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joint-200x300It’s not a question of if, but when marijuana will be legalized for recreational use in Maryland.  With the 2021 legislative session set to begin on January 13, the real question is whether this is the year it finally gets done.  Marijuana legalization has been debated for a decade, but this coming year presents the first realistic chance for it to pass.  Medical cannabis is firmly entrenched in Maryland and is helping thousands of state residents with medical issues, in addition to generating tens of millions of dollars for the state.  The detractors who were worried about increased criminal activity around state licensed dispensaries and grow facilities have been silenced by a lack of reported incidents, and concerns about increased DUI and DWI cases have been largely unfounded.  Access to marijuana by minors is always a concern, but there is has been no evidence that the medical cannabis program has led to increased marijuana use among teenagers.

The success of the medical cannabis program is only one of the factors that lawmakers will consider when making a decision to legalize.  Lawmakers will also consider whether the issue is better suited for a public vote in the form of a referendum similar to the recent sports gambling vote.  The details about licenses and where the proceeds will be directed are also issues that must be debated, but the Maryland Cannabis Commission has already been down that road, and should be better prepared to tackle the issue again.  There are still lawmakers that will never admit that marijuana legalization is long overdue, and these lawmakers should consider the simple question of whether the state should continue to support the illegal sale of marijuana or whether it should join the rest of the contemporary states and begin to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana.  Citizens that want to use marijuana will get it one way or another, and the illegal buying and selling of pot only promotes more criminal activity.

There are other collateral issues that must be considered when marijuana legalization is either put to a vote in the legislature or for the citizens.  We are asked all the time whether citizens are able to grow their own marijuana plants, and the answer is still no in Maryland.  Many states allow their residents to grow a limited amount of marijuana plants in their home, but Maryland has not given up strict control of marijuana production to anyone who is not licensed as a grower with the MMCC.  Anyone who is caught growing even one marijuana plant faces a felony charge for manufacturing marijuana.  This charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 5 years in prison in Maryland and Florida, and is virtually the same charge as possession with intent to distribute marijuana.  While most first-time offenders do not receive lengthy jail sentences for growing a small amount of marijuana, most if not all will likely be arrested and booked.  After an arrest, a person will always have an FBI arrest record regardless of what happens with the case.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland and Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in marijuana cases including distribution, possession, manufacturing, and possession with intent to distribute.  If you have been charged with any drug offense in state or federal court contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598.  Benjamin has successfully defended hundreds of drug cases including drug trafficking, large amount drug kingpin cases, and possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime.  He offers flexible payment plans and is always available to give updates on the progress of the case.

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dollar-1362244_1280-1-300x200This week at the Greenbelt federal courthouse, a Prince George’s County man was sentenced 4 years in prison for a bank robbery that occurred back in 2019.  According to the guilty plea the defendant entered a bank in Oxon Hill, Maryland during normal business hours and demanded his money.  When the bank teller told the defendant that he would need to provide his identification and debit card in order to withdraw money, the man apparently became upset.  He then demanded money again from the teller, but this time he explained he was committing a robbery and that he would shoot everyone in the bank.  The bank teller was obviously shaken, but followed her training and complied with the man’s request.  She handed over $202 in cash and the man fled the scene.  Unbeknownst to the defendant, the stack of cash contained a GPS tracking device that was likely activated automatically upon being removed from the drawer.

Law enforcement followed the GPS signal and located the defendant a short time later at a fast food restaurant in the same shopping center as the bank.  The defendant was arrested and police recovered the $202 in cash on his person.  Police also reviewed surveillance footage from inside the restaurant that showed the man discarding an object in a trash can.  This object turned out to be the GPS tracking device, which police recovered and entered into evidence.  The robbery did not occur on federal property, and the Prince George’s County Police was likely the agency that apprehended the defendant, but nonetheless he was charged under the federal bank robbery statute.  18 U.S. Code §2113 was established to give the federal government jurisdiction to prosecute robbery from any bank, credit union or savings and loan association in the United States that operates under U.S. law, is a member of the Federal Reserve or is insured by the FDIC.  This basically includes any bank, whether foreign or domestic, that operates in the U.S.  The federal bank robbery statute also covers theft of anything over $1,000, and burglary or other felony committed against the bank.  Bank robbery is a felony with a 20-year maximum penalty, which becomes 25 years if the defendant commits an assault or uses a dangerous weapon or device.  Theft of more than $1,000 in currency or other items from a bank carries a 10-year maximum penalty.

