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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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714566_light_1-300x224Earlier this week two Palm Beach County men were arrested for allegedly breaking into two Wellington restaurants and stealing cash and gift cards.  PBSO originally received a call reporting burglaries at the two restaurants on Sunday morning, and responding officers observed smashed windows and ransacked cash registers.  A short time later PBSO received another call about a theft, but this time it was from their neighbors down in Broward County.  The Broward Sheriff’s Office apparently had one of their patrol cars go missing, and GPS pinged to a location in Palm Beach County.  Officers likely had no idea the two crimes were connected, but upon locating the stolen cop car and detaining the suspects the connection became clear.  Search incident to arrest revealed that the suspects possessed numerous gift cards from one of the burglarized restaurants, as well as cash and several suspected stolen credit cards.  The two suspects were taken to jail and booked on charges of burglary of an unoccupied structure, criminal mischief, grand theft of a motor vehicle and resisting arrest without violence.  One of the defendants, a 26-year old from Lake Worth, remains in custody, while the 30-year old defendant appears to have been released on bond.

It is unclear whether police have evidence that the two defendants actually stole the Broward police car, but both apparently admitted to being inside the vehicle.  Originally, they had fled from the scene on foot and were not arrested in the stolen car.  Upon being questioned, both reportedly denied any involvement in the burglary, though the gift cards and cash clearly gave police probable cause for the charges.  While both men are facing multiple felony charges, it appears that all the felonies are of the third-degree variety.  The incarcerated defendant is facing felony charges for corruption by threat against a public servant, in addition to the felony burglary, criminal mischief over $1,000 and grand theft charges.  Resisting an officer without violence is considered a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law that is handled in county court unless there is an accompanying felony such as in this case.

The Blog will continue to track this case and may post a follow-up article in the future if anything newsworthy comes down from the courthouse.  It remains to be seen whether the pair will face any charges in Broward County, or whether the evidence recovered could lead to additional charges elsewhere.  The two suspected burglars should have been aware that all police cars and most commercial vehicles are equipped with GPS tracking systems that are extremely precise.  Once BSO realized that one of their vehicles went missing it was only a matter of minutes before it could be located.  It is unclear just how these defendants managed to come across a BSO patrol car, but details to this end will probably be released.  It’s certainly an embarrassing situation when a police force allows one of its vehicles to be stolen, which is exactly why it presents a compelling news article to readers.  If you or a loved one has been arrested or has an outstanding warrant for burglary, grand theft, resisting arrest or criminal mischief contact South Florida criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin is available to meet and take on cases in the Treasure Coast and in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and specializes in burglary and theft charges.  He has won numerous resisting arrest cases throughout South Florida and is also an experienced Maryland criminal lawyer who has successfully represented thousands of clients in charges ranging from DUI and drug distribution to murder and attempted murder.  Benjamin also specializes in firearm offenses such as illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and carrying a concealed firearm.  Contact Benjamin at 954-543-0305 or 410-207-2598 to find out which defenses may be available in your case.

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heroinbust-300x198This week law enforcement officers from numerous agencies executed eight search warrants in Frederick County and Washington County, which yielded various drugs, cash and multiple firearms.  The warrants were executed at about 4 a.m., which means they were likely of the ‘no knock’ variety that in theory prevents the destruction of evidence and the possibility of suspects preparing for a confrontation with police.  Only two individuals were arrested as a direct result of the warrants, but more arrests will likely follow as police comb through the seized evidence.  A 48-year old man and a 40-year old woman from Washington County are both being held without bail on charges of possession with intent to distribute narcotics and possession with intent to distribute PCP.  The man is also charged with illegal possession of a firearm under Maryland statute 5-622.  This offense is a separate felony that carries a five-year maximum penalty, but unlike Maryland statute 5-621, possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime, it does not require a mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction.  The defendant may face additional charges as the case progresses to circuit court, which could include those that carry mandatory sentences.

