article in the future.  It does not seem likely that this case will end up going to trial, as the evidence of guilt appears to be significant.  It may be in the best interest of the defense to attempt to organize some sort of global plea agreement on the shooting case that includes the violation of probation and the new theft charges.  A speedy plea agreement may prevent the matter from being picked up by the feds, though the Prince George’s County armed robbery may prove to be an obstacle.  The defendant’s guidelines will likely end up being either 7-13 years or 10-15 years on the attempted murder, which all things considered could be much worse.  Any plea offer would almost certainly include a charge for felon in possession of a firearm or use of a firearm in a crime of violence.  In shooting cases the state typically requires this charge to assure that the first five years of the sentence are served without the possibility of parole.  Regardless, the defendant would only be eligible for parole after serving at least 50 percent of the sentence, as the charges of attempted murder and first-degree assault are considered crimes of violence.

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Gun-evidence-box-300x225A 37-year-old man from Baltimore City was recently sentenced to 9 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges.  After serving his sentence, which under federal law does not have the possibility of parole, the defendant will be placed on 3 years of supervised release.  This case is another example of a crime that was originally charged in state court, but eventually picked up and prosecuted by the feds.  There does not appear to be any indication that the defendant was a large-scale dealer or that he had been under investigation by law enforcement, and there were no aggravating factors that made this violation particularly egregious.  On the other hand, the feds have consistently been delivering the message that any felon who possesses a firearm in Baltimore will be subject to federal prosecution, and thus a harsher sentence.  9 years without parole is certainly a harsh sentence for a non-violent offense, but it is hardly a surprising sentence considering the climate in Baltimore right now.

According to the plea agreement the man and several associates were standing on a city sidewalk when a vehicle containing Baltimore Police detectives drove by.  As the BPD patrol unit made a U-turn to approach the group, the defendant apparently walked away from the group in a manner that seemed to indicate he was armed. Police stated the defendant kept his “right arm stiff against his body” as he walked away, which is a common phrase that law enforcement uses when attempting to establish justification for a weapons search.  Detectives then exited their vehicle and began to walk toward the defendant, likely to conduct a pat down for weapons.  The defendant elected not to cooperate with whatever the BPD was attempting to do, and he took off running.  Police stated that the defendant threw a firearm with his right hand while he was running away, and they eventually apprehended him in the area.  Upon placing him under arrest police discovered 42 capsules of heroin, 33 capsules of fentanyl, 29 vials of cocaine and several baggies of marijuana.  They also eventually found the handgun along with an extended magazine that was discarded during the chase.

This case presents an interesting issue regarding the legality of so-called proactive police patrolling in urban areas.  Clearly the officers were not specifically looking for the defendant, and there is no indication they received a tip that the individuals on the sidewalk were armed.  Rather, the police were acting on their own suspicions when they made the decision to approach the defendant.  Had the defendant remained where he was or simply walked away from law enforcement, there may have been an argument that any detention was illegal.  An illegal detention would have triggered a potential motion to suppress the gun and the CDS found on the defendant, but the fact that he fled effectively ended any realistic constitutional challenges to the police conduct.  The law is very clear that a person is not seized by law enforcement if he or she takes off running upon their approach.  Additionally, a person does not have any constitutional standing to challenge the seizure of items that are thrown away or abandoned by a suspect.  Running from police is not illegal by itself, but as soon as this defendant was observed throwing a gun and a magazine there was probable cause to arrest him.  Only then could police lawfully detain the man and search him incident to arrest.  This case played out like many have in the past, and unfortunately there was not much the defense could do but argue for a lower sentence.

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handcuffs-2102488__480-300x169The Frederick Police Department recently announced the arrest of a 20-year-old man in connection with a shooting at a local fast-food restaurant.  According to the department’s press release the suspect and a female began fighting inside the restaurant when another male attempted to intervene to break up the fight.  The suspect then shot the man multiple times, and he ended up succumbing to his injuries while still on scene.  The cause of death was ruled a homicide, and police filed charges for 1st and 2nd degree murder, as well as assault and various firearms charges later that night.  An arrest warrant was issued soon thereafter and police ultimately located and arrested the suspect.  Police are still gathering information, and the investigation is still considered active.  This means other suspects could potentially be charged in connection with the shooting, and/or the presence of the firearm.  The 20-year-old now faces a maximum penalty of life in prison for his actions, and could potentially face life in prison without the possibility of parole if the State elects to pursue this enhanced punishment.  Under Maryland law anyone convicted of first-degree murder faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.  There is also a 5-year mandatory prison sentence for anyone convicted of firearm use in a crime of violence, which is another charge the defendant is facing.