Typically, when we think of bank robbery we think of a masked person pointing a gun at the teller, but a large number of bank robberies are committed without weapons.  Simply relaying a verbal threat to a teller or even passing a threatening note with a demand for money is enough of a show of force to trigger robbery charges.  This is the same under both federal law and the laws of Maryland.  The government is never required to prove the defendant was able to carry out any of the threats in a robbery case.  All that is required is for the defendant to place a victim in fear of his or her safety.  If a weapon is brandished or used the defendant will face a significantly higher punishment under the sentencing guidelines, and if a firearm is present mandatory minimum sentences will be in play under federal law and Maryland state law.

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store-984393__480-1-300x200Bel Air Police have arrested two suspects in connection with a series of retail thefts spanning multiple states, and one remains in custody at the Harford County Detention Center.  The incident occurred last week at a Dick’s Sporting Goods location in Harford County where the two suspects allegedly took several items from the store and fled the scene in a silver Ford Fusion.  Police were called to investigate and then canvassed the area looking for the suspected vehicle.  During their search for the suspects, police came across a car matching the description in the Harford Mall parking lot, and waited to see if anyone appeared.  While police maintained surveillance on the Ford Fusion, other officers apprehended one of the suspects walking in the area.  The second suspect was then arrested as she headed toward the vehicle, and officers later determined that both were involved in another retail theft inside of the mall.  Police sought and received a search warrant for the Ford Fusion, and upon execution of that warrant discovered over $2,000 worth of stolen apparel from various retail stores.

The two suspects were arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft and theft scheme, and taken before the District Court Commissioner for a determination of their release conditions.  One of the defendants, a 24-year old female from Baltimore City, was released on an unsecured personal bond.  This means the defendant will not have to put any money up unless she fails to show up for her trial date, which has not been scheduled as of this time. The other defendant, a 25-year old female from Odenton in Anne Arundel County was originally granted release on a $5,000 bail, but then held without bail by a District Court Judge the next day.  Normally, and especially during COVID-19, defendants are not held without bail for theft charges, but this defendant apparently had an active arrest warrant out of Virginia for theft.  The judge was likely concerned that either she was a flight risk or that she would not be returned to court in time for her December 8, 2020 trial date if she was sent to Virginia.  Defendants who are incarcerated are generally scheduled for District Court trial within 30-45 days, while defendants who are on the street are scheduled much further out from the date of their arrest.

We will continue to follow this case, and may post a follow-up article if anything interesting occurs in the either trial.  The incarcerated defendant may end up taking a plea in December, as postponing the case or requesting a jury trial could result in a major delay, and continued incarceration.  Unlike employee theft cases, misdemeanor retail theft cases of this magnitude generally do not result in a jail sentence unless the defendant has a criminal record.  In this case the incarcerated defendant has a relatively lengthy criminal history, including prior convictions for theft out of Baltimore County and malicious destruction of property out of Anne Arundel County.  These prior convictions combined with the active warrant out of Virginia could result in a much harsher sentence should she be found guilty.  The District Court for Harford County has been known over the years to hand out harsher sentences than neighboring jurisdictions such as Baltimore County, but every case has its own story and every defendant a unique background.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland and Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in theft and theft scheme cases in all jurisdictions including Harford County.  Benjamin has successfully defended hundreds of clients charged with employee theft, retail theft, embezzlement, fraud and other white-collar crimes.  He also handles probation violations and drug, gun and violent criminal cases such as robbery, attempted murder and aggravated assault.  Call his Maryland office at 410-207-2598 or his Florida office at 954-543-0305.
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gelcap-300x169A 41-year old Baltimore man recently pled guilty to participating in a drug distribution conspiracy, and he now faces more than a decade in federal prison for his actions.  Based on a recent press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office the defendant is looking at 12.5 years after the government and the defense agreed that a 150-month sentence would be appropriate.  The presiding judge in the Baltimore City federal courthouse will have final say over the sentence, but typically when both sides are in agreement the judge will go along as well.  It is unclear whether the parties entered into a binding agreement under Rule 11(c), but either way the judge would maintain discretion to approve or reject the plea based upon a final calculation of the sentencing guidelines and a review of the presentence report.

