Articles Posted in Assault

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fist-bump-1195446_960_720Today marks the final day of the 2016 General Assembly’s legislative session, and there is still much left to be decided on the criminal law front. We wrote extensively about the Justice Reinvestment Act, which has grabbed headlines for much of the last month. But there are other criminal law bills that will likely go into effect this fall, and these bills deserve some attention as well. One such bill was a measure originally taken by the House that looked to expand protections for victims of domestic violence. Currently a victim of domestic violence may petition the court for a protective order if he or she alleges that some form of abuse has taken place. Under the Maryland statute, abuse is now defined as an act that causes bodily injury or places the victim in fear of imminent bodily harm. Abuse also includes the crimes of rape, false imprisonment and stalking. Lawmakers from the House sought to expand the definition of abuse by adding harassment and malicious destruction of property but this measure failed to gain traction and was shut down after an unfavorable report by the judiciary. But now the bill has been revived in the form of an amendment to another Senate domestic violence bill, and it appears to be gaining steam.

Opponents of the amendment take issue with harassment being defined as a form of abuse. This is likely due to the broad definition of harassment, which is defined as maliciously engaging in a course conduct that alarms or seriously annoys another. No physical harm is necessary, and there is no exact definition of what a course of conduct actually means. This is a crime that while serious, is often the subject of false accusations because little objective proof is required to bring the charges; the word of the alleged victim is usually enough it initiate a case. While false accusations of harassment rarely stand up in court, they can have drastic effects on the accused if a temporary protective order is sought. Temporary protective orders can have immediate collateral consequences that can occur before the accused has his or her day in court, and this is the main reason while some lawmakers are hesitant to expand the definition of abuse to include harassment. But it appears that those in favor of expanding the abuse definition will be on the winning side of this debate.

The Blog will provide a final summary of the criminal law bills that will be heading to the governor’s desk this summer, and we will post a follow up article after all the dust settles. For now though, we expect that in October smoking marijuana in public will be a crime once again, and minimum mandatory prison sentences for drug felonies will come only at the discretion of the trial judge. Violation of probation procedures are also headed for drastic changes that will benefit defendants, and many prison inmates are looking at shorter sentences. As always, feel free to contact The Herbst Firm with any questions about these legal issues, as well as if you or a loved one has a criminal matter that calls for experienced representation. Benjamin Herbst handles all types of domestic violence cases including assault, harassment, and stalking, and is available at 410-207-2598.

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gunpoint-308107_960_720A jury recently found a former police officer guilty of multiple violent crimes after a two-day trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. The shamed officer was indicted for an incident that occurred in May of 2014, when the officer questioned a man for sitting in a parked car. The man was parked in front of his Bowie home along with his cousin, and exited the vehicle after exchanging words with the officer. As the man was walking toward his front door the former patrol officer pulled out his firearm and ordered the man back in the car. The officer then pointed his gun at the victim’s back as he directed him to the vehicle. After the cop pushed the victim they turned to face each other, and at this time the cop had his gun pointed directly at victim’s head and then with the barrel mere inches from his face. The victim was then arrested for disorderly conduct, a case that was dismissed by prosecutors six months later.

The verdict came down earlier this week, and shortly thereafter the county police department release video of the incident, which was filmed on a cellphone. After viewing the video it was immediately apparent why the twelve jurors found the officer guilty of all the serious crimes for which he was charged. The charges included first degree assault, second degree assault, use of a handgun in a crime of violence, and misconduct in office. First degree assault is a felony that carries a maximum 25 year sentence, while second degree assault is a misdemeanor with a 10 year maximum. Misconduct in office is a common law crime with no specific maximum penalty. While each of these three crimes certainly carries severe punishments, it is the misdemeanor use of a handgun during a crime of violence charge that will carry the most weight. A conviction for this offense carries a mandatory minimum 5-year prison sentence that may not be suspended. In addition a defendant sentenced under this statute is not eligible for parole. Sentencing is set for early January, and will likely include a term of probation after expiration of the mandatory prison time.