The law enforcement agencies involved in the execution of the search warrants included the Maryland State Police, the Frederick and Washington County Sheriff’s Offices, the Frederick Police and the Montgomery County Police.  In total, law enforcement seized over $23,000 in cash, over 2.5 pounds of cocaine, four handguns and large amounts of crack, PCP and methadone.  The amount of cocaine seized would clearly be enough to trigger drug trafficking charges, but there is no indication that the cocaine could all be attributed to one individual suspect.  Maryland statute 5-612 targets volume dealers, and provides a 5-year mandatory sentence for anyone convicted of possessing more than 448 grams of cocaine or crack, which is roughly equivalent to one pound.  The threshold is much lower for heroin (28 grams) and even lower for fentanyl (5 grams).  Marijuana, PCP and LSD are also included in the statute, which also carries a potential $100,000 fine upon conviction.

Going back to this specific case, the execution of 8 simultaneous search warrants indicates that this investigation was ongoing for months and likely included hours of surveillance and possibly confidential informants conducting numerous controlled buys.  A controlled buy is a common law enforcement tactic where police observe an informant engage in a drug transaction for the purpose of gathering evidence to use to obtain a warrant.  This is in contrast to a buy-bust, where police immediately move in to make an arrest after a drug deal has concluded.  Buy-busts are rare due to the obvious consequences of burning the CI and also creating a potentially dangerous and unpredictable situation.
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thirteen-bags-of-marijuana-found-in-taxi-cabIn 1989 a Florida man was sentenced to 90 years in prison after being found guilty of trafficking in cannabis, racketeering and conspiracy.  While the man had a prior marijuana related drug trafficking offense from a few years prior, the Florida sentencing guidelines called for him to serve between 12-17 years for his crime.  There was no violence alleged and there was no evidence that the defendant ever used or was found with a firearm or other weapon.  Nonetheless, the Polk County judge made the extraordinarily harsh and irrational decision to sentence the man to three consecutive 30-year sentences.  While RICO and conspiracy are typically reserved for federal criminal cases, this particular case was prosecuted in state court.  Much like the federal system, Florida abolished parole in the early 1980’s the 40-year old defendant was basically sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent marijuana charge.  The presiding judge apparently justified his decision to drastically depart upward of the sentencing guidelines by stating that the defendant was the ringleader of the conspiracy, and that he had allegedly bragged about his profitability in the marijuana smuggling business.  Fortunately, for the defendant, his family and for the sake of reason and compassion, the man was released this week at age 71.  It is widely believed that he had been serving the longest term of incarceration for any non-violent offense in the country.

While there is reason to celebrate the man’s release after serving three decades behind bars, the news is a solemn reminder of how unjust our criminal law policies are when it comes to drug offenses.  This is especially true for marijuana cases in Florida, where it is still a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison to possess more than 20 grams of pot.  Possession of any amount of marijuana, including a trace amount or a burnt joint, is punishable by a potential jail sentence and the possibility of a permanent criminal conviction.  Each year more states choose to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and the House of U.S. Representatives passed a bill to decriminalize marijuana under federal law by removing it from the controlled substances list.  While the measure is likely to die in the Senate, the bill even received support from two Republican representatives from Florida.  Marijuana legalization is coming without a doubt, and it is still a shame that prosecutors and judges choose to pursue jail sentences for defendants whose pot cases have no violent or weapon allegations.  We recently posted about the Maryland legislature potentially debating the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in 2021, and Florida may go down the same path in a couple of years.  Once marijuana is decriminalized the states will likely develop a user-friendly procedure to expunge past cases, as the feds cannot be counted on to do the same.

Benjamin Herbst is a criminal lawyer who continues to fight for all defendants facing drug charges in the state and federal courts in Maryland and Florida.  He has extensive experience defending clients charged with manufacturing marijuana, drug trafficking, possession with intent to distribute and all other criminal offenses.  Benjamin also specializes in weapons and firearms cases, and has won numerous jury trials and motions to suppress evidence.  Call Benjamin anytime at 410-207-2598 or at 954-543-0305 in Florida for a free consultation about the defenses that may be available in your case.

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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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