According to facts laid out in the plea agreement the defendant participated in a drug trafficking organization or DTO from at least September of 2018 until June of 2019 in Baltimore City.  The defendant also admitted to maintaining a stash house in Baltimore where heroin and crack cocaine were processed and stored.  Law enforcement agencies including the ATF, FBI and the Baltimore Police all participated in the investigation, which ultimately yielded a search warrant for the stash house.  The Anne Arundel County Police also participated to some degree in the case due to the cross proximity of the stash house to Anne Arundel County. Police seized over 200 grams of crack cocaine from the house, but it does not appear that any money or firearms were seized.  It is also not clear whether there were other individuals that were charged along with this defendant, but there had to have been other suspects in order for the government to establish sufficient evidence of a conspiracy.  Conspiracy charges are common in federal court, as it is often easier for the government to prove that a defendant planned and prepared to commit an illegal act as opposed to catching him or her in the act.  Under Maryland state law conspiracy is not a separate enumerated crime, but rather a common law misdemeanor that may be charged in almost any criminal case.

It certainly appears that an agreed upon sentence of 12.5 years for a non-violent drug offense involving far less than 1 kilogram of cocaine and no firearms or weapons would be excessive.  The agreement is a little easier to comprehend when factoring in the defendant’s prior record though.  According to Maryland casesearch, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder back in 1999 and then narcotics distribution and possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime in 2011.  He received 12 years in each of these cases.  The first-degree murder case was resolved by a plea agreement to 12 years in prison, though he also received 12 years for handgun use in a crime in the same case.  These counts could have been run consecutive for a total of 24 years though it is not completely clear.  Either way the defendant has spent most of his adult life in prison, and now will spend another decade behind bars.  Regardless of his prior record, a 12 plus year sentence for mid-level drug trafficking seems unjust, and we can only hope that lawmakers continue to engage in criminal justice reform that reduces a defendant’s exposure in non-violent cases.

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714570_light_5-300x140A 26-year old Salisbury man is in custody after being arrested for burglary and motor vehicle theft last week.  The defendant was denied bail after seeing a district court judge, and will likely have to wait until his preliminary hearing in two weeks or his first appearance in the circuit court before having another opportunity to request a reasonable bail.  Wicomico County Sheriff’s Deputies were originally called to a local car dealership to investigate a burglary, but later learned that a vehicle had gone missing after reviewing surveillance footage of the dealership.  The man apparently entered the dealership through an unlocked door used by a cleaning service, and then appeared to drive several vehicles around and off the dealership lot.  The man then settled on a Ford pickup truck and left the premises.

The sheriff’s office put out a BOLO or be on the lookout for the stolen pickup, and deputies spotted it a short time later on North Salisbury Blvd. near Naylor Mill Road.  Police performed a traffic stop and took the man into custody whereupon they recovered keys to 32 other vehicles.  All stolen property appears to have been recovered by police.  The man was booked for burglary in the second degree, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and theft from $1,500 to $25,000, which are all felonies charges.  While the district court has jurisdiction to handle the two theft charges, the burglary felony burglary charge must either be dismissed or forwarded to the circuit court by way of indictment or criminal information.

Under Maryland law, second-degree burglary is defined as breaking into a place of business with the intent to commit a theft, crime of violence or arson.  It has a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison or up to 20 years if the state can prove the defendant stole or attempted to steal a firearm.  While the statute prohibits breaking and entering of the business, a defendant does not actually have to break something in the literal sense in order to be charged.  Breaking can also mean crossing some sort of threshold like a fence (regardless of size) or an opened door.  Simply walking on to an open area of a business would without crossing any type of boundary would likely only be sufficient to support charges for fourth-degree burglary.  Burglary in the fourth degree is the only type of misdemeanor burglary in Maryland, and has a maximum penalty of 3 years in prison.  First and third-degree burglaries are both reserved for the breaking and entering of dwellings, and are generally treated more harshly in court than the other varieties.

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mask-5503422__480-300x200A Harford County man was recently arrested at a polling place in Jarrettsville for refusing to wear a mask while attempting to cast his ballot in the upcoming presidential election.  The 52-year old from Fallston was not taken into custody right away, but rather was allegedly asked to leave or put on a mask several times before police were called.  Even after deputies from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office arrived, an arrest was not performed immediately.  Deputies spoke to the man for nearly 30 minutes, and reportedly arrested him as a last resort.  He was taken to the detention center and then was released on his own recognizance after meeting with the commissioner.  Officers charged the man with two offenses including trespass under criminal law 6.403 and failure to comply with a health emergency under section 14.3A.08 of the public safety code.  According to reports there was another man who refused to wear a mask, but willingly left the polling site after police arrived.