During a press conference this week the police commissioner for Prince George’s County condemned the officer’s actions, and implored the public to refrain from passing judgment on the other 2,000 plus officers in the department. He stated that this was a criminal act of a single man and will not be tolerated in any way. While the officer is technically still with the department, his firing is a mere formality at this point. He has been suspended without pay since the indictment came down, and the only thing preventing his termination is the administrative process that government employees are afforded before being fired. This is certainly a busy week in Maryland for police misconduct cases, as Baltimore City police officer is currently in trial for his role in the death of Freddie Gray. The Blog will continue to follow both of these cases and may post a follow up article in the near future.

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graphics-882726_640A jury recently found a veteran FBI agent guilty of assault after a three-day trial in the Montgomery County Circuit Court last week. The charges stemmed from an incident involving the custody exchange of a child, where the father was allegedly two hours late. A bystander captured the entire incident on a cellphone camera, which ultimately led to the agent being indicted for felony first degree assault, use of a firearm in a crime of violence, and misdemeanor second degree assault.   Video shows that the agent, a friend of the mother of the child, was angry with the father for being late and repeatedly called him disrespectful. The agent, who was off duty and dressed in plain clothes, kept pressing the father and followed him outside of a Chevy Chase apartment building to continue to voice his displeasure. During the argument a 15 year-old boy intervened and questioned why the agent was getting involved, as he was not part of the family. At that point the agent suddenly struck the boy with and open hand to the chest that sent him tumbling down to the sidewalk on his back. As the boy picked himself up the off duty agent then attempted to place him under arrest. A brief struggled ensued, but ended quickly when the agent pulled out a handgun and threatened to shoot the boy if he didn’t comply.

After receiving a copy of the video the State’s Attorney decided to present the case to a grand jury, which ended up finding probable cause to charge the agent with the three aforementioned offenses. The jury sitting in the trial court did not feel the evidence warranted convictions for the two felony offenses and acquitted the defendant on the most serious counts. But the jury agreed with the state of Maryland that the evidence supported a finding of guilt for second degree assault, as the agent had no legal authority and no defense for striking the boy. The agent’s lawyer argued unsuccessfully that the agent felt imminently threatened by the 15 year-old boy, and therefore struck him in self-defense. But the jury saw through this argument, which was hardly supported by the video.

As the verdict was announced the agent, a 20 year veteran of the FBI and current high ranking counterterrorism officer, became faint and had to be transported from the courtroom by ambulance. The case was reset until this week to deal with post-verdict matters such as setting a sentencing date and deciding whether the defendant will be allowed to keep his firearms. In Maryland a person convicted of a crime of violence such as assault is not permitted to possess a firearm. Although the defendant has been found guilty, he has not been convicted. The judge could impose a probation before judgment, which would not be considered a conviction at the January sentencing date. The Blog will track this case and may post a follow up article after the sentencing hearing, which is bound to be a tense affair. If the agent is adjudicated guilty it’s hard to see how he could remain an active duty federal law enforcement officer. But the FBI will make its own decision on that matter, and will not likely offer any explanation either way. Discipline from his employer as well as from the court seems like a given though, due to the agent’s embarrassing and violent outburst. As a law enforcement officer he was supposed to keep the peace, but instead the agent provoked a situation and ended up assaulting a private citizen, who happened to be a 15 year-old boy no less.

