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handcuffs-2102488__480-300x169The Maryland State Department of Education keeps detailed records of all school related arrests, and since the 2015-2016 academic school year has released an annual report with detailed data from all 24 state jurisdictions.  The reports covers arrests made on school grounds or during off-campus school activities such as sporting events and performances.  It also includes arrests made for an incident that may have occurred on a school bus or other school sponsored transportation.  Most of the individuals involved in these incidents are juveniles, which means they can technically be arrested without being handcuffed and taken away.  The data includes both physical arrests where the student is actually taken away in cuffs, and paper arrests where an officer initiates a referral or request for charges to the Department of Juvenile Services.  Some of the main takeaways from the report are that overall school arrests declined significantly, and that School Resource Officers in Wicomico County are not shy about using their arrest powers.

Last school year there were 1,568 school arrests effectuated compared to 2,187 in the 2021-2022 academic year.  This represents a significant decline, especially when factoring in that school attendance was likely up as things began to return to normal following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the results of the annual report are informative, they must be taken with a grain of salt due to the fact that arrests are within the discretion of the SRO.  For example, a fight in a Howard County school may commonly result in internal discipline of the students involved, while the same fight at a Wicomico County school seems to commonly end in an arrest.  In fact, there were 72 students arrested in Wicomico County schools for fighting last school year, which is almost three times more than the 26 total arrests in Baltimore City Public Schools.  Wicomico County reported 204 total arrests in the 2022-2023 academic school year, followed by 175 in St. Mary’s County.  Calvert County reported 168 arrests, which means the top three counties in arrests are also some of the smallest by total enrollment.  Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Harford County and Washington County were the only other school districts that reported triple digit student arrests last year.  Queen Anne’s County was the only jurisdiction with zero arrests, and Kent, Allegany and Garrett counties had single digit arrests.

Fighting was by far the most common reason for student arrests during the academic year, and these students were likely charged with assault in the first or second degree or affray, which means participating in a fight or disturbance.  There were 222 drug related arrests last year in schools and 28 firearm arrests.  120 students were arrested for possessing other types of weapons and 18 for false bomb threats.  Other crimes with more than a handful of arrests include destruction of property, theft, and trespassing.  Most of the students charged will likely be able to have their cases resolved at intake, though the more serious offenses such as firearm possession, sexual assault and first-degree assault will end up with juvenile delinquency petitions being filed.  If your child has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense anywhere in the state, contact Maryland juvenile crimes attorney Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in defending assault charges, CDS drug offenses and firearm offenses for juveniles and adults of all ages.  He has successfully handled numerous school firearm offenses and all other delinquency petitions such as detention hearings.  Benjamin also appears at intake hearings where cases can be closed prior to being filed in court.  He is available 7 days a week at 410-207-2598 and offers flexible payment plans in all cases.
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monitor-1307227__480-300x212Baltimore County Police recently secured an arrest warrant for Pikesville High School’s former athletic director, and he was arrested at BWI Airport just one day after the District Court Commissioner signed the warrant.  The defendant was taken in for questioning by TSA after attempting to travel to Houston with a firearm when an issue arose regarding the way the gun was packed.  Law enforcement noticed the warrant while dealing with the firearm and placed the defendant into custody.  He was released later that day on an unsecured bond, which means he was not required to pay a bail bondsman.  In Maryland unsecured bonds only become due if the defendant fails to appear in court, and even then, the State rarely pursues a judgment.  The defendant faces charges for felony theft, disturbing school activities, witness retaliation and stalking, and has his first District Court trial date in June.

The charges stem from an incident back in January that made national headlines when a recording of racists statements allegedly made by the school’s principal began circulating on social media.  The principal denied making the statements from the beginning and police began to investigate the possible use of artificial intelligence to create the recording.  County police detectives consulted with an AI expert from Colorado who has been contracted as an expert by the FBI.  The expert opined that the recording was in fact AI generated and was not a particularly skilled fake, as there was an obvious presence of fabricated background noise.  In addition to investigating the recording, police also were also looking into the motive for the former AD to target his principal.  Police were directed to an open internal investigation where the former AD was accused of improperly compensating his roommate for coaching the girls’ soccer team at PHS.  The roommate was a coach at the school, but never coached girls’ soccer and was never properly contracted to do so as required by Baltimore County Public School policy.  A check for nearly $2k was drafted for the roommate by the former AD, and school administration was potentially in the process of a disciplinary proceedings.  The check written for the roommate is the basis for the felony theft charge and also for the witness retaliation charge, as the principal was the one of the school officials looking into the possible criminal activity regarding the check.

