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packs-163497_1280-300x200The Maryland governor recently announced that state casinos will no longer be prohibited from operating at full capacity under state law, but some local restrictions are still in place and revenues remain lower at all gaming establishments.  State orders had previously limited capacity to 50 percent at each of the six casinos around the state, a number that had been in place since December.  The state’s largest casino, MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County, and the Horseshoe in Baltimore City are still operating at limited capacity per local government orders.  These two casinos had been operating at 25% percent capacity, and will continue with some restrictions for the foreseeable future.  In total, the state’s casinos produced over $120 million in gross gaming revenue last month, but this number was down over 16% from February of 2020.

While profits are down across the state, the revenue numbers tell us a different story about social behavior in the COVID-19 era.  Despite capacity limits of 50% the gaming profits are down less than 17%.  This means the public have not proven hesitant to return to the casinos to spend their hard-earned dollars.  And since this is a criminal law blog, it also means criminal cases taking place on casino property are likely returning to pre-covid levels.  The most common cases that we have seen from the casinos are trespass and disorderly conduct citations.  Casino trespass cases usually begin one of two ways, with perhaps the most common cause being violations of the state’s voluntary exclusion program.  A person who has placed themselves on the VEP list for two years or for life will be prohibited from returning to the grounds of the casino (not just the casino floor) indefinitely until they follow the steps required to be taken off the list.  Voluntary exclusion violations will result in criminal trespass citation being issued that comes with a mandatory court appearance.  Upon conviction a defendant faces up to 60 days in jail, a $500 and the possibility of a permanent criminal record.  The large majority (if any) of these cases do not result in jail time, but the consequences can still be severe for a person with a clean record who may have a security clearance, professional license and/or immigration issues. Casino trespass cases are also quite common for those individuals that have received a no-trespass warning by a member of the casino staff.  Upon violation of these warnings and individual can be cited and removed from the property.  In addition, a person who is cited for casino trespass would forfeit all of their earnings, even if they have a strong argument that the warning was insufficient.

Disorderly conduct and other petit offenses are also relatively common at casinos due to the heightened emotions of gambling and perhaps the heavy flow of alcohol, but for the most part the facilities maintain a relatively safe environment.  The casinos are equipped with sophisticated security systems and even facial recognition technology, and security does not hesitate to use these systems to initiate charges against a person.  The Blog will continue to follow the revenue numbers and incidents of crime at casino facilities across the state, and will post a follow-up article in the future.  Legalized sports gambling is around the corner in Maryland, and this will undoubtedly pump up the revenue as well as the crowds in all the casinos.  More people equals the potential for more trespass, theft, assault, theft and disorderly conduct violations, and we will be there for anyone who needs assistance.

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thirteen-bags-of-marijuana-found-in-taxi-cabThe week Goucher College released the results of several polls including those related to concerns over the state government’s handling of COVID-19 and the general attitude toward the vaccine.  The Towson based liberal arts college also conducted a poll on the attitude toward marijuana legalization, and the results may come as a surprise to some.  Support for the legalization of recreational marijuana is as high as ever in Maryland, with two-thirds of the state population saying the time is now to make pot legal.  This is by far the highest level of support that legalized recreation marijuana has seen since polling on the issue began in 2013.  For comparison, two years ago support for legalization was roughly ten percent lower at 57 percent.  A closer look into the polling data reveals that even republicans are starting to come around to the idea of legalizing marijuana.  For the first time ever more than half of Maryland republicans are onboard with legalization.  While the number sits right at 50 percent in favor, only 47 percent of republicans oppose legal pot.  More than three quarters of democrats support legalization and only 18 percent are opposed.  The poll was released smack dab in the middle of multiple legalization bills being debated by lawmakers in Annapolis, and may swing some voters who are undecided.

In addition to the polling data lawmakers should take into consideration that neighboring Virginia recently passed a bill to legalize marijuana (though the current law will not be in effect until 2024), and the Governor of New Jersey just signed a law legalizing recreational marijuana use after it easily passed in a November vote.  The current legalization proposals in Maryland would end civil and criminal prosecution of personal use marijuana possession.  Possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is still illegal, but many times individuals arrested for other offenses are not even charged with civil marijuana violations.  Possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana is still punishable by up to 6 months in jail, which is absurd considering the overall climate in the state and the country as a whole.  Regardless of whether marijuana is legalized this year, a 6-month penalty for simple possession has to be addressed.

