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money-941228__340-300x225Three men were arrested after Prince George’s County Police executed a search warrant at an apartment in Laurel.  Police seized more than 3,000 fentanyl pills, cash and numerous weapons.  One of the weapons was an AK-47 style semi-automatic machine gun.  The main defendant, was recently charged by the State’s Attorney’s Office in a 20-count Circuit Court indictment, which includes eight felony counts. The charges include possession with intent to distribute narcotics, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, firearm possession in a drug trafficking crime, CDS possession and machine gun aggressive purpose.  The machine gun law under 4-405 of the Maryland criminal code is basically an enhanced statute that has double the maximum penalty of a possession of a typical firearm.  While this law does not provide a mandatory minimum penalty, it does carry a 10-year maximum prison sentence upon conviction.  For comparison, illegal possession of a regulated firearm under the Maryland public safety code and wear, transport and carry of a firearm both carry a 5-year maximum penalty.

Two of the defendants face numerous mandatory minimum sentences for firearm possession in a drug trafficking crime under Maryland criminal law 5-621.  The focus of any criminal defense strategy typically begins with the crimes that carry mandatory jail time, as even the most lenient judges are unable to get around a mandatory sentence.  After addressing the firearm drug trafficking charges, the focus will likely shift to the fentanyl possession with intent to distribute count.  Under Maryland law, PWID fentanyl carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, which is half the 20-year maximum penalty for PWID narcotics such as cocaine or heroin.  On the other hand, the sentencing guideline offense score is significantly higher for a fentanyl charge than a standard narcotics charge.  While this makes little logical sense, the fentanyl statute is newer, and rather than lower the maximum penalty for narcotics distribution (which always scare lawmakers) the legislature simply made a more reasonable and modern maximum penalty for the fentanyl charge.

The main defendant in this case will have to face trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, but he has another case to take care of first.  Court records show that he pled guilty to a misdemeanor gun possession offense and a misdemeanor conspiracy to possess narcotics with intent to distribute back in 2022.  He was originally in drug court, though it appears he was removed from drug court last week and will be sentenced on the original charges in March.  The second co-defendant does not appear to have a prior criminal record in Maryland, though he hails from Washington D.C.  Finally, the third co-defendant, a young man from Howard County, faces charges for drug possession, false statement to a law enforcement officer and machine gun aggressive purpose for this incident.  He is currently being held without bail in Howard County for charges stemming from an alleged unrelated second degree assault and is scheduled to appear in the District Court for Prince George’s County in February.

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thirteen-bags-of-marijuana-found-in-taxi-cabWhen recreational marijuana use became legal this past summer police officers were stripped of a major law enforcement tool.  Probable cause vehicle searches based solely on the smell of cannabis has over the years resulted in hundreds if not thousands of arrests in Maryland for crimes ranging from drug trafficking to transporting a firearm.  Many of these searches were suspect, as officers frequently performed them without ever locating actual marijuana.  In cases where police seized other contraband such as guns, narcotics or stolen property from a vehicle an arrest was made, and the defendant prosecuted.  The fact that the entire case began based off an error in judgment by a cop, or worse, a flat out lie rarely became a consequential issue.  When arguing a motion to suppress evidence in an automobile search a judge must only be convinced that the officer acted on a probable cause belief that he or she would locate evidence of a crime.  Probable cause is a much lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard to determine guilt or innocence.  Simply put, the deck was stacked against a defendant who was trying to fight an unlawful vehicle search based on alleged odor of marijuana.

The tide drastically changed when marijuana use by adults became legal.  Currently if an officer smells marijuana during a traffic stop, there is no reasonable means to conclude that a crime is being committed based on the smell of pot alone, as possession of marijuana under the civil amount of 1.5 ounces is perfectly legal for someone 21 or older.  Rather than face the prospect of hundreds of searches being overturned, lawmakers in Annapolis intervened and declared that officers would no longer be allowed to initiate warrantless vehicle searches based on the odor of cannabis.  More than six months has passed since this law went into effect, and it still doesn’t sit right with many lawmakers.  Back in November the Joint Republican Caucus stated it would attempt to overturn the law that now bars police from searching a vehicle based on the smell of weed.  The law was passed during the final hours of the 2023 legislative session and resulted in a host of republican lawmakers walking off the House floor in protest.  These politicians now argue that the search law prevents police from enforcing impaired driving laws, though this is a bit of a stretch.  Their argument is that police officers who smell the odor of marijuana emanating from a moving vehicle would not be able to stop said vehicle and initiate an investigation.  What this argument ignores is the fact that officers can still follow the vehicle and wait to observe signs of actual impairment or simply a traffic infraction.  Additionally, police in Maryland are still able to conduct a traffic stop if they observe vehicle occupants actively smoking marijuana.  Under Maryland law it is illegal to consume marijuana and alcohol inside a vehicle on a state roadway.  A police officer who observes active marijuana smoking inside a vehicle would have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop, and then may develop probable cause to detain a driver for a DUI investigation.

