Articles Posted in Criminal Law

A proffer agreement, sometimes referred to as a “queen for a day” letter, is a written agreement between federal prosecutors and individuals under criminal investigation which permits these individuals to give the government information about crimes with some protection against prosecution.

Before concluding a cooperation agreement or bestowing immunity upon a criminal defendant, federal prosecutors typically necessitate that the individual “proffers” or presents the details that they will offer in return for more lenient treatment. According to Federal Rule of Evidence 410 and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(f), declarations made during plea negotiations with the government are, in most instances, not permissible as evidence.

Proffer agreements outline the rights and responsibilities of involved parties, including the prosecution’s right to utilize the defendant’s declarations or the defendant’s duty to maintain honesty. While these agreements can serve as safeguards for the defendant’s rights, they can also provide the prosecution with an upper hand they always have during plea negotiations.

The Maryland Appellate Court issued an unreported opinion in a gun conviction case.  The appeal is really a reach and the court quickly pushed back the appellant’s arguments.

Facts of Jackson v. State

Mr. Jackson, the appellant, was convicted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on multiple counts related to illegal possession of a regulated firearm, wearing and transporting a handgun, illegal possession of ammunition, resisting arrest, and driving without a license. Jackson raised two questions for the court to review: whether the trial court erred when it allowed Sergeant Kostoplis to testify about the duties of his current job position, and if the trial court committed plain error when it allowed the prosecutor to discuss facts not in evidence during his rebuttal closing argument. The court found no error and affirmed the convictions.

In Maryland, certain circumstances can lead to a minor being tried as an adult.  The Maryland Appellate Court looked yesterday at a Hartford County case involving a minor between 14-18 and the analysis that goes into whether to try a minor as an adult.

Criminal proceedings involving minors require tough, sometimes impossible, decisions. The justice system aims to balance rehabilitation and punishment, but that is a tricky balance sometimes.  In this case, the minor sought to have the cases transferred to the juvenile court, arguing that it would be in the child’s and society’s best interest. However, the circuit court ultimately denied the motion, raising questions about the burden of proof and the decision to keep the cases in the adult court.

Facts of Rohrbaugh v. State

Today, The Maryland Appellate Court decided Love v. State, a case that presents interesting issues of how courts deal with lesser included offenses.

Focus of the Appeal

The primary focus of this appeal is the legal concept of a lesser included offense. Everyone who has watched television or read about criminal trials in a newspaper understands the basic idea.  But what does it really mean, and how does the law deal with this concept.  In this case, the court pinpoints the two critical issues from the start:  1) “What exactly is a lesser included offense?” and 2) “Can a lesser included offense exist in a trial even if it has not been explicitly and independently charged?” A functional question also arises: “How should a trial judge handle a lesser included offense that has not been explicitly and independently charged when submitting issues to the jury for their determination?”

The Maryland Supreme Court today affirmed the denial of a Petition for Post-Conviction DNA Testing filed by a person convicted of several criminal offenses, including murder. The petitioner had requested DNA testing of scientific identification evidence related to their conviction, but the court found that the petitioner had not met the two conditions required by the Post-Conviction DNA Testing Statute.

Facts of Satterfield v. State

A man drove to Dundalk to pick up his daughter from her grandparents’ home. As he unlocked the back door to enter the home, he was attacked from behind by a person who grabbed him around the throat. The attacker had a shirt pulled over their face, but the victim described them as having big arms. Two other men wearing Yankees baseball caps and armed joined the attacker in the alley, where they demanded money from the victim, beat him, took $3,000 from him, and asked for more money.

In Robson v. State, the court looked at how Maryland judges are restricted in sentencing defendants.  The answer?  Maryland judges have a lot of latitude when it comes to sentencing.

Facts of Robson v. State

Two Sheriff’s deputies, Merle and Sanchez,  went to serve a peace order on the appellant at his home. They approached the appellant’s basement apartment, where they saw a lit window. After knocking loudly on the door, the appellant opened it, allegedly pointing a shotgun at Deputy Merle’s face.  What was he thinking?  Let’s just say Jim Beam was involved.

Maryland’s Attorney General’s office announced that Jemina Saka, a 32-year-old from Street, Maryland (Harford County), has been indicted on charges of felony Medicaid fraud and felony theft.

Saka, who is not a licensed or certified healthcare provider, was employed by a home health agency to provide assistance to a vulnerable adult for up to 35 hours per week.  This is the last person that should be a victim, right?  An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit revealed that from June 2021 to June 2022, Saka submitted time sheets indicating that she was providing 35 hours of home health care to the individual, despite not being in the State of Maryland at the time.

During her shifts, Saka was found to be out of state or at a location in Maryland that was not near the individual’s home, resulting in a loss of at least $4,300 to the Medicaid program. Saka was arrested in Florida and is awaiting extradition to Maryland to face prosecution in Baltimore County.

The subject of DNA testing has been increasingly prevalent in Maryland courtrooms. In the past few months, a Maryland case (Maryland v. King) was argued in the Supreme Court on whether an arrested person’s DNA could be legally taken. No matter one’s view on its collection, DNA sometimes plays a large role in determining who did or did not do something. However, they recently decided that Brown v. Maryland shows an example of how allegedly exonerating DNA results that might not even matter.

Brown features a particularly violent assault and rape of a young woman. She was abducted, beaten, handcuffed, and tortured– among other things, that the court understated as being “not pretty.” I think the word “unimaginable” works.

Anyway, Brown was found guilty and convicted to eighty-five years in prison. Now he attempted to utilize a new Maryland statute that granted a new trial if post-conviction DNA was (1) favorable to the petitioner and there was (2) a substantial possibility…that the petitioner would not have been convicted if the results were known at trial.

When a Court of Appeals of Maryland opinion starts off with, “Reminiscent of a scene from a Cheech & Chong movie…”, you know the opinion will be interesting. Particularly when the dissent responds by quoting Mr. Mackey from South Park.

You can find the full Smith v. State opinion here.

The United States Supreme Court ruled today that the government can keep some sex offenders in prison after they serve their sentences, affirming the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act that authorized the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal prisoners.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling, issued just minutes ago, states that the government may indefinitely imprison convicts that are found “sexually dangerous” even after their prison sentences have been completed. In the case before the court, four men who served prison terms for possession of child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor were not released at the end of their sentences.

Justice Breyer wrote for the majority in a 7-2 opinion: