Mandatory Minimum Sentencing laws in Maryland are hurting criminal defendants. For decades, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, or laws that require that a certain minimum sentence be imposed when an offender has committed a certain number of offenses, have been wrecking havoc on Maryland criminal defendants. According to Maryland Defense Attorneys, these laws are resulting in sentences that are blindly handed out any without judicial discretion. The effect of such mandatory minimum sentencing laws is to put in jail, for a significant amount of time, those who commit multiple, but "less serious" crimes.

The effects these Maryland criminal sentencing laws have are grave. As most experienced Maryland criminal attorneys understand, many of the Maryland criminal defendants who commit less serious crimes- marijuana use, public drunkenness-are oftentimes not injuring society's individuals. In other words, there are "victimless crimes" being committed by Maryland criminal defendants whose actions are better described as offending the sensibilities of the legislature rather than injuring the public in any substantial way.

Maryland's mandatory minimum sentencing laws put offenders in prison for an inordinate amount of time. As we have seen from representing criminal defendants in Howard County, Prince George's County, and Montgomery County, Maryland, the overwhelming majority of mandatory minimum sentences are inflicted against drug defendants who often pose no real threat of violence to the public. overwhelming majority of mandatory minimum sentences are inflicted against drug defendants who often pose no real threat of violence to the public. Nevertheless, the public is directly harmed. Approximately 100 people enter the prison system each year, and serve an average sentence of at least seven years, due to Maryland's mandatory minimum sentencing laws. For criminal defendants, it costs Maryland taxpayers approximately $200,000 each, or $20,000,000.

An alternative to Maryland taxpayers incurring this hefty expense is to seek another form of punishment that is more effective and more affordable. With help from some of the best Maryland Defense Attorneys, the public will benefit. Maryland Defense Attorneys are in the best position to advocate evicting mandatory minimum sentencing laws from Maryland's statutes.

By enacting laws that provide judges more discretion regarding an individual's sentencing and allow judges to consider relevant facts and circumstances surrounding the cases of criminal defendants, punishments can be handed out more fairly. A system that utilizes graduated sanctions is also a viable alternative. Such a system does not blindly throw Maryland criminal defendants in prison for "X" amount of years simply because they have committed a certain number of offenses. Rather, it allows for more severe punishments based on the severity of the crime and an individual's criminal record. The idea is that because Maryland criminal defendants will not be exposed to as much prison time in the absence of mandatory minimum sentences, they will be less likely to acquire the traits of hardened behavior and criminally-set attitudes towards society that often accompanies an inmate spending a significant amount of time in prison. Yet, with the prospect of shortened and more sensible sentences in front of them, offenders will have more incentive to conform their behavior to the standards of society rather than adopting the characteristics that come with prison life.

Maryland's Best Criminal Defense lawyers must take a stand for their criminal defense clients and for society. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are pick-pocketing the pockets of taxpayers, and turning otherwise harmless individuals into hardened Maryland criminals. If you, or someone you know might be victimized by Maryland's Mandatory Minimum Sentencing laws, call the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Portner and Shure, P.A., so that they can protect you. (301) 854-9000.

The controversial program that allows U.S. Immigration officials to check the citizenship of people who have been arrested is being expanded to include Baltimore City and Montgomery County. The Secure Communities program lets immigration officials review fingerprints collected when people are booked.

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DUI and DWI Involving Death or Life Threatening Injury

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All of the forms of DUI and DWI in Maryland can become homicides where a death results from the defendant's negligent driving. Negligent driving is defined as operating "a motor vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner that endangers any property or the life or person of any individual." Unlike vehicular manslaughter, gross negligence is not a requirement. All of the vehicular homicide offenses are statutory felonies in Maryland. If an individual is convicted of driving under the influence the maximum penalty is five years incarceration and/or a $5000 fine. If an individual is convicted of driving while impaired the maximum penalty is three years and/or a $5000 fine. If convicted an individual can face the imposition of 12 points and the possibility of a revocation of the driver's license or privilege to drive.

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Cops and Shootings and Tasers, Oh My!

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Remember the Wizard of Oz and the saying, "lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" The implication was that the three were very scary. Equally scary are cops, shootings and tasers. Tasers are considered to be the "less than lethal alternative" to what... guns? The reason I ask that question is because I have been hearing about countless situations, where tasers are used, that would not have warranted lethal force. From drunk fans running onto playing fields to individuals resisting arrest, the taser has become the method of choice for law enforcement when faced with a less than cooperative suspect. Twenty-four police agencies in Maryland are using tasers and, as of 2009, they have been used over 1,400 times. Ten deaths have resulted from the use of tasers. Recently, I had a client, a 5-3, 100 lbs, eighteen year old girl, tell me that Prince George's County Police Officers barged into her house and entered her bedroom because of a reported 911 call from her residence. One of the officers threatened her with a taser as she hid under her bed sheets. Prince George's County Police Officers are of course the same law enforcement officers that shot two Labrador Retrievers while conducting a raid at the wrong address.

Federal Jurisdiction in Maryland DUI and DWI Cases

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There are many areas in Maryland that are considered federal enclaves. In these areas Maryland's implied consent laws are at issue. What laws apply in federal enclaves depends upon whether the land is under one of the following:

1. Exclusive federal jurisdiction or concurrent federal and state jurisdiction

2. The jurisdiction of the National Park Service

National Park Service properties, including Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Suitland Parkway, are patrolled by the United States Park Police. There are specific federal regulations governing conduct on these roads. For instance, refusal of a breath test is made a crime by 36 C.F.R. § 4.23(C)(2). There are no administrative sanctions for refusals or what would be administrative per se violations under National Park Service regulations. Therefore there will be no MVA hearing or automatic suspension. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of a probation before judgment in this type of Maryland DUI case. Some portions of these federal enclaves are under concurrent jurisdiction, and suspected drunk drivers who are arrested by county or state police officers are subject to Marylands implied consent laws.

