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Fight or flight and feelings of fright

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It may seem to be common sense that when the accused person flees the scene of a crime, a jury may consider that fact in deciding guilt. Maryland case law carefully defines, however, when a jury may consider flight as evidence of guilt. This is illustrated in a recent unreported opinion from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals called Sharnieli Nathanial Bingham v. State.

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The new shotgun approach to laws

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In 2013, the Maryland legislature amended a previous statute to include a prohibition against an individual previously convicted of certain disqualifying crimes from possessing a shotgun. A number of issues related to this statute were explored by Maryland’s intermediate appellate court in a recent opinion called Norvel Thompson v. State.

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Medical Marijuana and Federal Law

Medical Marijuana

Now that Maryland (and some other states) has laws that decriminalize possession of marijuana for medical uses, the fact that Federal law still makes possession criminal is causing numerous conflicts in the law that the Courts are having to deal with. This is illustrated by a case reported from Maryland's intermediate appellate Court called Wesley Hosford v. Chateau Foghorn.

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Prosecution lie could affect case

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A criminal defendant in Maryland who has been convicted of certain crimes may attempt to obtain a new trial by arguing that evidence discovered since his trial “creates a substantial or significant possibility” that the outcome  might have been different had the new evidence come to light. The procedure to raise such an issue, even years after a conviction, is by filing a Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence. What happens when the newly discovered evidence is that a prosecution expert witness lied was explored by Maryland’s highest Court in an opinion filed last week called Robert Anthony McGhie v. State of Maryland.

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Handcuffed but not arrested

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One area of criminal law that has been the subject of many appellate opinions is the notion of “stop and frisk,” as originally adopted in the Supreme Court’s opinion in 1968 in Terry v. Ohio. Although the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures protects persons from a warrantless arrest without probable cause, where the police have a reasonable suspicion that a person may be armed and dangerous that is enough to stop them and frisk or search their person for a weapon. Whether this allows the police to actually handcuff such a person was explored by a recent case from Maryland’s highest court called Ira Chase v. State.

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And now we are goading a mistrial

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Ordinarily, the constitutional protection of double jeopardy bars a retrial of a criminal defendant for the same offense where a jury had been impaneled and a mistrial ending the trial proceedings occurs. This protection comes from the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life and limb.”  What happens when the prosecution is said to have deliberately goaded the defense into moving for a mistrial was explored in an unreported opinion this month from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Michael Stewart v. State.

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Opening statement equals mistrial

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In criminal cases, the 5th Amendment protects a defendant from having to testify, and the criminal defendant has no obligation to present any evidence at trial.  However, where the defense lawyer gives an opening statement to the jury promising that it would hear the defendant’s version of facts, and then fails to produce any evidence, that leads to problems. This is illustrated by a case last month from Maryland’s intermediate appellate court called Antonio W. Johnson v. State.

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Limits on the social hosts liabilities

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As previously discussed in this space, Maryland’s highest Court in a recent opinion called Kiriakos v. Phillips recognized that adults who violate a criminal statute that prohibits knowingly allowing underage drinkers to get intoxicated on their property may be sued civilly for injuries caused by that consumption of alcohol. Maryland’s intermediate appellate Court last week explored the limits of the Court of Appeal’s recent decision, in a new case called Hansberger v. Smith.

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De facto parents rights in Maryland

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Given the advent of same sex marriage, courts in Maryland are addressing issues of divorce, child custody and visitation issues arising from dissolution of those relationships as well as traditional marriage. Earlier this month, Maryland’s highest Court recognized the changes that have occurred involving same sex relationships and the law, in a case  called Michelle Conover v. Brittany Conover.

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The tie goes to the "One" parent

 

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Most judges will say that child custody decisions in divorce cases are among the thorniest problems with which they must deal. Maryland’s Court of Appeals in a 1986 opinion approved the concept of joint custody of the children after a divorce, designed to give each parent an equal say in important decisions in their child’s life. That decision held that the most important factor in whether to make an award of joint custody was the ability of the parents to communicate and make shared decisions. What happens when there is no ability for the parents to effectively communicate was explored by a recent case from Maryland’s highest Court called Santo v. Santo.

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