At this time no other individuals have been charged, but police are apparently still investigating.  Charges could potentially be filed against the former AD’s roommate if there is probable cause to believe he was an accomplice to the theft charge.  Accomplice liability for the individuals who spread the fake recording could also potentially trigger criminal charges.  The Blog will continue to follow this case as it presents a host of criminal law issues, including some that we have never seen.  The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office has never prosecuted a case involving an AI generated recording until now.  AI is a valuable tool, but when used maliciously could be quite damaging as we now see.  In the days following the release of the recording the principal received multiple threats and basically had his life turned upside down.  Police were originally investigating the defendant for reckless endangerment for placing the principal in harm’s way, though these charges are not pending at this point.

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police-850054_960_720-300x212Montgomery County Police recently announced the arrest of two women after a 6-month long prostitution investigation into multiple local massage parlors.  The investigation spanned three counties and involved the Anne Arundel County and City of Laurel Police Departments.  Accorded to the MCPD the two suspects owned massage parlors in Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County where sex acts were offered in exchange for money.  The investigation began back in October of 2023 at a “spa” in Kensington.  Detectives allegedly observed dozens of male costumers exiting the Kensington location daily and obtained confessions from multiple Johns.  Detectives also became aware that an employee attempted to bribe a Health and Human Services inspector during an inspection to prevent the business from being shuttered.

 In early March detectives executed a search warrant at the Kensington parlor and located one of the owners, a 34-year-old woman from Columbia.  Court records show the Howard County woman was arrested for sex trafficking, running a prostitution business and prostitution on March 7, and released two days later on an unsecured bond.  The other co-defendant, a 50-year-old woman from Philadelphia, was arrested on March 7 for bribery of a public employee and multiple counts of prostitution.  She was released the same day of her arrest on an unsecured bond.  Both defendants were charged by way of criminal information in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County where they will stand trial this summer.

 Under Maryland law the general prostitution statute prohibits engaging in prostitution and occupying a building used for the purpose of prostitution.  Any defendant found in violation of this law faces up to 1 year in jail and a $500 fine under criminal law section 11-303.  The severity of prostitution offenses in Maryland increases drastically for those alleged to have received profits from the business of prostitution.  Receiving earnings of a prostitute under criminal law 11-304 is still a misdemeanor, but the maximum penalty jumps to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.  Those who are charged with receiving earnings of a prostitute are typically also charged with human trafficking under Maryland criminal law section 3-1102.   Human trafficking and or sex trafficking has a broad definition under Maryland law and is considered a sex offense under Maryland law.  Anyone convicted faces mandatory sex offender registration for 25 years as a tier II sex offender.  It is currently a misdemeanor with a 10-year maximum penalty, though the violation becomes a felony with a 25-year maximum penalty if a minor is involved.  Anyone who participates in the business of prostitution, which includes receiving money, encouraging participation or harboring a participant may face human trafficking charges.
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auto-2378367__480-300x169The Maryland General Assembly recently passed strict laws aimed at eradicating street racing and exhibition driving, and now the Governor’s signature is all that is needed for the law to take effect as early as June 1 of this year.  House Bill 601 and Senate Bill 442 add significant penalties for drivers and other participants in organized highway speed contests and spontaneous racing or exhibition driving.  Up to 8 points will be assessed for any driver convicted of either racing or exhibition driving, and this jumps to 12 points if the act results in serious bodily injury.  Drivers and other participants in either of these acts could also face criminal penalties of up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine upon conviction.  The potential maximum penalty jumps to 1 year in jail if serious bodily injury occurred during the act.  While only drivers would face license points, other participants such as flagmen and timekeepers could face criminal penalties for being involved.

