The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for May 3, 2021

Today on May 3, 2021, read about:

Of course, if these or any other legal questions are impacting you and your family, then don't hesitate to reach out to JC Law for your free initial consultation with one of our expert domestic, criminal, or civil litigation attorneys.

Jury Trials Resumed in Maryland

Original Story

What's Going On:

Maryland courts resumed entire operations last Monday, April 26th. Its been seven months since jury trials have been held, and many criminal defendants welcomed the reopening as a chance to resolve their cases FINALLY.

The backlog affects much more than the caseload. It affects those with charges hanging over their head from job prospects and prevents those locked up from having the chance to be free after trial results in their favor.

The pandemic has put into question our 6th Amendment right to a fair and speedy trial, granted a deadly virus has generally been considered a valid reason for the delay.

Why This Matters To You:

Could this whole backlog be prevented? Yes. If Maryland allowed cameras in the courtrooms, then the seven-month pause on jury trials would have been moot.

Having an outdated law on the books prevented the state from moving forward with criminal cases. Other states across the country were able to conduct jury trials via remote access to the courtroom via camera. Jurors were elsewhere in a socially distanced environment watching the trial.

Although the pandemic is a valid reason to delay, it didn't have to be this way, so defendants have a just cause in claiming their right to a fair and speedy trial was not met.

Lawmakers in the state have tried for 40 years to allow cameras in the courtroom but have failed each time. It would be surprising not to see this law pushed (and adapted) in the upcoming legislative session.

More About Maryland Court System Matters

Lawn Chair Arson in Elkton

Original Story

What's Going On:

An Elkton woman allegedly set her home ablaze and watched it burn sitting in a lawn chair. Last Thursday, fired departments in Cecil County responded to a house fire on Cherry Lane.

Witnesses stated they observed a woman set several fires around the house before sitting in a chair to watch the house become engulfed in flames. A person yelled for help from a basement window and was rescued by witnesses. No one was injured as a result of the fire.

The suspect faces charges of first- and second-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson, first-degree assault, two counts of malicious burning first-degree, two counts of malicious destruction of property, and two counts of reckless endangerment.

Why This Matters To You:

Talk about starting a bonfire and inviting the neighborhood. Not a sight most neighbors expect to see, a fellow neighbor sitting in a lawn chair in front of a house fire.

What exactly did this woman think when she supposedly set fire to where she and four others live? People commit arson for insurance fraud, but doing this so openly and publicly is not a likely reason for the blaze.

Perhaps, she suffered a mental breakdown or has a mental health disease. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused many to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Covid is also the source of lost income and benefits, as many lost jobs. Those who suffer from a mental health illness usually take medication and have therapy sessions, but how can they afford those with no job or benefits?

But, when the fire started, someone was in the house, so was that the true motive for the arson?

There is plenty more to the story, and further investigation is needed to present all the case facts.

More About Arson Charges

 

Pot Smell Cannot Lead To Police Search of Persons

Original Story

What's Going On:

In an issue made last week by the Maryland Court of Appeals, the odor of marijuana can no longer be used by police to stop people. The ruling further limits police actions based on the drug's strong smell.

The court argued police need "reasonable suspicion" a crime is occurring to detain someone, and since decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, the smell does not meet the standard. Many believe the wave of rulings regarding the smell of marijuana is just the courts' way of catching up to the state decriminalizing small amounts in 2014.

This ruling does not stop police from using the smell of marijuana to search a car during a traffic stop as cars have different privacy laws.

Why This Matters To You:

Maryland lawmakers attempted to pass a recreational use marijuana bill this session, but it failed, so this could also be seen as a move closer to making that a reality.

With the decriminalization and legal medical use of marijuana in Maryland, it was time for the laws to start catching up. A person carrying legal, medical weed or a decriminalized amount will smell like pot. There's no question about that. Those people should not worry about possessing it and being searched because of the smell.

In fact, with the essential oil craze going on, there's one called patchouli that smells very much like marijuana. How could someone who chooses to use that oil be searched by police? There is no crime or reason for police to stop and search that person.

Weed laws are changing and fast, but we here at JC Law stay on top of every legal matter to ensure the best representation for our clients.

More About Maryland Drug Charges

 

Police Arrest Man Who Allegedly Strangled Two Woman, Including a Sex Worker

Original Story

What's Going On:

A Baltimore man allegedly strangled and murdered two women back in March, one in her home and another near a Pulaski Highway motel. The first homicide happened on March 21st when the victims' sister found her unresponsive on a couch.

Family members told police the victim had been working as a prostitute out of her home using a "text now" application to solicit clientele. Police used her cell phone to track her last know "John," which led them to the defendant.

A week after that killing, another woman was found strangled to death in a motel. Surveillance video from the motel and a nearby Wells Fargo Bank led police to the suspect.

Police allege the defendant confessed to one killing but denies purposefully strangling the sex worker, saying she attacked him in a dispute about her profession.

Why This Matters To You:

You are always leaving breadcrumbs for law enforcement. Despite a person's best effort to prevent web tracking, app tracking, or "checking in" to our favorite places, there are little digital pieces of our presence left behind.

If you carry any technology such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, there is a way to determine precisely where you were. Your cell phone pings off towers to give you the best reception possible anywhere you are at. Computers save info on the providers we connect through.

Like digital puzzle pieces, law enforcement uses these to place suspects at or near the scene of a crime. And, if you get caught on any number of security surveillance cameras that are pretty much everywhere, you can bet the police will lay the questions on thick about why you were there at that time.

The defendant did himself no favors by confessing to one murder and admitting to being at the scene of the other. The jury's like DNA evidence; it's the one thing that can definitively link a suspect to a crime. Yes, there were condom wrappers found, but no condoms with DNA. Good representation would have guided him to invoke his 5th Amendment right not to incriminate himself and then let a jury hear the case.

More About Maryland Murder Charges

 

Man Allegedly Bought Cars and Property With Paycheck Protection Program Funds

Original Story

What's Going On:

Federal authorities arrested a Cheltenham, Maryland man on charges of wire fraud stemming from alleged misuse of pandemic relief funds.

The suspect supposedly reopened a car dealership he closed in 2012 back in May amidst the pandemic. He then applied for $1.5 million in federal coronavirus relief loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, using the business as his reason for money.

The defendant allegedly misused those funds by purchasing cars and property in Baltimore.

Why This Matters To You:

The pandemic cost many jobs, businesses, and livelihoods. When the federal government opened up its wallet to help business owners, it added a much-needed influx of cash. Fraud has been a problem during these times, both with unemployment benefit claims and federal handouts.

The defendant closed the car business he owned back in 2012 but maybe thought that the federal aid could allow him another shot at running the business. So, perhaps this wasn't fraudulently taking advantage of the federal help, but rather a mistake in thinking this was an opportunity to start a business.

Purchasing cars can be seen as inventory, and the property could be seen as the new car lot.

More About Maryland & Federal Fraud Charges