While impaired driving concerns are potentially real, as states where marijuana use is legal have reported a slight uptick in injury auto accidents and traffic fatalities, the bigger issue with the no-search law may be the effect on overall crime prevention.  Marijuana based vehicle searches have resulted in the seizure of hundreds of handguns over the years, and many of these firearms were taken from disqualified individuals.  As firearm crimes and the number of illegal guns on Maryland streets continue to rise police are looking for more ways to get guns off the street, not less.  The pervasiveness of ghost guns and the large number of juvenile gun crimes has also put the pressure on lawmakers and police to produce results.  We will of course follow any measures to repeal the vehicle search law and may post a follow up article once any bills hit the floor in Annapolis.  If you have been charged or are being investigated call Maryland gun and weapon crime lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in Maryland juvenile gun charges and adult charges for illegal possession of a firearm, minor in possession and violations of the wear, transport and handgun carry law.  He has successfully represented dozens of out-of-state defendants from places like Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina where the gun laws are far more relaxed.  He also defends clients charged with all other crimes in state and federal court, including possession of marijuana over civil,  CDS narcotics violations, theft, robbery and traffic charges.

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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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dui2-300x199The Maryland State Police recently announced that its troopers will be out in force this weekend as millions of motorists are expected to hit the road for holiday travel and celebrations.  All 23 trooper barracks from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland will participate in the increased patrol effort, which is being funded in part by the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office.  The State Police will deploy specially trained troopers who have been taught to identify impaired drivers through the use of tactics such as driving pattern observation and deployment at strategic locations and times.  These troopers are part of the SPIDRE team that has been patrolling Maryland highways for over a decade.  SPIDRE stands for State Police Impaired Driving Reduction Effort, and it was created by a grant from MDOT with the goal of reducing alcohol related injuries and fatalities in Maryland.

Starting out in Western Maryland, the state police will be conducting high visibility enforcement along Interstate 68, which is a dangerous stretch of highway that runs through Cumberland and Frostburg.  The Frederick and Hagerstown state police barracks will focus their patrols on Interstate 70 in Washington County and Frederick County.  They will likely be joined by troopers from Howard County on parts of I-70.  Howard County troopers will also be patrolling highways 29, 32 and 100, which are heavily trafficked on all nights and weekends.  The Golden Ring Barrack will be out in force on the I-695 in Baltimore County.  We have handled dozens of DUI, leaving the scene of an accident and suspended license cases initiated by troopers from the Golden Ring Barrack.  These cases end up in the Essex, Catonsville and Towson District Courts, though we generally prefer to handle our cases in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

Troopers from the D.C. Metro area will also be out and about on Interstate 495, which has become notorious for serious injury accidents and even DUI manslaughter/ homicide by motor vehicle cases.  I-495 is narrow, curvy and heavily trafficked, which is a dangerous mix of variables.  Interstates 95 and 97 will also be points of emphasis for law enforcement, as will Route 50, which crosses through Anne Arundel County, Queen Anne’s County, Talbot County, Dorchester County, Wicomico County and Worcester County.  Southern Maryland jurisdictions including Charles County and St. Mary’s County will also have a heavy patrol presence along Route 301 and Route 5.

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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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cannabis-1418339__340-300x290The Montgomery County Council is determined to crack down on driving while impaired by cannabis, but the method by which to accomplish this goal is still in still very much up for debate.  This week members of the Montgomery County Council’s Public Safety Committee met to discuss the issue of marijuana induced impaired driving and the meeting offered some insight on the challenges facing police officers who are tasked with enforcing Maryland impaired driving laws. There is currently no valid scientific test for marijuana impairment that compares to a breathalyzer test, which is used to test blood alcohol content in DUI cases.  Alabama is apparently one of the only states in the country that employs court approved saliva tests for cannabis concentration.  Other states have been reluctant to use this questionable methodology due in part to THC being tracible for several weeks after ingestion.