As of now the two main provisions of the marijuana legalization bills currently up for debate are changing the definition of personal use to 4 ounces or less, and allowing for the limited growing of personal use marijuana plants.  If the bill passes as currently written there would be a drastic reduction of criminal marijuana possession charges.  Presumably a person could be charged with possession for having more than 4 ounces, but many of these defendants would likely be charged with possession with intent to distribute if the amount was considerably more.  At least in the beginning stages of legalization it would be hard to imagine a Maryland police officer charging a person with possession if he or she is found with a half-pound or more.  One solution to this issue would be to completely do away with the crime of possession of marijuana, and modify the PWID law to require clear and convincing evidence of the intent to distribute.  As criminal defense lawyers, we are too used to the police assuming that anyone in possession of more than a small baggie is a dealer.  This is a completely unjust practice, and while we have successfully argued for the dismissal of numerous possession with intent to distribute cases, these clients never should have been arrested in the first place.  Hopefully state lawmakers and prosecutors will send a firm message that they do not intend for anyone to be arrested for a marijuana related charge unless it is clear they are unlawfully dealing.

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money-1428594__480-300x200This week at the Greenbelt Federal Courthouse a 32-year-old man from Prince George’s County pleaded guilty to manufacturing and passing counterfeit currency.  Sentencing is currently set for early June, and the defendant faces up to 5 years in prison for conspiracy to pass counterfeit currency and up to 20 years in prison for manufacturing counterfeit currency.  As part of the plea agreement the PG County man from Capital Heights admitted to conspiring with two other individuals to print and use fake $100 and $20 bills.  The printing took place at the defendant’s home, and then he would either sell the fake money at a discount or buy merchandise with it at local retailers.  At some point law enforcement officers caught wind of the conspiracy and applied for a search warrant, which was executed in March of 2018.  Agents recovered cell phones, three counterfeit $100 bills, linen copy paper, a printer, a .38 caliber revolver and shell casing, and a scale and baggies.  The U.S. Secret Service took over the investigation and determined that the ink contained in the seized printer’s ink cartridge was indistinguishable from numerous counterfeit bills that were later recovered.

The defendant and his co-conspirators were not arrested by federal agents after the search warrant was executed, and unbeknownst to them the investigation continued.  Federal law enforcement agencies are known for their patience in gathering as much evidence as possible before charges are formally filed, and this case is a perfect example.  In the summer and fall of 2019 federal law enforcement continued to monitor the suspects and documented numerous transactions where counterfeit currency was used.  In July of 2019 law enforcement conducted a traffic stop on the defendant’s vehicle and found 18 counterfeit $100 bills after a brief chase where the defendant attempted to run away.  A few months later in October of 2019 the defendant’s vehicle was again stopped, and again he attempted to flee.  During his brief flight the defendant discarded counterfeit currency in a trashcan, which was recovered by law enforcement.  Police also recovered uncut sheets of counterfeit $20 bills.  All told the defendant admitted to passing between $95,000 and $150,000 in counterfeit bills.  The defendant agreed to pay at least $95,000 in restitution joint and severally with the other co-conspirators.  It is reasonable to question whether the victims would have been defrauded out of this much money if the suspects had been prosecuted in 2018, rather than more than a year later.

It does not seem like the defendant has a lengthy criminal history, which should help his cause at sentencing.  On the other hand, the government will certainly emphasize the fact that the defendant continued to engage in criminal activity despite the execution of multiple searches and seizures upon his home, car and person.  The defendant also ran from police twice, and showed no signs of abandoning the criminal conspiracy on his own.  The defendant was even charged with felony theft and possessing forged currency in Maryland state court in the District Court for Montgomery County in Rockville, but these charges were dismissed likely in anticipation of a federal indictment.  The defendant had ample opportunity to see that law enforcement was on to him.

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gun-2089__480-300x266Over the last couple of years law enforcement has seen a dramatic uptick in the presence of build-at-home firearms commonly known as ghost guns.  Ghost guns are typically ordered online and delivered to a person in a kit with several unfinished parts.  These parts require some degree of machining, with tools such as a drill press, in order to be transformed into a fully functional firearm.  The fact that the gun parts come unfinished is what enables manufacturers to be able to sell them without abiding by strict state and federal regulations that traditionally apply to gun manufacturers.  In addition, the customers who buy and build the gun parts can also skirt certain state and federal requirements pertaining to registration and identification.  For example, under Maryland law it is a crime to possess a firearm that lacks or has an obliterated serial number.  But ghost guns are not required to be registered or labeled with a serial number.  The problem for law enforcement is two fold; ghost guns are easier to obtain for those who traditionally would be prohibited from purchasing a firearm, and the guns that are seized are impossible to trace back to other potential crimes.  Law enforcement’s concerns over ghost guns has recently become a priority for Maryland lawmakers in Annapolis, and we will likely see tighter regulations of these weapons beginning in 2022.