The two bills received an outpouring of support from law enforcement and local officials around the state.  Exhibition driving was also in the spotlight during the legislative session after numerous roads were effectively shut down in the Takoma Park area of Montgomery County in February due to driving exhibitions and unlawful races.  Ocean City even sent its mayor and other town officials to Annapolis to testify in favor of the bills.  Back in 2018 Ocean City lobbied for permission to criminalize exhibition driving in special event zones after the beachfront town had for years struggled to deal with non-sanctioned rally car events that would often result in impromptu races and exhibitions.  The situation in Ocean City became so out of control that the local government warned non-resident property owners to stay away during the pop-up rally events.

Exhibition driving is defined as excessive, abrupt acceleration or deceleration, skidding or smoking of the tires, intentional swerving from side to side, producing unreasonably loud noises, grinding the gears, using hydraulics to pop the tires off the ground or transporting passengers in areas of the vehicle not intended for people to sit.  Sitting on the hood or roof of a moving vehicle in motion will be classified as exhibition driving.  The definition of exhibition driving includes a large number of acts, and in order to prevent abuse of this offense by charging officers the legislature has created a section for affirmative defenses.  A driver could be acquitted from the charge if he or she demonstrates the act was reasonable and for safety purposes.  This is important, as we have seen numerous citations issued where drivers skidded or accelerated abruptly for legitimate reasons and not to put on a show.  Sitting on a car during a properly permitted parade would also be an affirmative defense, so police will not be out in force on July 4th ticketing en masse.

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bmw-1045050__480-300x225The 2024 legislative session is about halfway through, and Maryland lawmakers are currently debating dozens of criminal and traffic bills that would become law as early as June 1.   One bill gaining a decent amount of attention is a measure introduced in both houses to criminalize exhibition driving throughout the state.  Exhibition driving is defined as operating a vehicle in a crowd or large gathering in a manner that includes abrupt acceleration or deceleration, skidding, squealing or smoking tires, or swerving a vehicle from side to side.  Those familiar with the Blog are well aware that Ocean City has enforced exhibition driving laws in so called “special event zones” in Worcester County for the last two years.  Officials say the law, which carries up to 1 year in jail, has reduced the number of exhibition driving incidents.  While serving a year in jail for exhibition driving is not a realistic punishment save for the most egregious cases, the simple threat of being arrested has proven to be a major deterrent for Ocean City visitors looking to show off their driving skills on Coastal Highway.

Lawmakers are hoping for the same deterrent effect from Senate Bill 442 and its companion House Bill 601.  If enacted the law would add points and criminal penalties for exhibition driving under 16-402 and 21-1116 of the Maryland Transportation Code.  A conviction for exhibition driving would add 8 points to a person’s license and 12 if there was an injury.  Criminal penalties would include a jail sentence up to 60 days if no injuries, and up to 1 year if there was a serious bodily injury.  This bill would effectively end the special event zone requirement and would become state law in all jurisdictions.

Lawmakers are also attempting to strengthen Maryland child pornography laws by adding provisions that would make possession of more than 100 images or videos a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  Additionally, possession of any child pornography that depicts a person under 13 years old would be a felony regardless of the number of images.  Possession of child pornography is currently a misdemeanor offense in Maryland, though this modification would result in a large number of possession cases being filed as felonies.

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hammer-620011_640-300x225Anne 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.

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gun-728958_1280-300x169According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland a 19-year-old man from Greenbelt recently received an 8-year prison sentence in a multi count federal indictment.  Following completion of the prison sentence, which is not parole eligible, the young defendant will be on three years of supervised release. Supervised release is the federal terminology for probation, and violation of supervised release can lead to an additional jail sentence.  The case resolved by way of a guilty plea to illegal possession of a machinegun, possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and fentanyl and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  Despite his young age, the defendant was already on probation in an unrelated Prince George’s County state court case and had been arrested and released on other state charges before being indicted in federal court. The press release from the USAO MD does not indicate whether the defendant had a juvenile criminal record, and at least some of the alleged criminal acts in the indictment occurred when he was just 18.

