Sunday, November 21, 2010

Can I Expunge My Maryland Driving Record?

It is not unusual for a client to ask me whether they can expunge their Maryland driving record. The general assembly has created a statute directly on point and it is below. Please note that this statute is from 2010 and by the time you look at this may not be up to date. It should give you a pretty good general idea whether you can have your driving record expunged. If you have any questions you can contact me for further advice.

Section 16-117.1 Expungement of certain driving records

(a) "Criminal offense" defined.- In this section, "criminal offense" does not include any violation of the Maryland Vehicle Law.

(b) When Administration may expunge records.- Except as provided in subsections (c) and (e) of this section and in Subtitle 8 of this title, if a licensee applies for the expungement of the licensee's public driving record, the Administration shall expunge the record if, at the time of application:

(1) The licensee does not have charges pending for allegedly committing a moving violation or a criminal offense involving a motor vehicle; and

(2) (i) The licensee has not been convicted of a moving violation or a criminal offense involving a motor vehicle for the preceding 3 years, and the licensee's license never has been suspended or revoked;

(ii) The licensee has not been convicted of a moving violation or a criminal offense involving a motor vehicle for the preceding 5 years, and the licensee's record shows not more than one suspension and no revocations; or

(iii) Within the preceding 10 years:

1. The licensee has not been convicted of nor been granted probation before judgment for a violation of Sec. 20-102 or Sec. 21-902 of this article;

2. The licensee's driving record shows no convictions from another jurisdiction of a moving violation identical or substantially similar to Sec. 20-102 or Sec. 21-902 of this article; and

3. The licensee has not been convicted of any other moving violation or criminal offense involving a motor vehicle, regardless of the number of suspensions or revocations.

(c) When Administration may refuse to expunge.- The Administration may refuse to expunge a driving record if it determines that the individual requesting the expungement has not driven a motor vehicle on the highways during the particular conviction-free period on which the request is based.

(d) Required expungements.- The Administration shall expunge from its driver record data base the driving record of an individual or a probation before judgment disposition of an individual:

(1) Who has not been convicted of a moving violation or criminal offense involving a motor vehicle for the preceding 3 years;

(2) Who has not been convicted of, or been granted probation before judgment for:

(i) A violation of Sec. 20-102 of this article;

(ii) A violation of Sec. 21-902 of this article; or

(iii) A moving violation identical or substantially similar to Sec. 20-102 or Sec. 21-902 of this article; and

(3) Whose license or privilege to drive never has been suspended or revoked.

(e) Early expungement prohibited.- Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the Administration may not expunge any driving records before the expiration of the time they are required to be retained under Sec. 16-819 of this title.

[An. Code 1957, art. 661/2, Sec. 6-117; 1977, ch. 14, Sec. 2; 1982, ch. 99; 1989, ch. 291, Sec. 2; ch. 376; 1992, ch. 541; 1993, ch. 322; 1994, ch. 23; 1998, ch. 483; 1999, ch. 647; 2008, ch. 275.]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Man Falsely Accused of Robbery Acquitted after Jury Trial

A young man charged with armed robbery, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery was acquitted after the alleged victim's testimony was discredited. The victim in this case told police that he and his friend were beaten by at least six young men two of whom had a stick and a baseball bat. The young men were arrested based on these accusations and jailed, some of them from the incident date all the way until trial.

At trial the victim identified my client as his attacker. During the trial it was revealed that the victim had had six regular sized beers in a one half hour interval shortly before the attack. It was further revealed that the victim almost immediately got on the ground and covered his face to protect himself. It was further revealed that it was very dark out and the victim had little time to look at his attackers. At the time of the attack the victim could not give any specific description of any of the men other than they were young and their race. He could not describe hairstyle, facial features, the size of the men. Finally, the witness testified that my client had a tattoo on his neck.

Prior to trial an investigator was sent to speak with the victim and she took his statement and his statement included the fact that my client had a tattoo on his neck.

At trial it was abundantly obvious that my client did not have a tattoo on his neck and frankly never had a tattoo on his neck. The jury took only a short while to quit my client of all charges.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Car strikes bicycle rider, bicycle rider wins (not really, but it makes for an interesting title)!