Under Senate Bill 624 lawmakers are seeking to require ghost gun manufacturers and owners to adhere to similar requirements as regular firearms dealers and manufacturers.  In Maryland this would require buyers to produce a valid Handgun Qualification License in order to lawfully purchase a ghost gun.  Additionally, once the bill becomes law current owners of ghost guns would have to take measures to stamp their weapon with a serial number, and identify the make and model of the weapon.  The build-at-home guns would also have to be labeled with the lawful owner’s full legal name.  Anyone in possession of an unmarked ghost gun after the bill becomes a law could face prosecution if they do not follow the labeling requirements, but a first offense would not be considered a criminal violation.  Rather, a first would be classified as a civil violation punishable by a minimum $1,000 fine upon conviction.  It is unclear whether there would be a mandatory court appearance for this civil violation, or if the defendant could prepay.  Either way, it would behoove any defendant to show up to court and fight the case or request a probation before judgment to avoid the mandatory fine and a finding of guilt.

Under the current bill a second offense for possession of an unlabeled ghost gun would be prosecuted in criminal court and punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.  The judge would be permitted to make certain findings that could end up in a dismissal if the violation is not deemed serious and the defendant has not been previously convicted.  There will likely be numerous modifications to the bill before it becomes law, but chances are that some sort of ghost gun legislation will pass this year.  Baltimore Police recovered 126 ghost guns in 2020 compared to 29 in 2019, and the numbers are bound to continue to increase absent government intervention.

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weed4-300x194Two marijuana legalization bills are scheduled to be debated by lawmakers in Annapolis in the coming weeks, and there is an outside chance we could see legalization at least a year sooner than once thought.  The bill we will discuss in the article is currently scheduled for debate in the Senate during the first week in March.  Senate Bill 708 is a lengthy one, with tons of provisions that would only apply to government agencies and those who may become involved in the marijuana business.  The wordy bill boils down to a few major points for actual consumers and all other concerned citizens in the state of Maryland.  First off, the bill would decriminalize the personal use of marijuana.  You can’t start selling it to consumers if it’s still illegal, so the lawmakers in this bill have selected 4 ounces of flower cannabis, 15 grams of concentrates and 6 plants as their arbitrary cut off number.  These limits are more generous than previous attempts at legalization, but still maintain an aura of control.  It’s almost as if the government is still in our ears saying “alright that’s enough, take it down a notch”.   A person would be able to walk around with a quarter pound of pot, but anymore would be a no no.

There are other provisions in the bill as well that would apply to the average Marylander, including easy access to expunge prior marijuana cases and strict measures to assure that individuals who are under the age of 21 are not being provided marijuana.  Homeowners and renters would also be permitted to grow their own marijuana provided there are certain safety measures in place to assure the grow operation is both private and secure.  Without a doubt the most compelling parts of the wordy bill are the provisions that discuss the retail sale of marijuana.  The bill does not simply come out and say marijuana will be legalized, but rather inconspicuously creates the existence of marijuana retailers.  These “retailers” are defined as an entity licensed to purchase cannabis from a grower and sell it to a consumer.  Consumers are not patients, so this is an entirely different animal than medical cannabis.  This is the legalized sale of marijuana for recreational use, and it’s coming sooner rather than later.

After the bombshell about establishing marijuana retailers, the bill goes on and on about the tax provisions and the social equity policies designed to promote and support small business owners.  The tax issue is always a back and forth debate, but in the end the tax number will likely keep the price of retail marijuana just under the price on the street.  After all, it makes no sense to price retailers out of the market, especially when a widely stated goal of legalization is to end the illicit sale of pot.  Anyone who is interested in entering the market may be wise to read the bill, but all others should probably wait until the bill progresses further down the legislative process.  There are bound to be more changes on the horizon.  The Blog will continue to follow marijuana legalization efforts in Maryland and Florida, and will post a follow up article as more news comes out of Annapolis.  If you have been charged with a drug offense such as possession not marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, manufacturing or any other offense contact criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in drug charges, gun charges, domestic violence defense, theft, robbery and DUI, and is available anytime at 410-207-2598.  Benjamin is also an experienced South Florida criminal defense lawyer who represents clients in criminal and personal injury cases such as weapons crimes, drug offenses and car accident cases in all state jurisdictions from Miami to Port St. Lucie.  Contact Benjamin at 954-543-0305 for a free consultation about your Florida case.

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hammer-620011_640-300x225Covid-19 has devastated thousands of families around that world, with the health impacts being felt the hardest.  The collateral damage to the business world also is hitting home, as millions of people have lost their jobs or their ability to earn a consistent income.  The virus has also thoroughly disrupted the court system, and as a criminal law blog we will focus on these impacts.  First of all, jury trials are not scheduled to resume until the end of April, and the backlog of cases is in the hundreds for the larger jurisdictions such as Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Montgomery County.  All defendants are impacted by these continued postponements, but none more than those who are incarcerated and awaiting their day in court.  There are some defendants who have been waiting over 18 months for their case to go to trial, which severely weakens the principal of innocent until proven guilty.  While the Courts have been committed to entertaining multiple requests for bail reviews as the postponements mount, defendants who are charged with violent offenses, gun offenses or even large-scale drug cases are still being held without bail.  Our advice to any defendant in this situation is to continue to request bail reviews.  While the Courts will typically not consider a second or third bail review absent a change in circumstances, continuous postponements do present new circumstances that warrant reconsideration.  Additionally, if new discovery tends to show that evidence of guilt is not as strong as a police report or indictment makes it seem (this is the case far too often) then a new bail hearing may be appropriate.  If you have an attorney be sure to contact him or her to discuss filling a new bail motion, and if you need an attorney contact Benjamin at 410-207-2598.

Covid-19 has also affected the District Court dockets and caused lengthy postponements in all types of cases.  The Clerk’s office has been postponing a massive number of cases due to limited capacity in the courtrooms due to social distancing.  Dockets in some jurisdictions are being totally cancelled or cut in half, and some jurisdictions have not fully taken advantage of virtual options.  While the large majority of defendants in District Court are not incarcerated, having an open criminal case can have extreme negative effects on a person’s ability to live a normal life.  It may be difficult to obtain a new job, promotion, mortgage, lease or even acceptance to a school.  Open criminal cases may also impact a person’s ability to renew professional licenses, security clearances and immigration issues.  If you have a District Court case that has been postponed or does not have a court date, an attorney may be able to advance the trial date.  While advancing the trial date is especially difficult during this pandemic, there may be other options to move your case along quicker, such as filing a written jury trial request.  This option would transfer the case to one of the Circuit Courts, where it may be quicker to schedule a court trial or a plea hearing.  Circuit Court judges have a greater degree of control over their dockets, and are usually amenable to setting cases in early if it means disposing of them and thus decreasing the backlog.

Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland and Florida criminal defense lawyer who practices in Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Baltimore County and all other Maryland jurisdictions.  He is also licensed to practice in Florida, and has extensive criminal trial experience in Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade, Broward County, Martin County and St. Lucie County.  If you have a gun, drug, DUI, theft or domestic violence charge anywhere in Florida or Maryland Contact Benjamin anytime at 410-207-2598 or 954-543-0305.

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marijuana-1281540_1280-300x225While the legalization of marijuana for recreational use will likely be debated by Maryland lawmakers during this year’s legislative session, at this point it is unlikely to become law in 2021.  Lawmakers in Annapolis have moved slowly but deliberately, choosing to take incremental steps to reform marijuana policy rather than skipping any major steps.  We saw the addition of a lesser crime for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana before we saw decriminalization, and we will likely see further tweaking of the decriminalization laws before we see legalization.  House Bill 0032 aims to do just that, and could be the last major tweak of the state’s cannabis laws before full blown legalization.

While decriminalizing possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana was absolutely necessary and welcomed, the arbitrary 10-gram threshold is far from perfect.  The idea was to place a number on the amount that a person typically carries for personal use, but 10 grams is nothing more than a nice round number and not really indicative of the way people use or carry their pot.  A person can walk into a medical cannabis shop and buy more than 10 grams, and many regular users buy more than 10 grams at a time to cut costs.  If the legislature was truly intent on sparing marijuana users from criminal charges the 10-gram threshold had to be addressed at some point.  While we were hoping this would have happened in 2020, it looks like 2021 is when the next changes will take place.

House Bill 0032 aims to actually identify what personal use looks like in the real world, rather than assign an arbitrary number to it.  Under Maryland Criminal Law 5-101 the term “less than 10 grams” is completely replaced by “personal use amount” which is now defined as 2 ounces or less of cannabis flower, 15 grams or less of cannabis concentrates and 1,500 mgs or less of other THC products.  The new bill also includes six or fewer cannabis plants and the byproducts of those plants.  This last modification would be a huge shift from the current policy, as it would effectively decriminalize cultivating or manufacturing of cannabis, which is still a felony under Maryland law.  Many states with medical marijuana programs allow cardholders to grow their own supply, as long as certain precautions are taken.  If this bill passes, Maryland would be the next state to allow some of its residents to grow their own marijuana without fear of a SWAT team executing a felony search and seizure warrant at their home.  This is hardly an exaggeration, as we have seen multiple cases where police enter a private home with assault rifles in order to search for pot plants.

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handcuffs-354042_640-300x225Authorities have arrested a 28-year old Maryland man for his involvement in the storming of the U.S. Capitol that occurred on January 6 in Washington, and the incriminating evidence came from an obvious yet unlikely source.  Federal and local law enforcement have been combing through any available evidence in order to locate potential suspects, which typically includes comparing surveillance video with anonymous tips and social media posts.  This particular defendant was caught in a rather unusual and ironic way, as his own GPS ankle monitor ended up being the smoking gun evidence of his presence.  The suspect was on probation for a 4th degree burglary charge out of Baltimore County, and had recently violated his probation in November.  According to court records the defendant was sentenced to 45 days in jail, but all the time was suspended in lieu of 18 months of supervised probation, which apparently included a term of home detention to be monitored by GPS.  On January 6 the man, who currently lives in Silver Spring, Montgomery County, requested permission to travel to Washington D.C.  He was granted this permission, but certainly not for the purpose of storming the Capitol building.

According to news reports and public court records the defendant’s probation officer alerted the FBI that the defendant admitted to being inside the U.S. Capitiol on January 6 but later recanted.  Nonetheless, the FBI opened an investigation as to the man’s involvement with the incident at the Capitol that was corroborated by a cooperating witness.  The FBI compared the information from the Maryland Department of Parole and Probation with the tip from the cooperating witness and determined that the man’s movements while in Washington were consistent with involvement in the storming of the Capitol.  The FBI agent then applied for a criminal charges on January 15 for one count of unlawful activities on Capitol grounds/ disorderly conduct and one count of unlawful activities on Capitol grounds/ assemblages and display of flags.  These charges are codifed under 40 U.S.C. § 5104, and have a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail, which means they are misdemeanors.  It is not clear whether the man has been arrested on these charges yet, but in addition to the federal charges he will likely face another violation of probation and possible arrest.  The defendant appears to have only one prior criminal conviction, which was a felony theft case from Frederick County.

This case presents a multitude of interesting legal issues, and the Blog will continue to follow it to see how the government attempts to prove that his conduct was disorderly and what type of acts he committed on the Capitol Grounds.  The GPS apparently showed that he was in a restricted area, so the government may argue this is enough to sustain a conviction.  The case is also an important reminder that GPS ankle monitors and other tracking devices are incredibly accurate and detailed logs are kept for all individuals who are being monitored.  Home detention/ house arrest with GPS monitoring is obviously a better alternative to incarceration, but it is by no means easy sledding.  Private GPS monitoring companies are expensive, and sometimes stricter that state sponsored alternatives.  Benjamin Herbst has extensive experience securing the release of individuals on GPS monitoring, but knows the drawbacks and the potential downfalls.  If you know someone who is currently incarcerated Benjamin may be able to secure their release by filing a bail review motion or habeas corpus motion.  Benjamin is an experienced Maryland Criminal defense lawyer who handles state and federal cases in all counties including Montgomery County and Baltimore County.  He is also licensed to practice in Florida and specializes in burglary, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxicationtheftjuvenile crimes and probation violations. Call Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 or 954-543-0305 in Florida.

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packs-163497_1280-300x200This week in the Greenbelt federal courthouse a Baltimore man was sentenced to 151 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release for robbing a Hunt Valley bank.  The robbery occurred back in December of 2019 in northern Baltimore County, close to where the man reportedly worked.  The bank is located on York Road in Hunt Valley, an area with a relatively low crime rate.  According to facts presented at the plea, the man walked into the bank and handed the teller a note that demanded all the loose 100’s, 50’s and 20’s in the teller’s drawer.  The note also announced that a robbery was taking place, and that the man had a gun and would begin shooting if the teller did not meet his demands.  The teller complied with the demands and handed over $700 in U.S. currency to the suspect.  The 58-year old robber then fled the bank on foot without incident.  The robbery was captured on interior surveillance footage, which showed a clear image of the man’s face.  After the robbery the bank contacted law enforcement and circulated an internal alert to its employees with a picture of the suspect.

