Articles Posted in Robbery and Burglary

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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 reported the arrest of six individuals in a brazen theft scheme that involved at least eleven different stores on the Maryland side of the D.C. Metro area.  Many of the incidents happened at retail stores in Bethesda, and some of the suspects appear to be connected to additional crimes in Anne Arundel County and Washington D.C.  The crimes, which have been labeled as “pack thefts” by law enforcement, are hardly sophisticated and involve a strength in numbers tactic.  Most of the incidents were caught on surveillance camera, but the masked thieves did not seem to care as they ransacked the stores in unison, stuffing expensive cosmetics and other items into trash bags and shopping carts. Store employees and onlookers stood by reluctant to intervene as the individuals made off with thousands of dollars of merchandise.  In one of the videos released by law enforcement an onlooker was observed on the phone speaking with 911 dispatch, but law enforcement arrived after the bandits had fled the scene.  According to police many of the offenses were committed using stolen vehicles that were carjacked or boosted from Washington.  One of the juvenile defendants is connected with specific carjackings and armed robberies and will likely be charged as an adult.  Both armed robbery and carjacking are considered violent offenses that the juvenile court does not have original jurisdiction over if the defendant is 16 or older.

Only two of the six defendants were actually adults, and the youngest of the arrested individuals was merely 13 years old.  The two adult defendants appear to be siblings, and the male was held at the Montgomery County Detention Center without bail after his arrest.  This individual, a 28-year-old from D.C., was arrested in mid-June after he apparently crashed a stolen vehicle.  He was charged with motor vehicle theft, unauthorized removal of a motor vehicle, felony theft, conspiracy and malicious destruction of property.  Police also issued the defendant numerous traffic citations including reckless driving and driving without a license.  In a separate but similar case, the same individual was charged with felony theft scheme and malicious destruction of property for accusations dating back to April.  The female adult defendant was arrested 5 days after her brother in Washington and was released.  She also has a pending case for assault and violating a protective order in Prince George’s County.  While the juvenile defendants’ charges are sealed from public view, they are likely charged with the same offenses that include theft $25,000 to $100,000.  This felony offense carries up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.  This also means that the conspiracy charge would carry the same 10-year maximum penalty as a common law offense.  Police are alleging that the total value of items stolen in Montgomery County was $49,000, with tens of thousands more in merchandise potentially being stolen in Washington and Anne Arundel County.  The investigation is still ongoing, and more charges may be in store for the individuals involved.

The Blog will continue to follow this case, and other similar theft schemes in Maryland.  Police all over the state are now well aware of the rampant pack theft trend, but there does not appear to be any specific law enforcement tactic to prevent these crimes other than old fashioned police work.  This means reviewing surveillance camera footage from the store and the surrounding streets, interviewing witness who may have seen identifying marks or tattoos on the suspects and performing a forensic evaluation of the scene.  Now that police arrested six suspects, they may be able to further link known associates to additional crimes, and we’ll post a follow up article if that becomes the case.  If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime contact Maryland theft lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes juvenile criminal defense in Maryland, and has successfully argued for the dismissal or transfer of dozens of juvenile cases including robbery, burglary, handgun possession, attempted murder, carjacking and motor vehicle theft.  He handles cases in Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore and the entire Eastern Shore, and is available 7 days a week for a free consultation at 410-207-2598.

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packs-163497_1280-300x200This past week Anne Arundel County Police were called to a gas station in Linthicum Heights for a bizarre attempted robbery that ended with the suspect fleeing the scene empty handed.  According to police a man approached a gas station clerk just before midnight on the eve of July 4th and requested cigarettes.  After requesting the smokes, the man then allegedly placed a cup on the store counter and demanded that the clerk put all the money in said cup.  There was no indication that the man ever brandished or possessed an actual weapon, but the clerk apparently told police the suspect implied that he had a weapon.  The brief standoff ended when another customer walked into the store, which apparently spooked the attempted robber.  Reports described the suspect as being slim, of average height and sporting a blonde beard.  He was wearing a hood and a camouflage hat and fled in a silver Honda with another individual.

