Criminal and Traffic Defense

by:  G. Darrell Russell, Jr.

Maryland has boarded the train which speeds toward legalization of marijuana. Last year possession of marijuana became an offense punishable by a fine alone if the amount in question is 10 grams or less.  Soon clinics will provide marijuana for medicinal reasons with a prescription from a Doctor. Ironically, it is still a jail-able offense to be in possession of drug paraphernalia, which necessarily includes the taboo cannabis. Paraphernalia would include pipes, bongs, wrapping paper, scales, and needles and syringes for more serious controlled dangerous substances, such as heroin and cocaine.  Heroin appears to have come to the forefront as a drug of choice and the legislature has made no effort to soften the consequences of its epidemic use. Simple possession of heroin and cocaine and approximately 50 listed controlled dangerous substances are still punishable by jail from four years to 25 years, depending upon the nature of the illegal substance. Possession of these banned drugs, with intent to distribute, is punishable by 10 to 25 years and includes mandatory sentences for repeat offenders.

Drug use and possession continues as a plague upon our community and often its nefarious presence invades all levels of society.  Our office understands the nature of these offenses.  Often there is a legal defense based on an improper search and or arrest. Sometimes the drug is actually a legally prescribed substance or is not among the enumerated substances which the legislature has deemed harmful without control.  We also look at a remedial defense and will have our clients attend classes and counseling, before trial, if there is an addiction issue.  We have been very successful in giving guidance as well as aggressive legal representation to those caught in the deadly web of drug abuse.

DUI Madness and it’s Consequences

The legislature continues to make driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination thereof, an offense which needs stiff laws to save lives. The laws remain constant that if a defendant fails to take a breathalyzer test or submit to a drug recognition expert, he will forfeit his driver’s license for a period of time.  A high blood alcohol reading or outright refusal will cause the loss of a license for up to year.  Conviction of driving under the influence can result in a sentence of up to a year in jail for a first offense and multiple years for repeat offenders.. And a further burdensome sanction has been passed by the recent state legislative session: any conviction for a DUI will require an interlock on the defendant’s vehicle for a minimum of a year.

Of importance to those who have had that unnecessary last drink, at the Coyote Watering Hole, if you are stopped after leaving the bar, and are asked to take the breath test, by all means, do not refuse to take the test. The consequences are draconian.  You will lose your license for 120 days. Then your only recourse is to agree to an interlock system for 1 year.  It is expensive and cumbersome.  On the other hand, the breath test can be a shield rather than a sword, if the BAC reading is below the legal limit of .07.  A recent Maryland case has said that a jury or judge may infer that a defendant didn’t take the breath test because he was fearful that it would prove he was under the influence.  On the other hand, if the defendant is a repeat offender, he might consider not taking the test.

PPS&R has been very successful in saving driver’s licenses and minimizing penalties, while also getting the client remedial help where appropriate

Peace Orders and Protective Orders

Peace Orders and Protective Orders are relatively new in Maryland jurisprudence.  They were created by the legislature to protect citizens who were in fear for their safety or lives.  The standard of proof for their judicial approbation has been recently modified.  Traditionally a court would grant an Order if there was “clear and convincing evidence” that the petitioner was being harassed, threatened or abused. Now the standard has been changed to “preponderance of the evidence.” Although the Order is civil in nature, a violation thereof is criminal.  It is called contempt and carries up to a year of incarceration.  The Orders have been abused by citizens. Sometimes the petitioner is trying to get an advantage in a divorce proceeding. Occasionally a neighbor wants to make life difficult without justification, for others in the community.  Or a former boyfriend still drives down the street of the lady in distress. Our office has successfully defended against the passing of Orders which are often brought for specious reasons.

The techno age has seen the proliferation of cell phones and I-Pads, making them the new standard of communication, especially among the younger generation.  Letters and Land lines have become like the long forgotten pony express. Everyone should be very careful as to what they put on their phones, particularly via Facebook and Twitter and other popular I- clouds of shared information.  Citizens can be secure that if there is cause for a search warrant of persons or property, cell phone data is protected from police invasion.  However, if the cell phone is included in the items to be searched, the privacy exclusion is no longer operable.  These dictates came out of recent Federal cases. Remember that these images and words that are stored and shared electronically last forever.  We should be careful not to accidentally engage words and pictures which can embarrass us, implicate us and most certainly outlive us.

Our lawyers can be your oars to help you navigate through turbulent criminal and traffic court waters.  Often a law can be as a weight, drowning good citizens.  The law can also be construed as a lifebuoy saving good people who have fallen into the disturbing seas of criminal and traffic charges.  We are your lifeguards, available always for free initial consultations. And our fees are modest, as we understand that the economy has been unkind to many of our neighbors.

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