The defendant was brought before a District Court judge the day after his arrest, and as expected was denied bail or pre-trial release.  He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for the end of January, but the charges will almost certainly be filed in the Circuit Court for Frederick County before the preliminary takes place.  Based on a records check the defendant does not appear to have any prior adult criminal record in Maryland.  Juvenile cases are sealed from public view, so it is unclear whether the defendant has a history of violence or weapon possession.  As of this year, cases involving juveniles who are charged in adult court are also sealed from public view, though their case files may be available to view at the Clerk’s office.  Anyone over the age of 16 who is accused of a crime of violence such as robbery, attempted murder or first-degree assault will be charged as an adult in Maryland, as the juvenile courts do not have original jurisdiction over these cases.  Firearm offenses committed by juveniles 16 and over also must be tried in adult court pending a transfer request.

The Blog will continue to follow this tragic story and may post a follow up article in the future.  Frederick County has a relatively low rate of violent crime and especially homicide.  Over the past decade the murder rate has fluctuated between 1 and 5 per 100,000 of the population, which is typically on par with neighboring Montgomery County, but substantially lower than Prince George’s County, Baltimore County and of course Baltimore City.  Montgomery County recently recorded its highest number of murders ever, as a 35th case was recorded shortly before the year’s end.  If you or a loved one has been charged or is being investigated for murder, attempted murder, assault and any type of firearm offense call Maryland gun lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in offenses such as assault in the first degree, manslaughter, attempted murder and use of a firearm in a crime of violence.  He has defended clients in every jurisdiction in the state of Maryland including Frederick, Montgomery County and Baltimore.  He is also an experienced Eastern Shore criminal lawyer who has successfully defended clients in Wicomico, Worchester, Talbot and Dorchester Counties.  Call Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598.
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Heroin2-300x180A 28-year-old man from Baltimore recently pleaded guilty in federal court to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  Taken by itself, those facts are hardly an anomaly these days, as the feds have shown a proclivity to prosecute street level drug dealers (especially when heroin and fentanyl are involved).  However, the facts surrounding the investigation and eventual arrest are noteworthy.  Law enforcement first were alerted to the defendant’s criminal involvement as a result of a fatal heroin overdose that occurred in Harford County in 2017.  As is the case with many fatal drug overdoses, law enforcement’s first lead came from the cell phone of the deceased.  Police were able to see that the deceased had arranged to meet a person with an alias linked to the defendant in order to effectuate a drug transaction.  The deal in question took place in a grocery store bathroom in Baltimore City, which is a common practice to assure there is no video surveillance.

Law enforcement then began tracking the defendant’s movements, and observed him making an alleged drug transaction in a gas station bathroom.  The surveillance led to a search warrant, which was ultimately conducted on the defendant’s home and vehicle about one month after the fatal overdose.  Police were also able to obtain permission from a judge to install a GPS tracking device on the defendant’s vehicle, another common law enforcement tactic.  During execution of the warrant law enforcement recovered a firearm, $12k in cash, 82 grams of cocaine, 55 grams of heroin and 7 grams of fentanyl.  Officers also seized a cell phone with the same number that the deceased was texting prior to the overdose.  It wasn’t until two years later that a federal grand jury actually indicted the defendant, and now two years after that the case is finally on its way to a resolution.  The defendant and the government have agreed to a sentence between 8 and 12 years, and the defendant will learn his fate in March of 2022.  Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in this investigation, including the DEA, Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Anne Arundel County Police, Baltimore County Police and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.  The defendant has a host of prior offenses and is on probation in Baltimore City for a gun charge.  The Blog will follow this case and potentially post again after the defendant is sentenced.

The defendant will receive a stiff federal sentence that is not parole eligible, and could possibly face additional state time for his violation of probation, but he avoided potential prosecution for involuntary manslaughter under Maryland criminal law §2.207.  Prosecutors in jurisdictions throughout the state have been filing manslaughter charges against defendants alleged to have sold CDS (typically heroin fentanyl mix) to the victim of a fatal overdose.  While the manslaughter charge carries a lower maximum penalty than the actual distribution (20 vs. 10 years), it can increase the overall sentencing guidelines, and drastically influence the State’s offer and the judge’s sentence.  If you or a loved one has been charged with any type of drug offense including possession with intent to distribute, firearm possession in a drug trafficking crime or manslaughter, call Maryland criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in drug offenses and gun crimes, and is available 7 days a week at 410-207-2598.  He has extensive experience in all Maryland jurisdictions, and is a skilled federal drug offense lawyer for cases being prosecuted in the Baltimore or Greenbelt federal courts.