While this attempted robbery was hardly the crime of the holiday weekend, it does raise a few relevant issues regarding the definition of robbery and armed robbery.  Under Maryland law there is no separate statutory crime for attempted robbery or attempted theft as a defendant faces the full punishment even if the crime is unsuccessful.  In fact, murder is one of the only charges that provides a separate statutory crime for attempt.  Robbery requires the State to prove the defendant intentionally took something of value from another person through the use of force or the threat of force.  A defendant does not have to take a tangible object to be charged, as obtaining services through the use of force is also considered robbery.  Maryland has specific laws for six different types of robbery.  The most common is standard robbery, which is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.  Robbery is considered a level 4 offense according to the Maryland sentencing guidelines, which means a person with no prior record who is found guilty could still certainly avoid serving any time in jail.

Armed robbery is actually called robbery with a dangerous weapon in Maryland, and it carries a 20-year maximum penalty.  Robbery with a dangerous weapon is considered a level 3 offense, which scores significantly higher on the sentencing guidelines.  Juveniles 16 and over who are charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon must be charged as adults, which is not the case with standard robbery.  Carjacking is also technically part of the robbery statute, and it carries a harsh 30-year maximum penalty.  Armed carjacking carries the same 30-year maximum, but is considered a level 2 offense.  Finally, the least common of the six is robbery by display of a written instrument claiming to be in possession of a dangerous weapon.  This offense is treated like robbery with a dangerous weapon regardless of whether a weapon was recovered by police.  It has a 20-year maximum penalty, and is typically seen in bank robbery cases.  A defendant in any type of robbery case could also be charged with conspiracy if there was another person involved.  Conspiracy makes the offense a misdemeanor, but does not change the maximum penalty.
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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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police-224426__180Yesterday the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland announced the guilty plea of a 25-year-old Baltimore man who committed a robbery while on supervised release for another federal crime.  According to facts presented in the guilty plea, back in January of this year the defendant attempted to rob a convenience store in Baltimore City.  The store clerk refused to comply with the defendant’s demand for money, whereupon the defendant displayed a gun from within his waistband.  Off-duty Maryland State Police officers responded to the scene shortly after the store manager called 911, and were joined by Baltimore City police officers minutes later.  The defendant was detained by law enforcement officers, and search incident to arrest revealed a loaded 9mm handgun in the defendant’s waistband.  Security cameras inside the store captured the entire incident on video, making the guilty plea the only reasonable choice for the defendant.

The 25-year-old defendant now faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the federal robbery charge, which is codified as attempting to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery.  Robberies are generally prosecuted in state court, but the federal government can obtain jurisdiction over virtually any commercial robbery committed in the U.S.  This most commonly plays out for bank robbery cases due to the fact that banks are insured by the FDIC, and also gun stores that are licensed to do business by the federal government with a FFL (federal firearms license).  But the Commerce Clause allows the feds to obtain jurisdiction over other business that have a potential customer base from multiple states.  The question is whether it’s possible – not likely that a local convenience store in Baltimore City is frequented by individuals from across the country.

Sentencing for the defendant in the federal robbery charge is set for September of this year, though he also must answer for the violation of supervised release.  Supervised release is the federal term for probation, as there is virtually no difference between the two.  Supervised release simply occurs after a defendant has been released from a term of incarceration.  The federal justice system no longer uses suspended sentences; rather when a defendant violates probation or supervised released, he or she could face up the maximum remaining prison sentence upon a guilty finding of a violation.  For example, a defendant sentenced to 5 years on a robbery charge could face up to 15 years upon if found in violation of supervised release.  In Maryland state court, most judges impose suspended sentences to cap the amount of time that could be imposed in a violation of probation, but some judges simply suspend the maximum and decide an appropriate sentence should the defendant violate.  Any defendant who receives a probation before judgement (PBJ) faces the maximum penalty upon a violation of probation.  There are exceptions including whether the violation is considered non-technical or technical.  In Maryland state court, technical violations have a presumptive non-binding cap of 15 days for a first violation.  Technical violations include positive drug tests, failing to complete treatment or failing to pay restitution.  Non-technical violations include missing more than one probation appointment and/or committing a new offense.  Many defendants believe new arrests are the only non-technical violations but this is not true, as it is just as common for defendants accused of absconding to receive some or all of their back up time.

