Thirteen convicted murderers have already been freed in the wake of an Appeals Court ruling and it’s likely that many more will also be set free. As many as 200 inmates convicted prior to 1980 have been given the chance to demand new trials. Because these are people convicted of things like murder and rape, not everyone is pleased with the ruling or the subsequent releases. [Read more…]
When the police or prosecutor on a case gets information against the defendant from someone who has a shady past, or simply someone with a bad memory—the stakes are high. Eyewitness identifications and testimonies are given much credit at trial, but are far from foolproof. Being cited in numerous cases of later exoneration, the District of Columbia is taking steps to help maintain the integrity of the use of witnesses and prevent such wrongful convictions. [Read more…]
The Maryland Supreme Court ruled last week that taking the DNA of a criminal suspect is a violation of the 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. But, despite this high court ruling, law enforcement agencies across the state are continuing to collect the genetic information without a warrant.
According to the Baltimore Sun, agencies including the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (who also collect DNA for Howard County and Baltimore City), and police officials in Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties are among those sticking to their guns, waiting to see whether or not the state will appeal the ruling before making any changes.
Currently, DNA samples are collected when you are arrested for a criminal offense. This DNA is run through a database to see whether or not your genetic sequence can match you to any other unsolved crimes. Then it is stored indefinitely in the database.
So far, in the three years the DNA database has been utilized, it has resulted in 65 arrests and 34 convictions in cold cases, according to the governor’s office. For those law enforcement agencies resisting the high court ruling, this is evidence enough that the practice should be continued.
“The DNA database is critically important for all public safety agencies, as it not only helps solve crimes of violence, but also eliminates suspects who may have been erroneously accused,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
But not everyone is convinced the public safety aspect is reason enough to ignore the Constitutional protection of the 4th Amendment.
“I think the U.S. Supreme Court would rule in a similar fashion,” remarked one local defense lawyer in speaking with the Baltimore Sun. “You have to have a warrant, point blank, end of discussion. Before you take my DNA, you have to have a warrant for that as well. You have a lot of innocent people who are constantly being violated.”
The 4th Amendment protects all citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. It’s in this amendment that we find justification for warrants being required in arrests and searches. Anytime law enforcement wishes to search you or seize evidence they must have a warrant or exigent circumstances, meaning crucial evidence could be lost or additional crimes committed if they have to wait for a warrant. DNA collection should be no difference.
If there is enough justification to collect the DNA of someone, getting a warrant shouldn’t be a problem. But, to collect DNA from every arrestee or even every violent suspect without a warrant and before they have had access to the due process of the courts, seems to be a clear violation of the constitutional protections, and the state supreme court agrees.
When you are accused of a crime, even when the cops think it’s a “slam dunk,” even if you confess, you are still protected by the Constitution. You still have rights.
Contact us today to discuss your rights and your options when facing criminal charges.
There are many reasons a prosecutor could drop criminal charges against a defendant. In Baltimore District and Circuit Courts, it seems that a police officer no-show is one of the more common reasons, and one that could be prevented according to many interested parties.
When a police officer is called to testify in a criminal case it is often because he or she investigated the case or played a key role in the suspects apprehension. As an important and credible witness, the prosecution often rests much of their case on what the officer will say.
However, what happens when this potentially crucial witness does not show up for the court date? More often than not, it seems, the prosecution has no choice but to drop the charges without sufficient additional information to move forward.
This report from the Baltimore Sun details this interesting problem that the police and prosecutors offices are dealing with. Several cases are outlined where a suspect may have been convicted and sentenced to prison but ended up walking due to a failure to appear on the part of a police officer.
So, why is this happening? Well, for one, police officers have lives too. Many are reluctant to spend additional hours in a courtroom waiting to be called when they have already pulled a shift or even on their day off. Court dates may also fall on the officer’s vacation or when they have plans to be somewhere else.
In many situations, the case would be continued or rescheduled. That isn’t always possible though and defense attorneys will rightly claim that is is unfair for a dependent to be held in limbo while a key prosecution witness can’t be bothered to show up.
When facing criminal charges in MD, every defendant hopes for a complete dismissal. Although it happens, dismissals due to officer absence aren’t that likely.
But these things absolutely happen. The standards of Justice requires that the prosecution has the burden to prove it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt, and in a reasonable time frame. If they can’t do that for any reason, justice can’t be delayed.
Call our attorneys today and we can take a look at the specifics of your situation and devise a way to handle your legal defense .
A complete dismissal of charges is always a possibility, but an in depth analysis is necessary before we can make any sort of recommendations.