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pistol-1350484_1280-300x200Maryland has become notorious in the region for having overly harsh gun laws, and easily ranks among the top ten states in the country for the strictest set of laws.  The gun laws in neighboring states to the south and west such as Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina are not even in the same league as Maryland.  The same is true for other East Coast states including South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.  In these states it is legal and fairly common to transport a firearm in a vehicle, and in some it’s perfectly legal to carry a handgun on your person without a permit.  Maryland’s gun laws are far more in line with New Jersey and New York when it comes to carrying and transporting handguns and other firearms, and violations of these laws often mean immediate arrest and potential jail time.  The Second Amendment however does still offer some protection for Maryland gun owners who wish to legally arm themselves in public, provided they fit the eligibility requirements and are willing to navigate the miles of red tape it takes to obtain a permit.

In this post we will give a brief overview of the process to obtain a license to carry a handgun, and the possible hurdles a potential applicant may face.  The Handgun Qualification License or HQL does not allow a person to do anything but purchase a firearm, and will not be discussed further in this post.  The majority of Maryland gun laws are listed under the Public Safety Article, which contains dozens of statutes ranging from simple to highly confusing.  Title 5 deals with all the firearm laws and subtitle 3 codifies the handgun permit regulations.  According to §5-303 a permit is required any time a civilian wishes to carry a handgun.  Transportation of a gun may still be legal without a permit provided the owner has complied with the criminal statute that mandates the firearm be in a case, unloaded and inaccessible by the driver.  The gun owner would also be limited to traveling to and from his or her home or a gun range/shop.

The first step in obtaining a Maryland handgun carry license is to determine eligibility.  There is no sense in wasting the time and money to apply only to be denied due to ineligibility.  An applicant must be an adult and cannot have a felony conviction or a conviction for a misdemeanor if more than 1-year of incarceration was imposed.  Federal law would also prohibit an applicant who has any criminal conviction for an offense that carries more than 2 years of incarceration, regardless of the length of the actual sentence.  Most people who are interested in applying for a carry permit are well aware of these few provisions, and probably would not bother applying in the first place.  What they may not be aware of is that Maryland law also prohibits anyone with a drug conviction of any kind from obtaining a carry permit.  This includes possession of marijuana, and cases that may have occurred decades ago.  Applicants must also not be habitual users of drugs or alcohol or have exhibited a propensity for violence or instability.  This last provision may apply to anyone who has been served with a domestic violence protective order.

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Gun-evidence-box-300x225This past week a 30-year-old Cecil County man was sentenced to more than four years in federal prison for narcotics conspiracy and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  The case was originally prosecuted in the district and dircuit courts for Cecil County located in Elkton, but the feds decided to prosecute as part of their Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative, which was developed by the Justice Department in an effort to curb violent crime.  While we have posted numerous articles about federal gun and drug prosecutions in the Baltimore and D.C. Metro areas, this case is another reminder that the feds will pick up felony firearm cases in all Maryland jurisdictions.

According to facts presented in the plea agreement, the defendant’s vehicle was pulled over for speeding and failing to stop at a stop sign.  Upon initiating a traffic stop the Cecil County Sheriff’s deputy observed the car shake and determined that the driver and passenger had switched seats.  This obviously peaked the deputy’s suspicions, though it turned out there was much more in store for the deputy to deal with.  Upon asking the two men for their identification, the defendant grabbed the gear shift and told the driver to go.  The deputy was able to turn the vehicle off before it could move, but then the defendant took off on foot in an attempt to flee the scene.  While attempting to escape the defendant was observed throwing an object that appeared to be a firearm.  The defendant was eventually apprehended by police and found to be in possession of $1,802 in cash.  Police also recovered a loaded firearm in the area where the defendant fled and a small quantity of marijuana in the vehicle.  Finally, deputies recovered a small amount of crack cocaine in the back of the patrol car after the defendant was removed for a medical check.  The traffic stop, including the defendant fleeing with what appeared to be a firearm in his hand, was all captured on the patrol car’s dashboard camera.

The defendant was originally charged with 12 state criminal counts including illegal possession of a firearm, loaded handgun in vehicle, handgun on person, obstructing and hindering, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and CDS possession-not marijuana.  He was held without bond while the state case was pending most likely due to the firearm charge and the fact that he attempted to flee from police.  Judges often make the conclusion that a defendant is a flight risk and will be unlikely to appear as directed for court if he or she is accused of attempting to flee from police during the original crime.  Logically the two are quite different, but this argument often falls short in moving the needle toward release.  The case was transferred to circuit court but then dismissed after the feds picked it up a couple months later.  Considering the defendant faced a 5-year mandatory prison sentence without parole on the state level, he likely did not receive a much harsher sentence in federal court.  A defendant who is sentenced on a 5-year mandatory offense in Maryland state court for a crime such as felon/disqualified person in possession of a firearm may still be eligible to obtain credits for good behavior etc.  The defendant’s 52-month prison sentence is pretty close to what he would have served had he been convicted in state court.

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