Published on 2/19/2023, 2:24:00 PM
Defending Your Rights - Effective Strategies for Beating a Gun Charge in Maryland
Maryland Gun Charges are some of the most serious cases, especially in light of the newest Supreme Court Decision upending traditional gun laws across the United States.
Maryland has several common gun charges contained in two different areas of the Maryland Statutes. Each area has different definitions of what qualifies as a gun, and different penalties for criminal law violations.
Most importantly, if you've been charged with a gun crime you want to know: How do I beat my gun case in Maryland?
This article will explain a few ways that our criminal defense lawyers win in gun cases.
1. Figure out what your charges actually are
Maryland has several competing gun laws. Most gun charges come from handguns, specifically having a gun in your car without a carry license. These charges are contained in the criminal law article. They are often referred to as "wear carry transport" violations. Violating this statute is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to three years in jail.
In addition to transporting a handgun charges, many people face charges under Maryland's Public Safety Article based upon a prior prohibition against firearm ownership. You could be prohibited from firearm ownership based on a prior conviction for a felony, crime of violence, being under 21 at the time of possession, or other criminal record. Public Safety Article charges are typically misdemeanors, except for felon in possession of a firearm.
2. Never show up to Court without a lawyer!
If you're considering hiring a lawyer to fight a gun charge... don't delay! If you appear at a trial date without a lawyer, you could be letting the State off the hook. Having a lawyer at your first Court date shows that you're ready to face the State's evidence - and could result in a dismissal if their case isn't prepared.
3. Challenge the legality of the search and seizure
One of the most common ways to beat a gun charge in Maryland is to challenge the legality of the search and seizure of the gun. Under The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, all citizens are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures - especially those that occur without a warrant. Most motor vehicle stops involve warrantless searches. These searches are highly complex, and can often turn on minute details like when a search occurred, if a person made a statement, or if consent was given.
If the police conducted an illegal search and seizure of the gun, any evidence obtained as a result of that search may be inadmissible in court.
All searches are considered legal unless you challenge them in court.
In a gun charge there are typically two constitutional basis for suppression:
A. The Stop of the car
Police need to have a legal basis to pull a vehicle over. Many times these stops are based upon either moving violations or equipment violations. The Maryland vehicle traffic laws are complex and nuanced. An experienced gun charge lawyer will know the traffic laws in and out - and will be able to recognize when a Police stop of your vehicle was illegal.
B. The Search of the car
As a rule of thumb -Police cannot search your car without a warrant. Over the last century our Courts have carved out a series of exceptions to this rule, commonly referred to as the Carroll Doctrine. This group of warrantless search exceptions has been expanded to include numerous different circumstances; however, Police often overstep their boundaries and illegally search vehicles.
In addition to warrantless search exceptions, Police may try to illegally search a vehicle as an inventory, which has its own set of complicated rules.
Lastly, Police usually try to coax a person into giving consent. If you've given consent for a police officer to search your car it's not game over because you may have been coerced into doing so.
C. The Search of a Home
On occasion Maryland gun charges come from a home raid, or the execution of a search warrant at a house. These situations are much more rare; however, every search warrant comes with an affidavit in support and a Judge's signature. It's important to review this affidavit for inaccuracies, some of which might give grounds to attack the four corners of the warrant.
3. Attack the "Knowledge" requirement for the offense
Some Maryland gun charges require that the State show a person actually knew a gun was there. Often in transporting handgun cases multiple people are charged for a single firearm. Unfortunately, that knowledge requirement is imputed onto a Defendant. For example, the statute states "There is a rebuttable presumption that a person who transports a handgun ... transports the handgun knowingly."
You and your lawyer may be able to attack this knowledge requirement by showing when you got into a car, whose car it actually was, or who was closest in proximity to the gun.
Generally possession comes in two forms, actual and constructive. Actual possession would be for example, a firearm that's in your waistband. Constructive possession would be for example, a firearm in the glove box of a car you're seated in.
4. Did the gun even work? Challenge it.
Certain Maryland gun charges require that the State show the firearm was operable. Depending on your charge, operablity could be a valid defense to carry or transporting a handgun under the Criminal law article.
5. If all else fails - negotiate a plea bargain
If the evidence against you is strong and you are facing serious consequences, it may be in your best interest to negotiate a plea bargain, or request a STET agreement. A plea bargain is an agreement between you and the prosecution in which you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence. A STET agreement is an agreed upon indefinite delay of the trial in the case - meaning you're never convicted.
Negotiating a plea bargain can be a complex process, and it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Your attorney can help you identify the most favorable plea bargain options and negotiate with the prosecution on your behalf.
Speak with a criminal lawyer before it's too late
If you have a pending gun charge in Maryland, don't wait until after your trial date to try and find a decent criminal lawyer. Call the attorneys with FrizWoods today. The benefits of hiring a lawyer couldn't be more clear when the stakes are high in a Maryland gun case.
Whether it's your first gun charge or your second. Make FrizWoods your first call.
Max Frizalone was super helpful with my case. He stayed in great communication, notifying me of any updates whenever they happened. He handled everything quickly & efficiently and I definitely got my money worth. I would highly recommend him for anyone who needs a lawyer in Prince George County.