Several days ago I tried a case in the district court of Maryland for Montgomery County. In this case my client was a young woman bicyclist heading home from work going N. On Connecticut Ave. in Washington DC. It was 6 PM in December and she had her blinking rear light on. She needed to make a left turn Fessenden street and as she was approaching Fessenden Street she worked her way over to traffic signal in all the way. As she was just making a left turn on Fessenden Street a van came by on her left and its right mirror struck her in the left hip knocking her off the bicycle into the intersection. A bystander did not see the accident but did see the van pass through the intersection and stop 40 feet north of the intersection. He saw the bicyclist in the left lane on the ground. Significantly, the pedestrian said that the traffic light for the North and southbound directions was green.

The insurance company denied liability despite the fact that my client and the witness were very credible.

We filed suit and when the case was called for trial by client and the witness testified consistent with above. The van driver testified that he was completely stopped at the light and that the bicyclist was also stopped to his right. When the light turned green he proceeded 1 foot forward approximately and the bicyclist somehow struck his van pushing the mirror out of shape. Incredibly, he testified further that he no longer saw the bicyclist and continued up the street, into ongoing traffic and stopped the car to investigate.

The judge credited the testimony of the plaintiff bicyclist and her witness and concluded that the van driver was mistaken about his testimony. The judge awarded the full amount requested for the injuries that the bicyclist suffered.

Defendant Who Shot Two People Received Suspended Sentence-You Need to Look at the Whole Picture before Making a Judgment

I found the following newspaper article in the Montgomery Gazette. My client was originally charged with attempted murder after he shot two people. In the end he pled guilty to two counts of reckless endangerment and received a suspended sentence. My client did not get away with anything, it is just that after the state of Maryland and below counsel were able to investigate the matter, a more complete set of facts developed and reason prevailed.

A Montgomery Village man has been sentenced to time served for shooting into a crowd of people outside his house and injuring two, including his cousin.

Richard Anthony Ortiz Jr., 19, and his then 17-year-old cousin were at their home in the 9300 block of Bremerton Way in Montgomery Village on May 19 when four or five men knocked on their door about 6 p.m., according to Montgomery County Police charging documents. His cousin went outside by himself over Ortiz's objections.

Ortiz heard a commotion and opened the door. He saw his cousin surrounded by a small crowd and struggling with a then 23-year-old man, according to the documents. Ortiz grabbed a gun, told the other people in the house to go downstairs and fired into the crowd to scare off the group.

A bullet hit Ortiz's cousin in the back and exited through his stomach. The 23-year-old man was shot in the neck, according to the documents. Neither man suffered life-threatening injuries.

The 23-year-old fled to a house near Arrowhead Road and Rothbury Drive in Montgomery Village and told the residents that someone was chasing him, according to the documents. Police were called.

Ortiz administered first aid to his cousin and walked to Rothbury to meet police.

"I have a [2-year-old] daughter and the day she was born was the day I changed a lot and became more protective of my family," Ortiz, who is now employed and living with relatives in Silver Spring, said at the Oct. 4 hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville. "I know [the 23-year-old] has four of his own and I'm happy that God didn't decide to put that kind of pressure on me of taking someone's life, knowing he has kids."

The .38-caliber revolver was unregistered and illegally purchased, Ortiz's Rockville attorney Thomas G. Witkop said at the hearing. Ortiz does not know who he bought the gun from, Witkop said.

Ortiz purchased the gun for protection after he and his cousin were robbed by three masked men while walking home last winter, Witkop said. The cousin's nostril was slit and a tendon in Ortiz's arm was cut, he said.

Witkop said in an interview that the cousin and the 23-year-old were in a physical fight and that Ortiz feared for his relative's life and made a poor decision.

"This guy's in his home defending himself," Witkop said. "He wasn't looking for any trouble, he was minding his own business. He wasn't an instigator."

Ortiz was indicted in June on two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of using a handgun in commission of a violent crime. He pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless endangerment and was sentenced to two years in prison with all but one day suspended by Judge Joseph A. Dugan Jr.

Ortiz was given credit for one day of time served in a plea agreement accepted by Dugan.

"I don't like people out in the street with handguns that don't have a license for them and I don't like people like you, at age 19, blazing away out in front of your house," Dugan said at the hearing.

"Little girls need love and affection from their fathers and you can't give that if you're in the penitentiary."

Ortiz has been known to associate with members of a local offshoot of the Bloods gang, Assistant State's Attorney Jeffrey Wennar said, and he tested positive for marijuana three times while awaiting trial.

Dugan said Ortiz's cousin was selling drugs.

Ortiz violated his curfew on at least three occasions while awaiting trial, according to court documents, once disappearing for three days. He also failed to report to his probation officer at least once, missed a substance abuse treatment class and failed to appear at a court date.

Ortiz pleaded guilty to marijuana possession in July, according to an online state court records database.