According to the facts recited by the government at the plea hearing the Prince George’s County Police began investigating the defendant back in the spring of 2022 for suspected firearm and drug trafficking offenses.  The defendant allegedly advertised the sale of guns and narcotics through social media posts, which ultimately lead to the execution of a search warrant of his apartment.  In preparation for the execution of the search warrant officers observed the defendant conduct a hand-to-hand transaction with an unidentified individual outside of the apartment.  The defendant allegedly reached into a designer bag and handed the contents to the suspected customer.  A short time later the defendant left his apartment with the same designer bag.  Prince George’s County officers followed the suspect as he left in a rideshare vehicle, and conducted a traffic stop a short time later.  After ordering the suspect out of the vehicle police observed a .40 caliber handgun with an obliterated serial number on the floor where he was sitting.  Cops also recovered close to 300 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl and $790 in cash.  Despite these facts the defendant was released 12 days later at a bail review. Rather than stay on the straight and narrow, the defendant admitted in the plea that he continued to sell drugs and possess firearms.

Less than two months after the first arrest, and shortly after his 19th birthday a PG County police officer in District Heights observed the defendant smoking marijuana on a sidewalk.  The officer then observed the defendant discard an item behind a car and begin to walk away.  This action obviously peaked the officer’s interest, and he exited his unmarked patrol car to have a closer look.  The defendant then fled on foot but was apprehended a short time later.  A search in the area revealed an AR-15 style ghost gun with a loaded 30 round magazine and a round in the chamber.  Police also found two pill bottles that contained 5mg oxycodone pills and counterfeit oxy pills with a fentanyl mixture.  The defendant was arrested and charged in Prince George’s County state court, but the charges were announced nolle prosequi in lieu of the federal indictment.

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technology-2500010__480-300x200The Juvenile Interrogation Act, which prevents police from questioning juveniles without first providing an attorney has its critics, but it is not the only element of juvenile justice reform to come under fire recently.  Other provisions of the recent reforms include the abolishment of criminal charges for children under the age of 13 in non-violent offenses.  This seems like a policy everyone could get behind, and in reality, juveniles under the age of 13 who are charged will almost always have their cases resolved at the intake phase.  State’s Attorney’s Offices do not make a habit of filing juvenile petitions against 11 and 12-year-olds unless the allegations are particularly shocking and/or violent.  So, if the State will rarely, if ever, prosecute a child under 13 in a non-violent offense, then why would there be any critics of a law that bars arresting and charging them in the first place?  The answer appears to be the skyrocketing number of motor vehicle thefts.

Motor vehicle thefts have been on the rise in most Maryland jurisdictions, though in Baltimore County the numbers have truly taken off.  The county police reported a 175% increase in motor vehicle thefts over the past year, which means the number of victims has almost tripled.  In Baltimore City there were almost 1,000 motor vehicle thefts in the month of May alone.  This number is about triple the number of thefts in May of 2022, which is in line with the county numbers.  Many of these offenses are committed by juveniles, but now the police are starting to see children as young as 11 being the culprits.  Not only do the young children know there will be no consequences if they are caught, older juveniles are taking notice as well.  Police have described incidents where older juveniles entice the younger ones to commit the thefts and drive the stolen vehicles so that neither will face retribution.   County police allegedly linked the same 11-year-old to as many as 17 different auto thefts in the area around Dundalk and Essex, but have been unable to do anything about it due to the new laws protecting minors.

The argument against the juvenile reform is that there will be no intervention with teeth for these young children, and that they will learn at a young age that there are no consequences for committing crime.  On the other hand, the department of juvenile services and the court system will still be able to intervene starting at age 13 in non-violent offenses such as theft.  It is debatable whether the law barring children under 13 from being charged has done more harm than good.  In reality there are logical arguments to be made on both sides and the right answer is somewhere in the middle.  Still, it would not surprise us if both sides of the spectrum continue to cry foul to the legislature, and some sort of modification to juvenile justice reform passes next spring.

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police-780322_640-300x200Each year in Maryland thousands of warrants are issued for defendants in criminal and traffic cases.  To say it’s an uneasy feeling to have a warrant is an understatement, as sooner or later most of us will have some sort of interaction with a police officer.  The majority of these interactions come during traffic stops, but even those who don’t drive can find themselves in a conversation with law enforcement.  A good deal of individuals first discover they have a warrant from a police officer when it’s already too late to do something about it.  The exception would be for a person who is out of state and police discovery a non-extraditable misdemeanor warrant.  In these cases, the warrant can still be addressed while the defendant is out on the street, as local police will not arrest a person they know will not be picked up by Maryland.  Anyone with a Maryland warrant who comes in contact with an officer in the state will be arrested and taken before a judge or a commissioner.  At this time the only thing to do would be to hire a criminal defense lawyer to handle the bail review and/or the initial appearance.  A defendant is entitled to representation during his or her initial appearance with a commissioner, and it definitely helps to have a lawyer.  An experienced lawyer may be the difference between securing release on bond or on recognizance, which will save a person from spending the night in jail.