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badge1.jpgThe Maryland State Police have officially charged one of their own this week, as a criminal summons has just been issued for a 28 year-old trooper. The trooper is a five-year veteran of the force who just two years ago received national recognition for his role in rendering first aid to an assault victim at an Orioles game. Now it’s the trooper himself who faces a second degree assault charge, coupled with another charge for misconduct while in office. Ironically the summons was issued to the state police headquarters in Baltimore County, and not the home address of the trooper, who is on paid leave. Police officers and other certain government employees have the right to keep their home address private, which is undoubtedly why the MSP issued the criminal summons to their Pikesville office.
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crime.jpgOne of the busiest and most densely populated areas in Baltimore County is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous as well. Towson is the county seat or capital of Maryland’s third largest county, and is home to over 55,000 residents. The population is on the steady incline, and new residential development projects promise to bring a dramatic population increase over the next decade. Towson is typically regarded as a low crime area, and although the thousands of college students studying at Towson University and Goucher College can cause a little trouble from time to time, most of the crime in the area is limited to minor drug and alcohol offenses. But recent figures released by the Baltimore County Police suggest that violent crime may be rearing its ugly head in the area.
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1010760_dna_1.jpgMore than a year ago the Maryland Court of Appeals threw out Alonzo King’s rape conviction after ruling that police had illegally seized his DNA sample. Mr. King was arrested on an unrelated assault charge in 2009 and his DNA was collected under authority of a state law, which allowed cops to collect such samples from anyone arrested for a serious offense. This sample was fed into an FBI cold case database several months later and it matched an unidentified sample taken from the scene of a 2003 rape. Arrest and prosecution followed soon thereafter, and Mr. King suffered the same fate that most defendants do when trying to fight a case with inclulpatory DNA evidence, as he was found guilty and later sentenced to life in prison. Shortly after the Court of Appeals vacated King’s guilty plea the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on a writ of certiorari. During the past year Mr. King, and to a lesser extent state law enforcement officers, Governor O’Malley, Attorney General Gansler, and anyone with direct or indirect concerns about our civil liberties have been on edge waiting to hear from the Court, and as of this week the wait is over.

In a five to four decision the Supreme Court ruled that the Maryland DNA statute does not violate our Fourth Amendment rights, and law enforcement officials are free to sample the DNA of anyone arrested for a serious crime. The majority opined that an arrestee’s expectation of privacy is not offended by the minor intrusion of a brief swab of his cheeks, and by contrast the government has a significant interest in identifying the arrestee. The government, according to majority, must be able to accurately identify the arrestee so that the proper name can be attached to his charges, and also so the criminal justice system can make a fully informed decision about the arrestee’s pretrial custody status, i.e. the amount of his bail. The majority then compared DNA sampling to photographing, and the universally accepted, although never by Supreme Court opinion, practice of fingerprinting. The four dissenting Justices deferred to Justice Scalia to pen the dissent, which explained and discarded the majority’s 28-page opinion in 18 pages so brilliant that it was actually easy reading. Needless to say if you don’t have time to read both, start your reading after the words “it is so ordered”.
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1164850_law_badge.jpgEach year during the summer, the Maryland State Police releases its uniform crime report for the state of Maryland. The crime report uses data collected from every police jurisdiction in all 24 Maryland counties, but only factors in reported crimes in the report. The Maryland State Police defines reported crimes as actual incidents reported to police by victims, witnesses, and other sources used by law enforcement. Complaints of crime that law enforcement deem unfounded are not included in the reported crimes data. The annual uniform crime report is by no means a complete study of all crime in Maryland. In fact, the report only includes eight umbrella crimes in two separate categories, which are violent crimes and property crimes. A specific crime that does not fit into one of the umbrella crimes is not included in the report. Thus many of the most common crimes in Maryland such as DUI, drug possession, and drug sale are not included. In sum, the annual report is not a study of how many people are breaking the law in Maryland each year. Rather, the report analyzes the crimes that that have the greatest impact on citizens, and gauges how safe we really are throughout Maryland.

The 2011 Maryland uniform crime report was released back in June, and according to the data, reported crimes decreased by almost 5 percent from 2010 to 2011. In 2010, there were 204,916 total crime incidents reported, and this number dropped to 195,517 incidents of crime in 2011. Reported incidents of violent crime in Maryland, which includes murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault decreased by almost 9 percent. Reported property crimes, which include breaking or entering, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson decreased by a much lower rate, but still trended downward. Last year, for every 100,000 people in Maryland, there were roughly 3,350 crime victims, and 495 violent crime victims.
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1038827_u_s__supreme_court_1.jpgThe United States Supreme Court will temporarily allow Maryland law enforcement agencies to resume their post arrest DNA testing policies according to an order signed by chief justice John Roberts. The DNA testing policies allow all Maryland law enforcement agencies to take DNA samples of suspects arrested for violent crimes such as robbery, assault, rape, and homicide. The law also allows police to take DNA from a suspect that is arrested for burglary. Although burglary is not a violent crime, it is a crime that is often only solved when forensic evidence such as DNA or latent fingerprints is recovered from the crime scene. Maryland police agencies are not allowed to take DNA samples upon arrest of suspects that are incarcerated for common non-violent crimes such as DUI, possession of marijuana, and drug distribution.