Without a certified scientific test for cannabis concentration law enforcement officers must rely on their observations of the suspect to prove impairment to a judge or jury.  These include the driving pattern of the suspect, his or her statements and standard field sobriety exercise such as the HGN test, walk and turn and the one-legged stand.  Officers need to establish evidence of impairment before requesting participation in these exercises, and skilled criminal defense lawyers can often pick them apart if there is no corroborating evidence such as a scientific test or an admission by the suspect.  Still, county officials are determined to even the playing field through the use of “green labs” where law enforcement officers can hone their cannabis impairment recognition skills.

Montgomery County is home to the state’s only green lab, where volunteers ingest cannabis in a controlled environment at the county police department’s training academy.  The labs have been around for a few years after originally being proposed by a veteran traffic enforcement officer in 2017.  Since then, the department has hosted several sessions, which start with the volunteers smoking marijuana, vaping or consuming edibles and then transition to an observation and testing period.  There is no indication that the volunteers are asked to get behind the wheel of an automobile, and realistically this could only happen under extremely controlled circumstances in a closed area.  These precautions would likely limit the amount of usable data, as there is simply no way to simulate driving in actual traffic.  The labs likely offer police a glimpse of how a person under the influence of cannabis may look, sound and act, though how this translates to recognition of impairment is up for debate.

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holster-648014__480-300x206The Maryland State Police recently issued an agency-wide memo instructing its employees to continue to uphold the HQL law, which was just declared unconstitutional by a panel of three federal judges last week in Richmond.  Citing the infamous 2022 Supreme Court decision out of New York, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Maryland’s Handgun Qualification License is overly burdensome and not consistent with historically accepted limitations on firearm purchases.  Gun lobbyists from the NRA hailed the ruling as a major victory, while state officials including the Governor and the Mayor of Baltimore City expressed displeasure with the decision.  When the ruling came down last week the Governor’s Office issued a statement expressing a desire to continue to fight for the HQL, but this week the Attorney General’s Office stated they are weighing their options.  Enforcing the HQL despite the recent ruling may not end up being much of a story, as the decision has yet to become legally binding.  The federal court has not issued a mandate yet and will not do so until 7 days after the 14-day window to request a rehearing has expired.  If the State does not request a rehearing the mandate to strike down the HQL process would go into effect on December 11.  The State could also seek review by the Supreme Court though based on the Bruen ruling out of New York it would be unlikely to prevail.

The Blog will continue to follow this exchange between the courts and a state that is predominantly anti-gun.  Some lawmakers may try to circumvent this federal trend to loosen the state’s gun laws by introducing bills when the legislative session commences in January in Annapolis.  While these bills can sometimes create a few news headlines for attention hungry members of the House or Senate, they will likely be shot down by more experienced members of the judiciary committees.  Local politicians have already tried to circumvent state federal law by enacting county ordinances that restrict handgun possession beyond what state law allows.  A recent opinion in the Montgomery County Circuit Court struck down a county ordinance that prohibited firearm possession within 100 yards of any public or private place of assembly including schools, daycare centers, libraries and businesses.  The ordinance brashly attempted to start the measurement from the edge of the parking lots of these places, which would have restricted firearm possession of a licensed individual while traveling on a state highway.  Another provision of this overturned law attempted to restrict possession of ghost guns by outlawing privately manufactured gun parts without serial numbers.  Once again, this attempt to circumvent state and federal law was struck down by a judge for being overly broad and more restricted than state law.

January is shaping up to be an interesting month in Annapolis, and we will be providing updates on all the criminal law developments, including those aimed at banning ghost guns and making it more difficult to wear, transport and carry a firearm.  If you or a loved one has been charged with a firearm crime, contact Maryland gun possession lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin vigorously defends adults and juveniles in all Maryland courts from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland.  He has won jury trials for offenses such as possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, use of a firearm in a crime of violence and possession of a firearm by a minor.  Benjamin also specializes in warrant recall motions, bail review hearings for gun offenses and domestic crimes and is an experienced Maryland violation of probation attorney.  Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 and learn what defenses may apply to your case.