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913166_atm-154x300Baltimore County Police recently arrested a 34-year-old man for attempting to steal an ATM from a bank in Owings Mills.  According to reports, police responded to the bank around 3:30 in the morning for a burglary in progress.  Officers found a truck backed up to the bank with chains wrapped around the ATM, and a suspect who immediately fled upon police arriving.  The suspect was apprehended after a short chase through the woods, and subsequently charged with multiple crimes including felony second-degree burglary and felony theft.  He also faces charges for malicious destruction of property and misdemeanor fourth-degree burglary.  The defendant was denied bail by a District Court judge and remains incarcerated at the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson.  He does not currently have a trial date, as the case will likely be indicted in the circuit court prior to the January 28th preliminary hearing.  This arrest created additional headlines because it turns out that the defendant was actually a Baltimore City Department of Public Works employee.  The truck used in the burglary is also owned by the city, and was recently reported stolen in Carroll County.  The front license plate and city’s emblem on the vehicle were concealed with tape during the attempted burglary, but clearly the secret is out.

It appears that the defendant may also be facing a probation violation in the near future for a case out of Baltimore City, which could have contributed to him being held without bail.  In 2014 he was found guilty of armed robbery and use of a firearm in a crime of violence, and sentenced to 20 years with 10 suspended.  Following his release from the division of corrections he was placed on 5 years of probation.  A defendant serving a 10-year sentence for a violent offense typically serves 5 to 7 years before being released.  Since the offense occurred in September of 2012, he was probably released from prison in 2018, which means his probation is likely still active.  As of today, there is no information on Maryland judiciary case search that states a violation of probation warrant was issued, though Baltimore City is notorious for not updating their cases promptly.

The Blog will follow this case as it travels through the county court system, and may post a follow-up article in the future.  The defendant faces up to 15 years in prison for the  second-degree burglary charge, while the felony theft charges carries up to 5 years in jail.  He also faces up to 3 years each for fourth-degree burglary and malicious destruction of property over $1,000.  There were some questions raised as to how a person currently on active probation for armed robbery was hired by the city, but our hope is that those with criminal convictions will always have job opportunities upon their release, as stable employment is a key factor in reducing recidivism.  The Blog will also continue to follow theft and burglaries involving ATMs, as there has been a string of these cases lately in Maryland.  This past week in Baltimore City four defendants backed a van into a building, loaded the ATM and fled the scene.  The building in this case was severely damaged, and suspects are yet to be identified.

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firearm-409000__480-200x300A 27-year-old man from Baltimore was recently sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for committing at least 35 commercial robberies throughout Maryland.  According to the plea agreement, between December 2018 and November 2019 the defendant robbed pharmacies, fast-food restaurants, cell phone stores and even a gym during a crime spree that eventually ended with him behind bars.  The defendant originally pled guilty on October 1 to affecting commerce by robbery, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime, which has a 7-year maximum penalty.  The robberies took place in Baltimore County and Baltimore City, and were investigated by local police departments as well as the FBI.  The case was likely picked up by the feds due to the extent of the crime spree as well as the presence of a firearm.

Many of the offenses were committed in the same fashion, with the defendant approaching a cash register with a note demanding money and stating that the defendant had a gun.  Fortunately, there were never any shots fired in the robberies, and nobody was injured.  The defendant apparently only brandished his firearm once, though he partially revealed the firearm as many as five times.  In at least one instance the defendant ordered employees to open the business safe, but in many other instances the defendant only made out with a couple hundred dollars.  He stole as much as $1,900 in one robbery, but that appears to be his most lucrative (temporarily) criminal act.