Five days after the robbery the suspect entered a different branch of the same bank that he robbed in order to make a deposit.  Apparently, the man held an account with the bank.  An employee recognized the man from the image in the internal alert and called law enforcement.  The man was arrested wearing the same clothes he had worn during the robbery just 5 days earlier, so it was not a stretch to say the government had a solid case.  It turns out that the defendant was also on supervised release for a prior bank robbery, which undoubtedly factored in to the overall sentence of 12.5 years in prison.  The defendant will likely serve about 10 years, but could be released sooner to a halfway house depending on the evolution of criminal justice reform over the next decade.

This case could have been prosecuted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County by the State’s Attorney’s Office, but the fact that the defendant already had a federal bank robbery conviction made it an easy decision for the case to go federal.  Remember that federal prosecutors have jurisdiction to prosecute just about any bank robbery that occurs in the United States due to associations with the U.S. Treasury and FDIC insurance policies.  There is no information to say whether the man actually possessed a gun as outlined in his note, but it is reasonable to conclude he did not.  The man seemed to be an experienced (albeit unsuccessful bank robber) based on the fact that he asked for loose bills and knew that any actual display of force was unnecessary.  Loose bills are less likely to be fitted with tracking devices or dye packs, than stacks of cash.  Any stack of bills given to a robber by a teller would likely contain a discreet tracking device that is activated immediately upon movement outside the bank.

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firearm-409000__480-200x300The United State Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland recently announced that a Baltimore man pleaded guilty to one count of discharging a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime.  The incident occurred in northwest Baltimore City in the area of Park Heights Avenue and Cold Spring Lane, where according to facts recited in the plea, the defendant and codefendant regularly sold marijuana.  Specifically, the defendant admitted to selling marijuana in the area for several months from the end of 2018 to early 2019 when the incident occurred.  On February 22, 2019 the defendant admitted that he was selling marijuana while armed with a handgun.  The defendant then observed a suspicious vehicle that appeared to be watching him and his co-conspirators.  The suspicious vehicle parked close by and the defendant called the driver over to speak with him.  The defendant then observed that the driver was armed and a struggle to disarm the man ensued.  The driver broke free and began to run away, along with two other occupants of the vehicle.  The three men were chased by the defendant and his co-conspirator, and multiple shots were fired in their direction.  One of the vehicle occupants was shot multiple times and died from his injuries.

The defendant was originally charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first and second-degree assault, firearm use in a crime of violence and handgun possession in the District Court of Maryland on Wabash Avenue.  The only charges that made it to the Circuit Court were first-degree murder, firearm use in a crime of violence, firearm possession by a convicted felon, and handgun on person.  The case was nolle prossed. in August of 2019 and then filed in Federal Court.  The federal government and the defendant have agreed to a plea that includes a jail sentence of 20 to 25 years in prison.  Under 18 U.S.C  § 924 discharging a firearm in a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime carries a 10-year mandatory penalty.  If the judge accepts the guilty plea at the March sentencing hearing plea the sentence will be within the range of 20-25 years, and likely followed by supervised release.  This case is another example of the federal government agreeing to prosecute a case that would otherwise be handled in state court.  As we have stated over the last several years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland is eager to prosecute gun cases in Baltimore City that involve convicted felons, drug trafficking and crimes of violence.

It appears that the defense worked out a favorable plea deal, although 20-25 in federal prison is certainly a heavy sentence.  The defendant avoided a murder conviction and a potential life sentence, which even in state court would likely end up being more than 20-25 years.  Unlike the federal system that did away with parole, Maryland still paroles almost all of its prison inmates at some point.  Parole for a life sentence though is still not a foregone conclusion.  The Blog will continue to follow this case and other state cases that are picked up and prosecuted by the feds.  As long as the gun violence in Baltimore City remains at critical levels the feds will continue to intervene with prosecutions.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland criminal defense attorney who specializes in gun crimes and federal weapons crimes such as handgun possession by a convicted felon, use of a firearm in a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime, improper exhibition of a firearm, assault, carrying a concealed firearm, murder and attempted murder.  He is also licensed to practice criminal defense in Florida, where he has won numerous jury trials for the most serious of gun offenses.  Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 or 954-543-0305 in Florida.

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