Earlier this year, the Maryland DNA sampling law was challenged in the Maryland Court of Appeals, and the Court ruled that the DNA collection policy was unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The 4th Amendment protects citizens against unlawful government search and seizures, and it has been argued by the ACLU and the Public Defender’s Office that taking DNA samples upon arrest is an unlawful seizure. Most states only take DNA samples from defendants after a criminal conviction, or after a judge issues a warrant specifically allowing DNA collection. The ACLU also argued that Maryland’s DNA collection policy violates each citizen’s right to privacy. The Maryland high court agreed with the ACLU back in April, and reversed a 2009 rape conviction. The rape defendant was arrested on an unrelated assault charge, and pursuant to the Maryland DNA testing policy; his DNA was sampled and entered into a database. The database matched the DNA taken from the assault arrest with DNA that was recovered at the scene of an unsolved Maryland rape case, and thus an arrest warrant was issued for the rape defendant.
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336312_harbor_at_night.jpgA Baltimore City police officer was recently charged with assault after being involved in an altercation in Harford County, Maryland. The exact facts surrounding the altercation are in dispute, but the Baltimore police officer certainly has an interesting explanation for how he became involved in the assault. The criminal charging document alleges that the 10 year Baltimore police veteran, who was off duty at the time, approached a parked vehicle with two occupants seated inside. The police officer was apparently yelling at the occupants to stop dealing drugs, and approached the car in a threatening manner despite not seeing any actual drug transaction taking place.

The charging document goes on to say that the off duty Baltimore cop pulled one of the occupants, a Bel Air, Maryland man, out of the car and committed the assault by slamming him to the ground. The Baltimore officer, who has not hired a criminal lawyer as of yet, then furthered the assault by allegedly pulling out his police semi automatic Glock 22 and pointing the gun in the face of the victim. While the Baltimore officer had his police issued pistol pointed at the victim, he was allegedly still yelling about the drug transaction that may or may not have occurred. There were witnesses to the entire incident, and one witness apparently called the Harford County police, which arrived on scene in minutes.
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774605_car_accident_2.jpgRoad rage and aggressive driving incidents in Maryland have become common in the last decade, and law makers have been forced to address the issue, but rarely does a road range incident make news headlines. Unfortunately a recent dangerous road rage incident appeared in the news just last weekend. The Maryland state police has reported that a road rage incident on interstate 295 in Baltimore has resulted in a pair of arrests and multiple serious injuries. Police arrested one Maryland man who was the driver of the main vehicle involved in the road rage incident for DUI, assault, and destruction of property. The passenger, another Maryland man, was also arrested and charged with assault and malicious destruction of property.

Maryland police reported that the incident began around 8:30 p.m. last Saturday night in the southbound lane of 295 in Baltimore City. The driver who was arrested for DUI was driving extremely erratically, which prompted another vehicle to honk its horn. The alleged drunk driver took offense to this gesture and rammed his Nissan pickup truck into the passenger side of the other car, a Subaru, and kept driving. Then the alleged drunk driver and the passenger of the Nissan further escalated the dangerous situation by coming to a complete stop in a lane of traffic and exiting their vehicle, forcing other cars bound for Baltimore County to come to a stop as well. The driver and passenger approached the same Subaru, which was unable to go around the Nissan, and began violently kicking and punching the car for no apparent reason other than being honked at. This strange and terrifying situation prompted the driver of a Pontiac to intervene and help out the Subaru’s passengers. Upon seeing the driver of the Pontiac exit his vehicle, the alleged drunk driver and his passenger stopped their assault on the Subaru and returned to their Nissan, but the incident was not nearly finished.
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