Where the land is federal, but not under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, including Andrews Air Force Base and Fort Meade, the substance and penalties of Maryland DUI law are incorporated into federal law by the Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 3118. Because of this incorporation, persons arrested for drunk driving in these areas do have the possibility of a federal judge granting them a probation before judgement disposition. If you have been arrested for DUI or DWI on federal land contact the experienced Maryland DUI attorneys and Maryland DWI lawyers at Portner & Shure.

Maryland DUI and DWI 2010 Statistics by County

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Our Maryland DUI lawyers represent individuals charged with drinking and driving offenses throughout the State of Maryland. Our experienced DUI attorneys have represented clients in almost every jurisdiction in Maryland including Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Howard County, Carroll County, Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Harford County, Talbot County, Kent County, Worcester County, Washington County, Frederick County, Cecil County, Worcester County, Calvert County, Charles County and Queen Anne's County.

Each Maryland jurisdiction varies in the amount of DUI and DWI arrests that occur each year and how the cases are resolved. The following is a breakdown of Maryland DUI and DWI cases by jurisdiction for 2010, including the statistical breakdown of case dispositions:

An individual can be barred from extending their status, changing their status, applying for permanent residency or entering the United States if they are outside the United States for any of the following:

  • Conviction for, or admits to having committed, or admits to acts comprising essential elements of a crime of moral turpitude.
  • Conviction for, or admits to having committed, or admits to acts comprising a violation of law relating to a controlled dangerous substance.

There are exceptions to the grounds for inadmissability. These exceptions include crimes involving moral turpitude where the maximum possible sentence is less than one year and the sentence imposed is less than six months. A single offense for simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana is also not grounds for inadmissability. Of particular concern are the crimes of "moral turpitude". Moral turpitude refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience. Offenses such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnaping, robbery, and aggravated assaults involve moral turpitude. However, assaults not involving dangerous weapons or evil intent have been held not to involve moral turpitude. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney and Maryland DUI lawyer can negotiate a plea with the State that eliminates charges involving "moral turpitude" in exchange for guilty pleas for crimes which carry less or no potential for inadmissability. In addition, a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney and Maryland DUI lawyer can often argue successfully for a probation before judgment or stet disposition that allows a defendant to avoid a criminal conviction and the resulting immigration consequences.

What Crimes Trigger Deportability of a Foreign National?

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An individual who is in the United States pursuant to a valid lawful status is subject to deportation if a criminal arrest results in the following:

  • A conviction for a single crime involving moral turpitude that was committed within five years of admission and is punishable by imprisonment of at least one year.
  • Convictions for two or more crimes involving moral turpitude not arising from a single scheme of misconduct.
  • Conviction for an aggravated felony at any time after admission into the United States.
  • A conviction for failing to register as a sex offender.
  • A conviction for a violation of a federal, state, or foreign law or regulation relating to a controlled substance.
  • A conviction relating to a firearm or other destructive device.
  • A conviction for an offense related to espionage, sabotage or treason.
  • A conviction under the Military Selective Service Act or Trading with the Enemy Act.
  • A conviction for high speed flight from an immigration checkpoint.
  • A conviction for an offense related to launching an expedition against a country with which the United States is at peace.
  • A conviction for a crime of domestic violence, stalking, child abuse, child neglect or child abandonment.
  • A conviction relating to human trafficking.

An individual's immigration status or ability to obtain status can be damaged by a criminal conviction. Criminal offenses and their affect on immigration status can be placed into one of three main categories:

  1. Deportability Grounds - An individual who is in the United States pursuant to a valid lawful status is subject to deportation.
  2. Inadmissability Grounds - An individual can be barred from extending their status, changing their status, applying for permanent residency or entering the United States if they are outside the United States. If an individual entered the United States without inspection, he or she will be deemed inadmissible and placed in removal proceedings.
  3. Aggravated Felonies - If an individual is convicted for an aggravated felony he or she can be deported. An aggravated felony conviction can also prevent an individual from changing status, becoming a resident or applying for relief from removal. In some instances misdemeanors are considered aggravated felonies.

Impact on immigration status is not limited to these three categories. Individuals convicted of a particularly serious crime may be barred from applying for asylum. An individual convicted of two misdemeanors or a felony can be barred from extending or applying for temporary protected status. In addition, criminal conduct can bar an individual from applying for citizenship because it requires a showing of good moral character within the five years proceeding the application. If you our someone you know has been charged with a crime that could effect immigration status contact Portner & Shure.

All Spanish speaking defendants should be aware that before you plead guilty to a criminal charge, you must be advised that your guilty plea could lead to deportation. Maryland's Court of Appeals just ruled that a guilty plea for assault charges must be thrown out because neither the Court, nor defense counsel, advised defendant, Mark Denisyuk of the possible deportation consequences of his guilty plea.

The Court of Appeals held that defendants have the right to weigh the risk of significant jail time verse the certainty of deportation. If you are a Spanish speaking defendant and are illegal, you should ask about the deportation consequences of a plea. Do not be surprised if both the Court and an inexperienced criminal lawyer forget to go over this with you. In fact, in this particular case, immigration agents took the defendant into federal custody after his plea and began deportation proceedings.

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