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pistol-1350484_1280-300x200Roughly ten years ago Maryland lawmakers passed the Firearm Safety Act of 2013.  For the last decade anyone who wished to purchase a handgun in Maryland was forced to apply to the State Police for Handgun Qualification License or HQL.  There were several requirements for obtaining a HQL, with the first being eligibility to own and possess any type of firearm.  In Maryland this meant the applicant must have been at least 21 years old and have no prior convictions for an offense that carried a maximum penalty of two years or more.  Additionally, all Maryland HQL applicants must have completed a four-hour gun safety course that included firing an actual round and passing a background check.  The background check mandated that the applicant be fingerprinted, and any prior criminal or domestic violence related cases that show up were be considered.  There is no statute of limitations for prior convictions, as we have seen applicants denied for 40 and even 50-year-old criminal convictions.   Once the State Police approved a person for an HQL, he or she would be permitted to purchase a handgun provided the appropriate federal ATF forms are also filled out properly.  In Maryland an HQL did not give a purchaser the right to carry or transport a handgun or any firearm for that matter.  A person who is caught driving with or carrying a firearm without a concealed carry permit will likely be arrested and charged regardless of whether they held a valid HQL.  Possessing an HQL potentially helped in mitigation, but it was never a defense to a firearm possession charge.

Maryland Handgun Qualification Licenses have been much easier to obtain than wear and carry permits, but the 2022 Supreme Court decision in Bruen drastically turned the tide.  These days in Maryland a large percentage of HQL holders were able to obtain a carry permit if they completed additional gun education and safety requirements.  Lately we have received more calls about HQL denials than wear and carry permit denials, but as of this week we may never field a call about a HQL denial again.  On Tuesday a federal appeals court struck down the entire HQL policy, and specifically called out the background check requirement that has forced law abiding gun purchasers to wait a minimum of one month before being able to obtain a handgun.  The appeals court opined that the state failed to demonstrate any historical requirement that a citizen receive advance permission to purchase a firearm in Maryland.  The court stated a person should be able to purchase a firearm if they feel they are in danger and being forced to wait 30 days or more is unacceptable.  The wait time is exactly what supporters of the HQL policy have lauded as an effective tool in preventing gun violence.  The Governor and the Mayor of Baltimore have expressed displeasure over the ruling, while the gun lobby is celebrating a major victory.  Maryland is one of a dozen or so states that require gun purchasers to pass strict background checks, and this number could be zero within a year if the Supreme Court agrees with this decision out of the Richmond federal court.

The Blog will continue to follow this story as it will generate a ton of attention over the next few months.  The legislature begins its session in January and there are bound to be reactive attempts to keep Maryland a strict gun law state.  Federal courts can intervene when laws are deemed to restrict the Second Amendment, but the courts are generally not able to interfere with the harsh punishments that Maryland provides for gun offenders.  Anyone caught carrying or transporting a firearm without a license in Maryland still faces arrest and potential jail time depending on where the offense took place.  This includes federal property such as the NIH, CMS and the various military bases in Maryland where even state carry permits are not valid.  With respect to state cases, Prince George’s County, Baltimore City and Charles County often attempt to hand down the harshest punishments for gun offenses, but each case is different and there is always a legal argument that can be made in a gun case.  If you or a loved one has been charged with a gun offense contact Maryland criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in Maryland gun crimes such as wear, transport and carry, possession by a prohibited person, minor in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm at a federal facility.  He is an experienced juvenile gun lawyer and has successfully argued for the dismissal of adult gun charges in state and federal court.  Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 and learn how you may be able to fight your gun charge.

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annapolis-237078_960_720-300x195The 2024 Maryland legislative session is roughly two months away, but there are already signs that juvenile justice will be a hot topic when lawmakers report to Annapolis in January.  The Maryland House Judiciary Committee has already held multiple juvenile justice fact-finding meetings in advance of the legislative session and may hold others before the end of this year.  The meetings come in response to increasing outcry by the public, law enforcement and State’s Attorney’s Offices.  Many have been critical of recent changes to juvenile justice policies that limit who the police can arrest, detain and interrogate.  While there is no proven correlation between juvenile justice reforms and a rise in crime, many believe reform has directly contributed to skyrocketing carjackings, shootings and violent assaults committed by those under the age of 18.