The defendant will likely serve at least 10-12 years behind bars before being considered for release to a halfway house or other type of early release.  There is no parole in the federal criminal justice system, which means this sentence is roughly equivalent to a 20-year state prison sentence.  Anyone sentence to a crime of violence such as robbery must serve at least half of their total active incarceration before being considered for parole, and even then, parole is never a foregone conclusion.  Obviously, the defendant could have faced exponentially more time if had been charged for each of the robberies in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and Baltimore County.  Combining all the cases in one federal indictment was clearly a more logical option for the government and for the defendant.  The defendant will likely be finished with his sentence before he reaches age 40, and the dozens of victims can have some sort of closure now that the case against the defendant is resolved.  It appears the defendant had a minor history of theft related charges in state court already, so having 35 robberies combined into one global sentence may have been a break for him.

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technology-2500010__480-300x200A juvenile burglary suspect was recently arrested after allegedly attempting to jump off of a bridge in an attempt to flee from police.  According to reports, law enforcement officers in Virginia located a stolen vehicle that was linked to multiple Maryland burglaries in Prince George’s County.  Police pursued the vehicle and attempted to conduct a traffic stop, but were unsuccessful.  Officers even deployed a tire deflation device that resulted in vehicle losing a tire, but it kept driving, albeit at a much slower speed.  Additional officers responded and attempted to box the vehicle in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on Interstate 495, which connects Alexandria, Virginia to the Oxon Hill area of Prince George’s County.  The driver of the suspect vehicle then jumped out as it was still moving, and then bolted for the railing of the bridge.  A Virginia State Trooper apparently grabbed the 17-year-old defendant just as he was about to plunge into the 50-degree water.  Reports do not indicate exactly where the juvenile attempted to jump, but the drop could have been as much as 70 feet into the cold and fast-moving water.  Had the suspect jumped, his chances of survival would definitely have been in doubt, so it’s safe to say the Trooper saved a life.

The suspect was a juvenile, and therefore we are not able to uncover additional information about his place of residence or criminal history.  What we do know is he is now facing felony charges of eluding police in Virginia juvenile court, as well as possible burglary and robbery charges in Maryland.  There may also be charges for motor vehicle theft at some point down the road.  The 16-year-old defendant was detained but does not appear to have been charged with any offense related to the fleeing and eluding.  All juvenile cases are sealed from public view, so it will be difficult to track the progress of this particular case, but the Blog will post a follow up article if anything comes out of the Maryland courts.

Virginia has especially tough traffic laws, so it’s no surprise that the teen suspect was charged with a felony.  In Maryland, fleeing or eluding police is part of the traffic code and not classified as a felony.  There is no such crime as aggravated fleeing or felony fleeing in Maryland, but the punishment upon conviction can still be harsh.  Anyone convicted of fleeing or eluding under §21-904 of the transportation article faces up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine.  A second offense raises the maximum penalty to 2 years, and if the act causes bodily injury the maximum is 3 years.  If fleeing from law enforcement causes a death the penalty jumps to 10 years in prison.  In addition, anyone convicted of this offense will receive 12 points and face revocation of their Maryland driver’s license.  Fleeing and eluding is a drastically overcharged offense, and we have seen dozens of cases where defendants simply did not pull over quickly enough for an officer’s liking.  Law enforcement officers have a tendency to take it personally when a driver does not pull over immediately, but sometimes it just takes time to process the fact that you’re being pulled over.
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money-943782_960_720-300x225This past week in the Baltimore federal courthouse a 26-year-old defendant pleaded guilty for his involvement in three separate robberies in the Baltimore metro area.  The first robbery took place in October of 2019 at a Baltimore City pharmacy.  In this particular incident the government presented evidence that the defendant and his co-conspirator entered the pharmacy just as it opened in the morning, and while donning masks, gloves and glasses brandished a black revolver and demanded cash from the safe.  The clerk gave the men over $1,600 and then was bound with zip ties while the pair fled in the victim’s vehicle.