There are a few interesting legal issues related to this incident, but let’s start of by saying it is a true sign of the times that the headline to this post is not the least bit shocking.  Just think how you would have felt one year ago if you had read that a person was arrested for not wearing a mask at a polling place.  Regardless, the legal issues we will discuss involve the two charges.  The first issue is whether the man was charged with the appropriate trespass statute.  Under Maryland law, trespassing on private property carries a maximum sentence of 90-days in jail.  This charge is common in cases involving casino trespass related to the Maryland voluntary exclusion program, and other cases involving bars, stores and private homes where the individual has been told to leave or not to enter in the first place.  This particular incident occurred at a volunteer fire department, so the appropriate statute may have been for refusal or failure to leave a public building or grounds under 6-409.  Trespass on public or government property carries a higher 6-month maximum penalty, which means there is a right to trial by jury in the circuit court.

We know from previous posts about parties and gatherings that police will make arrests for violations of the Governor’s long-standing health emergency order.  The Governor has a wide range of powers during emergencies, but typically when we think of a state of emergency we think of riots, hurricanes or widespread power outages.  The health emergency provision is seldom used, but it does unequivocally grant certain powers to the Governor and the Court of Appeals that include requiring certain individuals to quarantine or isolate.  The language of the statute also reads that “If necessary and reasonable to save lives or prevent exposure to a deadly agent, the Governor may order individuals to remain indoors or refrain from congregating.”  The statute does not specifically address the ability of the Governor’s power to require masks, but does broadly allow for appropriate actions to be taken to protect the public.   It should be noted that a violation of the public safety code related to so called normal states of emergency carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, while a violation for failing to comply with a health emergency order is 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

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technology-2500010__480-300x200Over the last several years the marijuana policy has greatly evolved in Maryland, and more changes are on the horizon.  From the decriminalization of small amounts of pot to medical cannabis, and even the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office ending prosecution for marijuana possession, the progress has been undeniable.  On the other hand, marijuana continues to be the root of hundreds of criminal prosecutions each year in the state of Maryland, and the majority of these cases begin out on the roads and highways.  There is no easier way for police to make contact with the general public than through traffic stops, and this contact can quickly lead to a criminal investigation based on the smell of marijuana.  With all the changes going on it is important to take a minute to understand what police officers are legally allowed to do on the road, and what they will often do regardless of legality.

Through various rulings in 2019 and 2020 Maryland’s highest court has made it clear that police cannot search a driver or passenger of a vehicle based on the smell of marijuana.  The odor of marijuana or the presence of a small amount of marijuana is not evidence of a crime, and police cannot make a lawful arrest without more incriminating evidence.  Police also are not able to search a person based on the smell or presence of marijuana and then say they were concerned about the presence of a weapon to justify a search.  A search of person requires probable cause to believe that the person is armed or in possession of evidence of a crime.  In addition, police are not permitted to perform the lesser intrusion of a frisk or pat down for weapons unless they have reasonable suspicion that the person is armed.  Reasonable suspicion is a lower level of suspicion than probable cause, but still requires specific facts to indicate the presence of a weapon.

While police now have a far more limited ability to perform frisks and searches of people, they still have the power to perform automobile searches.  Since marijuana is still considered illegal contraband, the odor of marijuana or the presence of a small amount still gives police the authority to search a car under the automobile exception.  Contraband refers to goods that are illegal to possess regardless of whether possession of the goods is a crime.  When lawmakers made possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil infraction, they essentially preserved a police officer’s right to search a car based on the smell of marijuana.  Nine out of ten times when police decide to search a car, they are not doing it solely to find a small amount of pot, and this is why marijuana is such a common cause of roadside arrests.  Searching a car requires time and multiple police units, as an officer cannot search a car and watch its occupants at the same time.  No officer is going to call for backup if he or she believes that the search will only yield a baggie of pot.  To the contrary, police are generally looking for other controlled substances, large amounts of marijuana combined with currency and other evidence of distribution such as scales and empty bags, and finally firearms.  We see dozens of handgun cases each year that begin as simple probable cause searches based on the odor of marijuana, and until marijuana is legalized this law enforcement tactic will continue.  Transporting marijuana of any quantity or smoking in the car essentially give police a free look into a vehicle after any type of lawful traffic stop.  Whether it’s a broken taillight or failing to signal, police do not need more than a primary moving violation or equipment violation to make contact with a potential suspect.

