Anne Arundel County Police recently charged one of their own, as a former employee of the department now faces multiple counts of theft related to misuse of a county E-Z Pass transponder. The defendant, a 58-year-old man who hails from Odenton, was not a sworn police officer, but rather a civilian employee of the fifth largest police department in Maryland. He is accused of using a county issued transponder on over 70 personal trips, which included drives to and from Delaware, Virginia and even New Jersey and began as early as 2020. The former employee drove a county vehicle for work purposes with the department, but apparently removed the transponder and affixed it to his personal vehicle for trips. The total amount of the theft was under $1,500, meaning the defendant appeared to have avoided any felony charges. He was however charged with seven counts of theft less than $100 and one count of theft scheme from $100 to $1,500. Police picked up on the suspected unlawful pass use back in September and initiated an investigation. The State’s Attorney’s Office made the decision to pursue the case after being presented with the findings from investigators.
In lieu of being arrested by his former colleagues, an officer of the Anne Arundel County Police Criminal Investigations Division requested that the defendant be summoned for court. The District Court of Maryland in Annapolis issued a summons for the defendant on January 3, and he will have to appear for trial in the coming months. Theft cases in Maryland are typically charged by summons or criminal citation provided the defendant has a verifiable address and the police or the commissioner is satisfied that he or she would appear in court as directed. Large scale felony theft cases are routinely initiated through the issuance of an arrest warrant, though we have seen felony thefts charged via summons. Additionally, larger scale thefts by county or state employees also frequently accompanied by other serious charges such as misconduct in office. Misconduct in office is a common law misdemeanor that carries a real possibility of jail time even for first time offenders. This charge has no set maximum penalty and should be handled by with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
While the defendant in this case avoided felony theft and misconduct in office charges, he will still have to answer for his alleged public trust violations. The fact that the defendant is accused of unlawfully using the transponder dozens of times will not help his cause, though if the case is handled properly there is an excellent chance that he will avoid jail time and a permanent conviction. The top charge of theft scheme $100 to $1,500 carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and a $500 fine under Maryland criminal law section 7-104. Subsequent offenders face up to 1 year in jail for this same offense provided the State issues notice to the defendant at least 15 days before trial. Based on this maximum penalty the defendant could elect to have a jury trial at the Circuit Court in downtown Annapolis, though it is too early to tell whether this would be an appropriate strategy. The seven remaining counts for theft less than $100 carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail. This charge is often associated with shoplifting or theft of services.