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Judge sentences man after ruling car search was legal

A 27-year-old Maryland man was sentenced to 40 months in prison on Dec. 30 after being found guilty of carrying an illegal gun. He was given credit for the 275 days he has spent behind bars since his March 29 arrest. He was also given a 40 month suspended sentence for cocaine possession. The sentences were handed down by a judge in Washington County.

The man was taken into custody following a routine traffic stop. State troopers pulled a Mercedes sedan over for speeding on the westbound lanes on Interstate 70 and then called for backup after allegedly detecting the odor of marijuana in the car. The man was a passenger in the vehicle. A K-9 unit is said to have helped troopers to locate seven vials containing a white powder later identified as cocaine along with 76 empty capsules. Troopers also claim to have discovered a loaded semiautomatic handgun in the man's backpack.

The man's attorneys argued during a statement of facts reading that the evidence discovered during the search should be excluded because of restrictions an appellate court placed on police searches in 2018. The judge said the limitations did not apply because police searched the vehicle and not its occupants. The driver of the vehicle, who was not charged, told troopers that he offered the man a ride after meeting him in Baltimore.

This man was found guilty after submitting a not guilty plea with an agreed statement of facts. This means that he did not deny the contents of the police report. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise against this strategy unless a plea agreement is in place because judges view the agreed statement of facts in the best light possible for the state. When criminal prosecutions lead to questions about the actions of the police officers involved, attorneys may choose to address the issues without delay by seeking to have seized evidence excluded and drug charges dismissed.

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