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Upper Marlboro Criminal Defense Law Blog

The problems with coercive plea bargains

There were roughly 80,000 federal cases prosecuted in 2018. Of those, only 2% went to trial. Data indicates that 97% of all federal convictions are obtained through plea bargains while 94% of convictions in state cases are resolved through plea bargains. There are several reasons why defendants in Maryland and throughout the country confess guilt in a vast majority of cases. For instance, prosecutors may add charges if an individual doesn't take a plea deal.

If a person goes to trial, they could face a stiffer sentence than what a prosecutor offers before a trial. Using these tactics is part of an effort called coercive plea bargaining. This is illegal as it increases the chances that an innocent person could be convicted. Furthermore, the practice of coercive plea bargaining may lead prosecutors to engage in misconduct.

Hazing is not all fun and games

Like many Maryland parents, you have worries and concerns as your child heads back to campus for a new semester. College students will have many important decisions to make, some of which may affect the course of their lives. These decisions do not include merely which courses to take or majors to declare, but which organizations to align with, how they will behave and who will influence their actions.

If your son or daughter belongs to an organization on campus, such as an athletic team, fraternity or sorority, or recreational club, he or she may have to choose whether to participate in initiation rituals for new members. These rituals often involve acts of hazing. Hazing is a crime, and involvement in such practices may result in consequences that can jeopardize your child's future.

Court rules in favor of criminal background check company

When Maryland residents face criminal charges that are later dismissed, these charges could still show up in a criminal background check. This was the case for a woman who faced a battery charge in Illinois. The court had dismissed her charge without a conviction after she served a short supervision sentence. However, a rental application the woman submitted 20 years later was rejected because of the charge. She filed a lawsuit against the background check company, alleging that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

According to the FCRA, background screening companies cannot report arrests after seven years. However, there is not a time limit on reporting convictions. The court ruled that "conviction" should be defined under federal instead of state law. Because the woman pleaded guilty, the court said the charge counted as a conviction despite its dismissal at the state level. In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that a man in a similar situation, whose charges were diverted and expunged, was also considered to have been convicted under federal law.

Woman charged with smuggling drugs into Maryland prison

A 22-year-old woman has been charged with possession of drugs with the intent to deliver for allegedly attempting to smuggle narcotics into Maryland's largest correctional facility. The woman was taken into custody on the afternoon of July 28 and released on her own recognizance the following day. Charges are pending against the man she is said to have been trying to pass the drugs to and who is serving a 20-year sentence for second-degree murder.

An officer at Eastern Correctional Institution says that he became suspicious when he observed the woman throwing two packages over the visiting room wall in the facility's western compound at about 12:35 p.m. The officer recovered the two packages and then called in one of the facility's K-9 units to sniff for drugs. After the dog allegedly indicated that drugs were present, the packages were opened. Authorities say that they contained 353 orange strips that were later identified as the opioid suboxone.

Is your loved one accused of being a drug dealer?

Having a loved one who needs help can be a difficult situation. It can be even more difficult if he or she needs help due to getting in trouble with law enforcement. You may have a loved one facing this type of scenario, and now, you wonder what steps could help him or her handle drug-related charges.

Even though you may have thought you knew everything about your loved one, individuals with addiction issues can carry out behaviors that make it difficult to truly know what they get up to. For instance, your loved one may have lied about his or her activities without you being none the wiser. Though you may feel as if you should have seen the signs sooner, it can be immensely difficult.

HBO and Showtime actress charged with drug possession

Maryland residents who watched the HBO series 'The Wire" will likely be familiar with Sonja Sohn. The 55-year-old actress played Detective Kima Greggs on the hit crime drama, but she found herself on the other side of the law following a routine traffic stop during the early morning hours of July 21. Sohn was taken into custody by police in North Carolina after cocaine and marijuana were allegedly found in her purse. She faces a felony count of cocaine possession and misdemeanor counts of marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to media reports, the car Sohn was traveling in was pulled over for an undisclosed motor vehicle violation in the vicinity of the Washington Baum Bridge at approximately 12:02 a.m. A Dare County Sheriff's Office deputy ordered a search of the vehicle and its occupants after a K-9 unit allegedly alerted to the presence of illegal drugs during an air sniff.

Fees and fines have severe impact on the poor

Encounters with the criminal justice system can be particularly devastating for people living in poverty in Maryland. States, counties and cities across the country have developed an increasing reliance on court fines, fees and citations in order to balance their budgets and pay for specific services. Therefore, the use of these kinds of financial penalties can be encouraged by some administrations. Because these punishments are heavily financial in nature, they can have a deeply disproportionate effect on poor residents. Fines that people are unable to pay can escalate into significant debts and even jail time in some cases.

Despite a 1983 Supreme Court ruling that people cannot be jailed for being too poor to pay their fines and fees, versions of the practice continue in localities nationwide. In one state, debt collection for these fees has been outsourced to a private company. The firm charges debtors an additional 30% on top of the already hefty fines, threatening them with arrest if they do not pay. After people are jailed, they are once again billed for their incarceration, creating an inescapable cycle for impoverished people. While people may not have even had criminal charges against them, they may end the process with a criminal record, periods of incarceration and even more extreme marginalization.

Driving under the influence of marijuana

The legalization of medical marijuana is still in its infancy in Maryland, so there is little chance that lawmakers will approve any measures legalizing the drug for recreational use in the near future. For many, perhaps you included, marijuana is like alcohol. It may be part of your social life, like having a few beers or sharing a bottle of wine.

However, even though it is legal for adults to drink alcohol recreationally, it is not legal for adults to get behind the wheel of a car after having too much to drink. The same is true for using marijuana. Nevertheless, a recent survey by AAA shows that millions of Americans admit to driving a motor vehicle within an hour of using marijuana.

2 busted for bringing narcotics into Maryland jails

In late June, two people were arrested in separate incidents for attempting to smuggle narcotics into Maryland detention centers. According to media reports, the drugs were discovered by correctional officers as the defendants tried to enter the facilities.

In the first incident, a 20-year-old Glenn Dale man was discovered with 55 strips of suboxone on his person as he tried to enter the Dorsey Run Correction Facility. Apparently, correction officers were tipped off about the presence of the drugs by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services' Intelligence and Investigative Division. The defendant allegedly told officers that the drugs were intended for his cousin, who is a prisoner at the facility. He has been charged with drug possession, drug possession with the intent to distribute, drug possession in a place of confinement, and possession of contraband in a place of confinement.

How seized property benefits law enforcement agencies

Maryland residents who have had their property seized by law enforcement agencies may be interested to learn that, according to a study, civil asset forfeiture has little impact on preventing criminal activity. Civil asset forfeiture is the practice that allows law enforcement agencies to seize property that may have been used to commit a crime. Common property to be seized includes money, vehicles and even homes.

The study examined approximately 10 years' worth of data from the Justice Department's equitable sharing program, which is responsible for sharing the forfeiture revenues across several state and federal law enforcement agencies. The study ultimately found that the seizing of assets did not result in decreased drug use or help crimes get solved.

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