One month later the two defendants committed a second robbery in Anne Arundel County.  This robbery took place at a retail store, where the defendants entered right at closing time.  Once again, the pair were clad in masks and gloves and carrying handguns.  After taking over $3,000 from the store and striking a victim in the head, the defendants fled the scene in the victim’s vehicle.  The final robbery was committed in December of 2019 in Baltimore County restaurant in Parkville.  The defendants entered the restaurant at 7 a.m. just as the shift manager and another coworker were opening for the day, and once again the defendants brandished a firearm and demanded money from the restaurant safe.  After stealing close to $4,000 from the safe and binding the victims with zip ties the defendants fled in one of the victim’s vehicles.

One day after the third and final robbery Baltimore County Police detectives located the stolen vehicle and surreptitiously outfitted it with a GPS tracker.  Two days later police followed the vehicle as it moved and eventually attempted to effectuate a traffic stop.  The defendant abandoned the vehicle and then fled on foot, but was then apprehended a short time later on Harford Road.  After being arrested the defendant agreed to speak to police, and claimed he found the stolen vehicle that day and was merely taking it for a joy ride.  Law enforcement officers obviously were not convinced and ended up charging him with robbery, assault in the first degree, motor vehicle taking and felony theft.  The case was forwarded to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County with additional charges for use of a firearm in a crime of violence and CDS drug charges.  In November of 2020 the case was nolle prossed after the feds decided to pick it up.  While the U.S. Attorney’s press release does not mention the specifics, the feds were likely alerted after local law enforcement discovered the defendant’s involvement in the two other robberies.  A search warrant was executed on the defendant’s phone, and law enforcement found pictures of large amounts of cash on the same day as the first robbery.  Cell phone tracking data also showed the defendant was in the area of the first two robberies on the dates in question.

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pistol-1350484_1280-300x200A 20-year-old Washington D.C. man was recently sentenced to five years in federal prison after he pled guilty to theft of firearms from a federal firearms licensee’s facility.  This offense is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  The incident occurred back in August of 2019 at a Baltimore County gun store in the Essex area.  According to the plea agreement the defendant and a co-conspirator drove up to the gun store in a stolen vehicle, and repeatedly attempted to ram the front door of the shop with the stolen car.  The defendant then broke one of the store’s windows, entered and then proceeded to throw stolen firearms to the co-conspirator waiting outside.  The two fled the scene and were not apprehended immediately.  Shortly after the burglary the defendant posted on social media about the heist, and was not shy about showing off the stolen guns, gloves and mask he wore.  Law enforcement officers were able to match the social medial video with the store surveillance video, and were aided by distinctive tattoos on the defendant’s forearm.  The social medial videos also showed strings tied around the triggers of the weapons, which the store had used for identification.

As if the police needed more evidence of the defendant’s guilt, it turns out that he was also on GPS monitoring for a Prince George’s County case when he carried out the burglary.  The defendant was charged with armed robbery in 2018 and eventually pled guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery ( a misdemeanor common law offense in Maryland).  He was likely being supervised by parole and probation at the time, as he just pled guilty in May of 2019.  There is currently an active warrant out of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court for a violation of probation, though it is unclear how many years the defendant is backing up.

This case is another example of the feds picking up what would normally be a state case.  Much like bank robbery cases, the feds will typically get involved when gun shops are burglarized, as all arms dealers must be licensed by the federal government and the ATF in particular.  In this case, the defendant was also charged with second-degree burglary, felony theft and malicious destruction of property in the Baltimore County District Court.  An arrest warrant was issued back in 2019 and it appears the warrant remains unserved.  If Baltimore County chooses to prosecute the defendant will be transported to Towson upon completion of his federal sentence.  This of course is assuming that he is not taken to Prince George’s County first.  It will be interesting to see if Baltimore County chooses to prosecute a defendant that has been sentenced for the same act in federal court, and then punished for violating his probation due to that act in another county.  The Blog will follow and may post an article in the future.  In the meantime, stay tuned for any new posts regarding gun and drug charges that are filed in federal court.

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