NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FEDERAL LAWYERS
Last Updated on: 4th September 2023, 04:49 pm
Getting arrested or charged with a crime in Maryland can be a scary and overwhelming experience. Even minor offenses can carry severe consequences like jail time, fines, probation, or a criminal record. Trying to navigate the complex criminal justice system on your own is extremely difficult. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference.
A skilled Maryland criminal lawyer knows the laws, prosecutors, judges, and can guide you through the process while fighting for your best interests. They will thoroughly examine the evidence and charges against you, look for any constitutional violations by police, build the strongest possible defense for your case, negotiate with the prosecution for reduced penalties, and represent you in court hearings and at trial if necessary.
While every case is unique, some of the most common criminal charges filed in Maryland include DUI, drug crimes, theft crimes like shoplifting or burglary, assault, domestic violence, sex crimes, weapons charges, probation violations, and traffic offenses. This article will provide an overview of possible defenses and penalties for some of the main criminal charges in Maryland, as well as reasons why hiring an attorney is so crucial.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI or DWI) is one of the most commonly faced criminal charges in Maryland. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% for drivers 21 years old or older and any amount for drivers under 21. Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test can also lead to enhanced penalties. Potential consequences for a DUI conviction include:
- Up to 1 year in jail for a first offense and up to 3 years for a third offense (Md. TRANSPORTATION Code Ann. § 21-902)
- Fines up to $1,000 for a first offense and up to $3,000 for a third offense (Md. TRANSPORTATION Code Ann. § 27-101)
- 12 points assessed against your license
- License suspension up to 6 months for a first offense and up to 2 years for a third offense (Md. TRANSPORTATION Code Ann. § 16-205)
- Mandatory alcohol education program
- Possible ignition interlock device requirement
A DUI lawyer can often get charges reduced or even dismissed by challenging the validity of the traffic stop, the accuracy of the breathalyzer, and whether the officer properly administered field sobriety tests. Common defenses in Maryland DUI cases include:
- Lack of probable cause for the initial stop – if the officer didn’t witness traffic violations or signs of impairment, the stop may have been illegal.
- Failure to properly administer field sobriety tests – errors like not following NHTSA standards could invalidate the results.
- Faulty or uncalibrated breathalyzer machine – if the machine wasn’t properly maintained per regulations, the BAC results could be inaccurate.
- Medical conditions – conditions like diabetes or acid reflux can mimic signs of intoxication and cause inaccurate breath test results.
- Medication side effects – prescription and over-the-counter meds could explain the impairment.
- Involuntarily intoxication – slipping drugs into someone’s drink could lead to intoxication against their will.
Having a skilled DUI attorney investigate the circumstances of your arrest and build defenses could result in charges being reduced to reckless driving or even dismissed entirely in some cases, helping avoid the severe penalties of a DUI conviction.
Drug Crime Defenses
Maryland laws impose harsh punishments for drug offenses like possession, distribution, manufacturing, and trafficking controlled dangerous substances (CDS). Even possession of small amounts of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, MDMA, methamphetamine, and prescription meds without a valid prescription can lead to months or years behind bars.
The most commonly charged drug crimes in Maryland include:
- Possession of CDS (Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 5-601) – Up to 4 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine
- Possession with intent to distribute CDS (Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 5-602) – Up to 20 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine
- Manufacturing/distribution CDS (Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 5-602) – 2-5 years in prison for Schedule I & II substances, and fines from $2,000-$100,000 depending on drug amounts
- CDS possession within 1,000 feet of a school (Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 5-627) – Mandatory 2 year minimum sentence
A drug crimes attorney can challenge the validity of searches resulting in discovery of drugs, faulty drug testing procedures, illegal traffic stops, and chain of custody issues. Common defenses to Maryland drug charges include:
- Illegal searches and seizures – if the police didn’t have probable cause or a warrant, drugs and paraphernalia obtained during searches may not be admissible.
- Invalid field drug tests – these tests are unreliable and have high error rates, so the drugs may not actually be illegal substances.
- Insufficient chain of custody – gaps in documenting handling of drug evidence could raise doubts about the samples.
- Misidentification – just because drugs were found in your car or home doesn’t mean they belong to you.
- Duress – being forced to transport or sell drugs under threat removes criminal intent.
- Entrapment – improperly induced by police into committing a drug offense.
By analyzing the specific details of your case, a drug crimes lawyer can often get charges reduced or dismissed, sentences lowered, or work out favorable plea bargains. Don’t take the risk of handling serious narcotics charges alone.
Theft Crime Defenses
Despite their prevalence, many people underestimate the legal ramifications of common theft offenses in Maryland such as:
- Shoplifting (Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 7-104) – Value under $100 is a misdemeanor with fines up to $500. Over $100 can be a felony with up to 3 years in jail.
- Theft – Misdemeanors have maximum 18 month jail terms. Felonies can mean up to 15 years in prison depending on value stolen.
- Burglary – Forced entry with intent to commit theft or crime inside carries up to 10 years imprisonment.
- Robbery – Using threats or force to steal from a person – up to 15 years imprisonment.
- Financial crimes like embezzlement and credit card fraud – lengthy jail terms and huge fines.
Hiring an experienced theft crimes lawyer can be invaluable for several reasons:
- Raising reasonable doubt over whether you intended to steal or knew items were stolen.
- Protecting your rights if improperly searched or detained by police.
- Negotiating diversion programs to avoid conviction and jail time.
- Explaining any mental health issues leading to the behavior.
- Obtaining restitution to the victim to reduce penalties.
- Explaining mitigating circumstances like financial hardship or addiction issues.
- Advising whether to take a plea bargain or go to trial.
Don’t leave something as serious as a theft accusation to chance. An attorney can defend your rights every step of the way.
