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State Police Arrest Ohio Man for Brandishing Paintball Gun

splatter-paint-2165225_1280-300x169The Maryland State Police recently reported the arrest of a 39-year-old Ohio man after an alleged road rage incident on I-70 in Howard County.  According to the MSP press release a man called 9-1-1 to report that another motorist pointed a firearm in his direction while traveling westbound on I-70 in Western Howard County.  The alleged victim was able to provide a description of the vehicle and the license plate number.  Troopers eventually located the suspect’s vehicle traveling through Frederick and initiated a traffic stop.  During the traffic stop the driver admitted to officers that he pointed a paintball pistol at the victim and provided said pistol to the the troopers.  The man was arrested on the scene.  Troopers then consulted with the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office to determine the appropriate charges and were informed that a felony assault was appropriate under the circumstances.

The Ohio man was also charged with three additional misdemeanors for assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct.  He was taken to the Howard County Department of Corrections in Jessup where he was later released by a District Court Commissioner on a $10,000 unsecured bail.  He does not have a trial date yet because the District Court does not have jurisdiction over the felony assault.  The State will have to indict the defendant or file a criminal information in the Circuit Court for Howard County if they remain committed to pursuing the felony.  Otherwise, the case will be set for trial in the district court in Ellicott City.

The decision to charge the man with first-degree assault is curious to say the least.  Under Maryland criminal law 3-202 felony assault in the first degree is defined as intentionally causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another, committing an assault with a firearm or intentionally strangling another.  A paintball gun does not meet the definition of a firearm under the criminal code or the public safety code as the paintballs are ejected by compressed air rather than an explosive such as gun powder.  The same is true for BB guns and other air guns, which are considered dangerous weapons but not firearms.  Obviously, there was no strangulation in this case, so the State would have to believe it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant attempted to cause serious physical injury to the victim in order to support the felony first-degree assault charge.  While the MSP press release did not specifically state what happened during the alleged road rage, there likely must have been some testimony from the victim that the defendant used his vehicle in an overly aggressive manner.  We have seen numerous cases where a driver is charged with first-degree assault for attempting to hit a person with his or her vehicle, and a moving vehicle can clearly cause serious bodily injury if used as a weapon.  The State could potentially have a case under these circumstances, though a lesser charge is likely more appropriate under these.

Reckless endangerment is a common misdemeanor charge when dealing with road rage cases due to its broad definition.  Under state criminal law 3-204 reckless endangerment is defined as engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another.  It carries a 5-year maximum penalty that is far less than the 25-year potentially penalty for first-degree assault, but it is nonetheless a serious offense.  In this prosecution the State could choose to focus on reckless endangerment or potentially misdemeanor second-degree assault.  Misdemeanor assault can occur if a person commits a battery (actual physical contact) or commits an act with the intent to frighten an individual with the threat of harm.  In this case the state would seek to prove the latter as there was no allegation of actual physical contact.

If the defendant’s confession was obtained legally then his best bet may be to take a plea, as at first glance the evidence seems insurmountable.  He not only admitted to brandishing the paintball gun, but readily handed it over to police.  His cooperation by end up being beneficial and could potentially be enough to push for a disorderly conduct plea.  When you think of disorderly conduct you traditionally think of situations where a person is causing a scene and disturbing the peace.  However, under Maryland law it is also considered disorderly conduct to hinder or obstruct free passage of another in a public place (highway) or conveyance.  If the defendant was alleged to have driven in a manner that obstructed the victim’s ability to drive down I-70 then it would be grounds for a disorderly conduct violation under criminal law 10-201.  The 60-day maximum penalty for this offense is far less than the other three offenses and would not carry collateral consequences such as the loss of Second Amendment gun rights.

The Blog will follow this case and may post a follow up later this summer when the case is adjudicated.  It will be interesting to see what type of plea the defense can work out, as trial seems like a long shot.  If you have been charged with a crime in Howard County, Frederick or any other state or federal jurisdiction contact Maryland assault lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in first-degree assault defense and misdemeanor assault in the second-degree charges that are domestically related or between strangers, and is also a skilled gun crimes lawyer.  He has won numerous reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct cases and is standing by to offer a free consultation at 410-207-2598.


State Police Arrest Ohio Man After Brandishing Paintball Pistol In Apparent Road Rage Incident In Howard County,

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