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baltimore-1483757__480-300x200A Baltimore City Police officer was recently arrested and charged with drunk driving after he was found sleeping on the street outside of a convenience store.  According to the incident report the officer was found lying in a pool of his own vomit outside of his vehicle on Eastern Ave in Baltimore.  To make matters worse the defendant, who was off-duty at the time, told responding officers that his personal firearm was missing from the scene.  Police searched the vehicle and the area around the vehicle, but were unable to locate the missing handgun.  The officer now faces charges for driving while impaired and driving under the influence of alcohol, and has a trial date set in the North Avenue District Court in February.  It remains to be seen whether the officer will resolve his case at the District Court level, or request a jury trial that would transfer the case downtown to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.  DUI carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail, which means the defendant has an absolute right to request a jury trial under Maryland law.  DWI carries a maximum penalty of 60 days incarceration, and thus is not an offense that affords a jury trial right.

Regardless of where the case is heard, the judge will not be pleased to find out that the officer had previously been charged with DUI back in 2018.  According to an incident report the officer, who was again off-duty, was pulled over after police responded to a call regarding individuals brandishing firearms at a club.  Police detected signs of impairment and the officer was administered a breathalyzer test at the station, which resulted in a reading of .10.  While this is clearly enough evidence to prosecute for DUI per se under Maryland law, the case ended up being dismissed by prosecutors in court.  The officer was also never identified as one of the individuals who allegedly brandished a gun, but two of his off-duty colleagues were identified and disciplined as a result of their involvement.  The officer, who currently lives in Howard County, avoided any major disciplinary consequences back in 2018, but he may not be so lucky in the present case.  If he enters a plea or is found guilty at trial the fact that he was so intoxicated that his handgun was lost or taken without his knowledge will certainly be a factor that the judge will consider at sentencing.  It is likely that a sentencing judge would consider this behavior even more reckless than a typical DUI, as it resulted in another illegal firearm being circulated on the streets of Baltimore.

The 28-year old city police officer has been placed on paid leave during the course of an internal investigation that will not be made public.  The results of the case will be public though, and it will be interesting to see how the state and the judge handle the case.  The public will certainly be watching, and so will the Blog.  We will post a follow-up article when the case is resolved, and comment on the outcome.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland criminal defense lawyer who specializes in DUI defense and other traffic charges such as leaving the scene of an accident, fleeing and eluding police, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, driving without a license and federal traffic citations received on Maryland parkways or on federal property.  Benjamin also handles all criminal charges including wear, transport or carry of a handgun, and illegal possession of a firearm.  He is available 7-days a week for a free consultation and is licensed in Florida for those who have criminal or traffic cases in Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach County.  Call Benjamin today at 410-207-2598 or 954-543-0305 to discuss your case and which defenses may be available to you.

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heroindeal-300x157Howard County is known for having one of the best school systems in the state and a relatively low crime rate, so it undoubtedly was surprising when federal agents showed up in force to execute a search warrant of a home in a quiet Ellicott City neighborhood.   The agents were targeting a 31-year old suspect and looking for evidence of drug distribution, and they allegedly found a what they were looking for when the performed the search back in 2016.  According to evidence presented at trial, law enforcement entered the residence as the defendant was in the kitchen with numerous bags of crack cocaine, powder cocaine, digital scales, measuring cups used in the production of crack and two loaded .45 caliber handguns.  During the course of the search, law enforcement officers then found over 70 grams each of cocaine and crack, and close to $10,000 in cash.  Agents also seized two semi-automatic rifles with large capacity magazines and 200 rounds of ammunition.  The defendant was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime among other felony charges.  Rather than enter a plea of guilty, the defendant elected to roll the dice and go to trial, but it appears from the verdict that he may not have made the best decision.