For those who learn about a warrant before coming in contact with police there are a few steps to take.  Unless a defendant is prepared to go to jail right away, it always makes sense to at least try to address the warrant beforehand.  Writing a letter to a judge may get the job done, but having a lawyer file a motion to quash or recall the warrant will have a much higher success rate.  Lawyers will look into the case to see why exactly the warrant was issued, and then tailor a motion to best address any issues the judge may have.  A lawyer first needs to determine what type of warrant was issued.

There are two types of warrants in Maryland, but both instruct a police officer to arrest the defendant and bring him or her before a judge or commissioner.  Bench warrants are the most common type of warrants, and typically are issued in traffic and misdemeanor cases.  They are called bench warrants because they are issued by a judge (from the bench where they sit in court).  The two most common bench warrants are failure to appear bench warrants and violation of probation warrants.  Anyone who fails to appear in court for trial, motions or even for their initial appearance could have a bench warrant issued.  Bench warrants typically instruct the police to take the defendant before a district court commissioner, who will then determine whether to release the defendant.  A warrant like this will say “to be set by commissioner”.  In some cases, a judge may issue a no bail bench warrant where the defendant would have to see a judge in order to be released.  Defendants may fail to appear for a variety of reasons, so having an attorney explain the situation to the judge is always advantageous.  A defendant may have moved and not received the court notice, or in some cases due to health issues may not have been able to attend court or probation, and the judge should understand all of the issues surround the FTA or probation violation.

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handcuffs-2102488__480-300x169Each year in Maryland thousands of warrants are issued for defendants in criminal and traffic cases.  To say it’s an uneasy feeling to have a warrant is an understatement, as sooner or later most of us will have some sort of interaction with a police officer.  The majority of these interactions come during traffic stops, but even those who don’t drive can find themselves in a conversation with law enforcement.  A good deal of individuals first discover they have a warrant from a police officer when it’s already too late to do something about it.  The exception would be for a person who is out of state and police discovery a non-extraditable misdemeanor warrant.  In these cases, the warrant can still be addressed while the defendant is out on the street, as local police will not arrest a person they know will not be picked up by Maryland.  Anyone with a Maryland warrant who comes in contact with an officer in the state will be arrested and taken before a judge or a commissioner.  At this time the only thing to do would be to hire a criminal defense lawyer to handle the bail review and/or the initial appearance.  A defendant is entitled to representation during his or her initial appearance with a commissioner, and it definitely helps to have a lawyer.  An experienced lawyer may be the difference between securing release on bond or on recognizance, which will save a person from spending the night in jail.

For those who learn about a warrant before coming in contact with police there are a few steps to take.  Unless a defendant is prepared to go to jail right away, it always makes sense to at least try to address the warrant beforehand.  Even if a defendant has no intention of coming back to Maryland, a warrant can prevent a person from renewing his or her driver’s license anywhere in the county, and can show up on background checks for decades.  Writing a letter to a judge will likely not get the job done, but hiring a lawyer or applying for the public defender and having them file a motion to recall the warrant will have a much higher success rate.  A lawyer will look into the case to see why exactly the warrant was issued, and then tailor a motion to best address any issues the judge may have.  The lawyer first needs to determine what type of warrant was issued.

There are two types of warrants in Maryland, but both instruct a police officer to arrest the defendant and bring him or her before a judge or commissioner.  Bench warrants are the most common type of warrants, and typically are issued in traffic and misdemeanor cases.  They are called bench warrants because they are issued by a judge (from the bench where they sit in court).  The two most common bench warrants are failure to appear bench warrants and violation of probation warrants.  Anyone who fails to appear in court for trial, motions or even for their initial appearance could have a bench warrant issued.  Bench warrants typically instruct the police to take the defendant before a district court commissioner, who will then determine whether to release the defendant.  A warrant like this will say “to be set by commissioner”.  In some cases, a judge may issue a no bail bench warrant where the defendant would have to see a judge in order to be released.

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