One of the most impactful juvenile justice reforms has virtually eliminated juvenile interrogations in Maryland.  Anytime a juvenile suspect is arrested the police are required to allow the suspect to speak to an attorney before answering questions.  Many people are under the impression that police must seek permission from parents or guardians before speaking to a juvenile suspect in custody, but this was never the law in Maryland.  Police were simply required to read Miranda warnings to the suspect before engaging in an interrogation like they would with an adult suspect.  This presents numerous issues regarding a free, knowing and voluntary waiver of Fifth Amendment rights that is required for statements to be admissible.  It is argued that juveniles rarely understand the rights they are waiving, and thus cannot make a legally sufficient waiver.  This is especially true when the juveniles are under duress and face intimidation by law enforcement.  The legislature agreed, and now juveniles are rarely if ever advised to make statements.  Criminal interrogations were once the strongest law enforcement tool to locate co-defendants in juvenile cases and to solve past and even future crimes.  A large percentage of juvenile crimes involve multiple co-defendants, as teenagers spend most of their time out of the home with friends or classmates.  Since the summer, police officers investigating juvenile crimes have been forced to rely solely on evidence gathered at the crime scene, and through talking to witnesses that agree to cooperate.  As such, it’s no surprise the reforms have been blamed for the increased amount of felony juvenile criminal activity in Maryland.

Another recent reform that could face further scrutiny is the law prohibiting police from arresting a juvenile under the age of 13 for a non-violent crime.  We previously posted on an 11-year-old that was suspected of stealing multiple cars in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.  Critics of this provision believe any type of criminal activity can ultimately lead to violence, and not prosecuting young juvenile defendants for serious crimes establishes a harmful precedent.  The Blog will continue to follow juvenile justice policy as we head toward the next legislative session.  Rising juvenile crime rates will be a top priority for lawmakers as soon as they report to Annapolis, but it is unclear whether any of the reforms will be walked backed after just one year in effect.

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hammer-719066_960_720-300x225On October 1 the Maryland Redeem Act became state law, and now thousands of individuals can file to expunge prior criminal convictions that were once considered permanent.  The Redeem Act is a major breakthrough for those who have struggled to advance in the workplace, obtain professional licenses and secure loans or apartment leases.  It provides an avenue for prior defendants to apply for expungement in numerous types of charges, including felony drug cases.  In addition to adding more charges to the list of qualifying offenses, the law also shortens the wait time necessary to apply for expungement.  The relevant portion of the Redeem Act is codified in the Criminal Procedure section 10-110 of the Maryland statutes, though the section lists the crimes by statute number and not name.  It is advisable to have your charging document handy when checking to see if your prior offense qualifies, or you can consult with a Maryland criminal defense lawyer.

In this post we’ll go through some of the major changes to the expungement laws, but for a more detailed analysis about your particular situation, feel free to call Maryland expungement lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598.  The Herbst Firm handles expungements and petitions for early expungement based on good cause.  It’s safe to say that the drug laws have been impacted the most by the Redeem Act, as convictions for possession with intent to distribute are handed out like candy in the courthouses across the state.  Many a defendant has accepted a guilty plea to this crime to get out of jail or simply to close the case and move on with life, only to have it severely hinder personal growth in the future.  If the criminal defense attorney on the case did not successfully argue for probation before judgment or if a timely motion to modify was not filed within 90 days, the conviction used to last a lifetime.  Though as of October 1, there is hope for anyone with an old PWID or distribution charge, as an application to expunge may be filed 7 years after a time served disposition or 7 years after probation or parole has ended.  Anyone with a marijuana distribution or PWID conviction can file for expungement 3 years after the disposition or the end of probation or parole if applicable.

Felony theft and burglary may be expunged after 10 years, but other felony charges have yet to be added to the list of crimes that are eligible.  This includes motor vehicle theft, which is not one of the offenses that is currently expungable under Maryland law.  Gun crimes have also not been added to the list of expungable offense.  On the positive side, misdemeanor offenses such as CDS possession not marijuana, burglary in the 4th degree, malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct, prostitution, obstructing and hindering and various others are expungable after 5 years of the conclusion of the case or the end of probation/parole.  Prior convictions for domestically related crimes such as second degree assault and violation of a protective order are not eligible for 15 years.  If assault in the second degree or protective order violation convictions were not marked as domestically related, they would be eligible after 7 years for assault and 5 years for violation of a protective order.

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