Assault and Domestic Violence Offenses
Facing accusations of violence can disrupt family relationships, lead to loss of employment, and result in lengthy incarceration. Charges like assault, battery, and domestic violence are vigorously prosecuted in Maryland. Typical penalties include:
- Assault (Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 3-201) – Up to 25 years imprisonment if a firearm is used.
- Second Degree Assault (Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 3-203) – Up to 10 years imprisonment.
- Domestic Assault (Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 3-1503) – Up to 25 years imprisonment if aggravating factors like prior protective order violation.
Common defenses a skilled criminal attorney may pursue in assault and domestic violence cases include:
- Self-defense – Responding with proportional force to an imminent threat can be justified.
- False accusations – Statements from the alleged victim may be exaggerated or outright false.
- Mistaken identity – Evidence may point to a different perpetrator being responsible.
- Mental incompetence – Psychological issues may negate criminal intent.
- Provocation -Sometimes certain actions could mitigate charges if they provoked a response.
- Pushing for counseling programs instead of jail time in cases with hope of rehabilitation.
The costs of being convicted and imprisoned for violent offenses are extremely high. An assault lawyer’s in-depth knowledge of prosecutors and trial strategies can prove invaluable.
Sex Crime Defenses
The stakes are tremendously high when accused of sex crimes like rape, child molestation, indecent exposure, distribution of child pornography, and statutory rape. Simply being charged with a Maryland sex crime can ruin family relationships, end careers, and lead to decades behind bars:
- First Degree Rape – Life imprisonment if force or threat of force is used.
- Second Degree Rape – Up to 20 years imprisonment if victim cannot consent.
- Sexual Offense in the First Degree – Life imprisonment for engaging in certain sexual acts using force, threats, or with victims under 14 years old.
- Sexual Offense in the Second Degree – Up to 20 years imprisonment for similar acts that involve exploitation without force.
- Sexual Offense in the Third Degree – Up to 10 years imprisonment for various sexual crimes like indecent exposure.
- Child Pornography – Up to 10 years imprisonment per offense.
Skilled sex crime defense attorneys can analyze flaws in the prosecution’s case, including:
- Consent issues – such as previous relationship history, communications, body language etc.
- Credibility questions regarding the alleged victim or witnesses.
- Police misconduct during investigations violating rights.
- False allegations stemming from custody disputes, mental issues, revenge or other motives.
- Unlawful searches leading to questionable evidence being discovered.
- Seeking alternative sentencing options when appropriate such as counseling.
With so much at stake, speaking with an experienced sex crimes lawyer should be a top priority when facing disturbing accusations that could put you on the sex offender registry if convicted. An attorney’s negotiation and trial skills could make the difference in avoiding decades in prison and permanently rebuilding your reputation.
Probation Violation Defenses
Many charges like drug offenses or DUIs end with probation sentences instead of jail time. However, violating any conditions of probation triggers a violation proceeding where judges can impose the original suspended sentence. Common probation infractions include:
- Failed drug or alcohol tests
- Missing mandatory counseling sessions
- Failed to report to probation officer
- Nonpayment of fines
- Traveling outside allowed jurisdictions
- Subsequent arrests for new crimes
Before the court revokes probation and orders incarceration, a dedicated criminal lawyer can:
- Negotiate reinstatement of probation by explaining mitigating factors behind the violation.
- Request sentence modification to better accommodate rehabilitation.
- Challenge inaccuracies in alleged violations.
- Coordinate additional counseling or treatment programs.
- If necessary, directly appeal revocation by focusing on procedural errors.
Rather than accepting probation revocation as a foregone conclusion, meet with an attorney to explore all options to either restore probation or seek alternative penalties. Even if the violations did occur, skilled lawyers can sometimes either avoid jail time or have the sentence significantly reduced by negotiating with prosecutors and judges.
When to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer
As illustrated throughout this article, experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys have a wide array of tactics to defend clients and mitigate penalties. Key times to seek legal representation after being accused of a crime include:
- During police questioning – Never talk to police without your lawyer present to avoid self-incrimination. Invoke your right to remain silent.
- Before court hearings – Prosecutors often make initial plea deals at first appearances. An attorney can negotiate a favorable resolution.
- If police seek search warrants – Lawyers may be able to argue against allowing warrants to search property for evidence.
- Following indictment – Grand juries approving charges means prosecutors are ramping up the case. Time to mount a vigorous defense.
- After arrest – Don’t delay. Immediately start developing your legal strategy. The defense may involve crime scene investigations, witness interviews, subpoenas, and research.
- If offered a plea bargain – Lawyers can advise whether the deal is advantageous compared to potential trial outcomes.
- During trial – Relying on seasoned litigators to present evidence, question witnesses, adhere to rules of procedure, and argue to the jury is essential.
No matter what stage of the criminal justice process you’re facing, consulting with an attorney protects your rights every step of the way. Defending yourself pro se against experienced prosecutors is extremely unwise as the stakes are so high. As explained throughout this article, top criminal lawyers are able to get charges reduced or dismissed, negotiate better pleas, minimize penalties, and win trials through skillful advocacy far more often than non-lawyers.
Facing criminal charges in Maryland can be daunting. However, knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers understand how to build the strongest case possible on your behalf and achieve the best outcomes. This article provides an overview of key defenses, laws, and penalties surrounding some of the most common Maryland offenses like DUI, drug crimes, theft crimes, domestic violence, sexual offenses, and probation violations. We also discussed many reasons why promptly hiring an attorney to protect your rights is so critical. Don’t go it alone against the complex criminal justice system. Consult with an expert MD criminal lawyer as soon as possible about creating a customized legal defense to avoid the devastating consequences criminal convictions can bring to your freedom, finances, and reputation.