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Let the punishment fit the plea

gavel2The majority of criminal cases that come to Court result in a plea agreement, rather than an actual trial. In Maryland it is not unusual for the prosecution and defense to agree on the parameters of the plea including potential punishment, and to ask the trial judge to agree to be bound by the terms of the agreement before sentencing. Maryland’s highest court recently addressed what happens when the sentence actually imposed is actually less severe than the minimum agreed to by the defense, in an opinion called Stephanie Smith v. State.
The Court of Appeals’ opinion indicates that the defendant was indicted for insurance fraud, and charged with theft in excess of $10,000. The defense attorney and prosecutor negotiated an agreement for the defendant to plead guilty, with an agreement that the defendant not be sentenced to more than 5 years of jail time with all that suspended except for a minimum of 30 to 90 days incarceration, followed by 5 years probation. The agreement was also that the defendant would pay restitution to the victim of over $47,000.

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And now the final protective order issue

gavel2 1 Maryland law provides for temporary protective or peace orders in an effort to prevent domestic violence, which may ultimately be followed by a request for a final protective order lasting for a year. The appellate courts have said that when fashioning relief in a domestic violence case, the court “is to do what is reasonably necessary no more and no less-to assure the safety and well-being of those entitled to relief.” How the Courts go about deciding such difficult cases is illustrated by a recent unreported opinion from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals called Gali v. Gali.

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When commercial information is public information

gavel2 1 Maryland has a Public Information Act which allows for the release of government documents upon request, similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act. Courts are often called upon to decide whether a citizen is entitled to obtain documents in the government’s possession. Maryland’s highest court last week addressed efforts to obtain commercial information through a MPIA request in a case called Jayson Amster v. Rushern Baker, County Executive for Prince George’s County.

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Remembering Judge Barry A. Hamilton

gavel2 1 The Montgomery County legal community, and his family and many friends, suffered a great loss last week with the passing of Judge Barry A. Hamilton. Judge Hamilton was a judge on Maryland’s District Court since 1996, and perhaps more importantly showed all of us who were his friends and colleagues how to serve the public through the law and live a full personal life as well.

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Get ready for the subpoena for computers

gavel2 1 With the advent of personal computers, the courts have had to develop law on how to apply the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures to police efforts to obtain evidence from computers. How search warrants to obtain such information fit within the constitutional scheme was explored by Maryland’s intermediate appellate court in an opinion issued this week in a case called John Fone v. State of Maryland.

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Obtaining public information from police

gavel2 1 Members of the public seeking access to government records, even in this era of reported leaks of documents, is most commonly obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act or the Maryland equivalent, the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA). The Court of Appeals recently addressed its application to police records in a case called Gary Alan Glass v. Anne Arundel County.

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Heads up for local bicycle law changes

gavel2 1 In recent years as more and more people ride bicycles in the Washington area, laws and regulations have been changing to try to make bicycle riding safer for bicyclists and motorists. Some of the laws vary depending upon the local jurisdiction, so it may be helpful to review those laws.

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Proposed bill on past sex assault evidence fails

gavel2 1 Every legislative session of course includes bills, some that were part of the Governor’s legislative agenda, which are not passed by the General Assembly. Often such proposals are brought back in succeeding years, and this year’s legislative session was no exception. This session saw failure of a proposal that would allow evidence of past sexual crimes under certain circumstances.

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Here comes another parade of partisans

gavel2 1 Courts often struggle in cases involving domestic violence with whether evidence of similar past conduct should be admitted. The Legislature in recent years has considered changes in the law to allow in such evidence. What happens when a criminal defendant puts his own character on trial was explored in a recent opinion from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals called Harold Eugene Williams v. State.

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When does the victim becomes the accused?

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Courts frequently are called upon in criminal cases to decide at what point a person is in custody or under arrest so that he is required to be read his “Miranda” rights and told of the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning.
Sometimes that line is quite blurry, as illustrated by a case last month from Maryland’s highest Court called Terrance Brown v. State of Maryland.
The majority opinion in this 5- 2 decision indicates that Brown called 911 indicating he had been injured, and when State Police found him they took him to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. Several hours later, police came to the hospital and took Brown to the police station, after assuring him he was not under arrest and they saw him as the victim.
They told him they wanted to question him about the incident, but that they would accommodate him if he wanted to leave.
After six minutes of questioning in which Brown allegedly made statements placing himself at the scene of a fatal shooting, they advised him of his Miranda rights.
Brown was charged with first degree murder.

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