Sheriffs from Prince George County allegedly recovered seven weapons while arresting a District Heights man this past week. The suspect had just been indicted on possession of a weapon after a felony conviction. When the authorities showed up to arrest the man, they claim they witnessed the stockpile in a closet. Amongst the weapons were six rifles, a shotgun and ammunition.
As a result of these allegations, the man will likely be charged with additional crimes related to his possession of firearms after a felony conviction. Despite the charges and perhaps the clear appearance of the weapons, the man may have a criminal defense based upon the way the Sheriffs' located his guns.
Both federal and Maryland law prohibit any unlawful search or seizure. While these rules are applied more loosely in traffic stops, a person's home is sacred under the law. As a result, authorities must have a solid basis for entering or searching someone's home or any part of it.
In this case, the Sheriffs stated that they saw the weapons in plain view when a relative went to retrieve shoes from the closet. This explanation is tailored to a known exception to search and seizure law. Police are not required to ignore illegal objects when they are clearly visible.
Despite the legitimate explanation, the facts of the case may warrant a different finding by a judge. Had the police illegally entered another room to see the closet or opened the closet door themselves, they may be in violation of federal or Maryland law. As a result, the man may try to exclude all evidence of those weapons, thus effectively eliminating the charges against him.
This type of argument may also be used in a plea negotiation with prosecutors to reduce penalties against an accused. Local Upper Marlboro criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in these strategies, which are meant to limit jail time and probation lengths based upon overreaches by authorities. Those charged with a crime are urged to contact one of these legal professionals to analyze the defense of their particular case.
Source: WUSA 9, "Pr. George's sheriffs recover 7 guns during arrest," Greg Cohen, May 5, 2014