After a four-day jury trial at the Baltimore City federal courthouse that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the defendant was ultimately found guilty for possession with intent to distribute more than 28 grams of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  The first two convictions carry 5-year mandatory prison sentences that will be imposed consecutively.  Maryland state law and federal law both provide mandatory five-year sentences for possession of large amounts of cocaine, and both also have mandatory sentences for possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime.  The defendant will likely be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison and since there is no parole in federal criminal cases he may not be released until at least 2026.  Even if the case was charged in state court the defendant would not have been parole eligible based on the mandatory minimum sentences that must be imposed by the judge. According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Howard County and Prince George’s County Police Departments helped the FBI work up this case as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods, which was developed to encourage collaboration between federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Under Maryland law there is no specific offense entitled drug trafficking like there is in Florida, but the term is used whenever a defendant is charged with possession or distribution of a large amount of cocaine, heroin, marijuana or other drug.  Violations of these offenses trigger mandatory prison sentences, but the federal laws can be stricter than Maryland laws when it comes to amounts.  Federal law provides a minimum mandatory penalty for possession of a much lower amount of cocaine base (28 grams) compared to Maryland law (448 grams).  In contrast, Maryland law has a lower threshold for heroin (28 grams) than federal law (100 grams).  Maryland state law and federal law both provide the same mandatory penalty for firearm possession during a drug crime, but many times this offense is wrongly charged by state law enforcement.  The law requires the State to prove a nexus between the drugs and the guns, so if a gun is locked away in a person’s basement it may not be in any way related to the drugs.  A criminal defense lawyer will be able to look at the case in detail to determine what defenses may be available in a drug trafficking case.

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police-378255_960_720-300x212Last week we posted on the Special Enforcement Zone that was established in anticipation of the H2Oi pop-up car rally, and after a wild weekend that made national news headlines the Ocean City Police have reported over 100 arrests.  According to a press release on Sunday, the last day of the rally, there were only minor issues reporting during the days but nighttime was an entirely different story.  Late Saturday night the Ocean City Police requested backup from numerous law enforcement agencies throughout Maryland’s Easter Shore after numerous individuals allegedly became unruly and destructive.  The Maryland State Police as well as the MTA Police, Natural Resources Police and even the state’s Incident Management Team responded to Ocean City to assist.  In addition to over 100 arrests, police also towed more than 350 vehicles and wrote over 1,000 traffic and criminal citations.  The Governor lauded the swift actions of law enforcement while condemning the alleged wanton disrespect for law enforcement displayed by many of the visitors.

In addition to the hundred plus arrests, there were also several injuries to civilians and police officers.  On Saturday night a Maryland State Police trooper was knocked unconscious while attempting to arrest a fleeing suspect.  According to a MSP press release the trooper fell to the ground upon “reaching the suspect”, which likely meant the trooper tackled the suspect after running at a high rate of speed.  The trooper sustained a laceration to his head and was treated at PRMC in Salisbury before being released the next morning.  The suspect was eventually taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, escape second degree and reckless endangerment.  Despite all charges being misdemeanors and no weapon being involved, the defendant was initially held without bail.  According to Vinelink he has been released on pre-trial supervision, and now must return to Maryland from Virginia for his trial date in January at the Snow Hill district court.

Most defendants who are arrested in Ocean City for misdemeanors or traffic offenses will be scheduled for trial at the Ocean City district court on 65th Street and Coastal Highway, but the influx of arrests means that the Snow Hill district court will have to shoulder some of the case load for a few months.  Defendants who are facing offenses that carry more than 90 days in jail have the option to request a jury trial at the circuit court, but this is not always a wise decision in Worcester County.  The defendant in this particular case faces a 60-day maximum sentence for the disorderly conduct charge, but 3 years in prison for the escape and resisting arrest charges.  Second degree escape is a common charge in Maryland due to its broad definition; a defendant who is on home detention can be charged with second-degree escape for violating the terms of the monitoring agreement, as can a person who fails to show up to a jail facility to serve a sentence.  In this particular case the defendant was charged with escape for departing from custody without the authorization of the arresting officer, which is similar to resisting or interfering with arrest.  The state will likely have to drop at least one of these charges at or before trial.  Reckless endangerment, which is defined under Maryland law as engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another or discharging a firearm from a vehicle, is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.  At this point there does not seem to be adequate evidence for the state to prove reckless endangerment, and it is unnerving that he was charged in the first place for this serious misdemeanor.  Running from the police after being placed under arrest may be illegal but it is a major stretch to say that running creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury for the officer who is giving chase.  If the chase took place in a vehicle it would be a different story, but fleeing on foot should never be charged as reckless endangerment.

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