The reporter who wrote this was Ms. Tierney and I appreciate her balanced approach to the article.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

some suggestions when handling a car accident property damage claim

Having your car repaired or replaced after a collision can be the most frustrating
aspect -of a legal claim. The law provides that you are entitled to be made whole if the
other driver damaged your car. Being made whole simply means making your car as good
as it was before the accident. Unfortunately, this may not work out very well in reality. I
have had plenty of clients who had brand new $23,000 cars, driven them off the lot and
then had a bad accident necessitating $10,000 in repairs. Even after all the repair work is
done, common sense dictates that the car is usually not as good as it was before the
accident even though under the law it is considered to be as good. If you can accept early
on that this process seldom makes you a winner, it might be easier on your nerves. If you
follow the steps outlined below, it will expedite- matters and reduce your headaches.
Obviously, if you have any questions, please call me and I will help you.

After you have had an accident and your car is damaged or totaled, you are
entitled to be made whole. That is, the person who hit you, or his insurance company, if
he is at fault must pay you enough money to fix your car so that is in the same condition
as before the accident or pay you enough money to replace your car if it is totaled.

If your car is damaged but not totaled (the definition of total is not entirely clear.
Sometimes it is if the repair price is worth more than half of the price of the vehicle, then
the vehicle is a total loss. If the vehicle is an expensive vehicle the percentage may
increase. For example, if the value of the vehicle is $30,000 and the repairs will cost
$20,000, that may not be a total loss. The insurance company should tell you the formula
before they see the car.) call the adjuster for the insurance company involved. If you have
collision insurance, call your own insurance company and have an appraiser come out and
view-your car. To save you time you should suggest that all adjusters come to your car
rather than you bringing your car to them. An appraiser is experienced (but not infallible)
at evaluating damages and will tell you how much it will cost to fix your car. That
insurance company will then offer you a check in the amount of the appraiser's evaluation
less any deductible you may have. Before you accept this check, it would be wise to have
your car appraised by a mechanic or body man you know to check the appraiser's
accuracy. After your insurance company pays you, it will then collect what it paid from
the insurance company of the person who hit-you. Thereafter, you will get back any
deductible you had to pay. Also, check if you have rental insurance which allows you to
have a rental car until your car is fixed or replaced. Also, check to see if you have GAP
insurance which will cover the difference of the fair market value of your car and the
amount you owe on the car.

If you are dealing with the insurance company of the person that hit you, the
process if similar to the above description. Have the appraiser come to your car. Be
aware that the appraiser is not your friend and you should choose your words carefully
when speaking to him. do not speak to him-as how, why, what you were doing , are you
hurt, etc. about the accident. If he asks about any of the above, refer him to me. Your
conversation should be limited to the cost of fixing or replacing your car. Again, after an
appraisal is made, have a mechanic or body man you know or trust also estimate your
car's damage. As the defendant is required to make you whole, you are entitled to rent a
car equal to your car while your. car is nonoperational due to the accident. If you do not
rent a car and use a taxi, save your taxi receipts as those would be reimbursed also. All
taxi receipts, rental receipts, and repair estimates should be submitted to the defendant
insurance company so that you receive fair value for your loss.

If your car is totaled, you are entitled to the fair market value of the car at the time
of the accident and the place where the car is generally kept plus the applicable taxes and
transfer fees pursuant to Code of Maryland Regulation 11.11.05. Fair market value is
frequently determined by the `blue book value. Many public-.libraries keep blue books
and you can call the reference librarian at a public library and find out the blue book value
of your car. Library reference in Montgomery County is 240-777-0001. You can also
check online at the Kelley blue book site ( or Another way to
determine fair market value is through the classified ads in the local newspapers. Look at
the Sunday paper used car section and find the value of cars like yours.

Further, pursuant to Maryland law the insurance company must provide the
following upon request:

· The method used to value the vehicle (including the identification of any books,
manuals, or database
· A detailed explanation of our calculation of the motor vehicle's loss value, including
the calculation of
any value added to the motor vehicle by options;
· A list of all deductions that were made from the value of the motor vehicle;
· A copy of the inspection guidelines relied upon by us in determining the condition of
the vehicle at the
time of loss.

Finally, in accordance with Maryland Regulation,, at your option,
you may, in writing, reject the settlement offer and make a counter offer based on:
· dealer quotations for a substantially similar motor vehicle
· advertisements for a substantially similar motor vehicle, or
· any other source of valuation for a substantially similar motor vehicle.

Use the above information to get the best value for your car. Do not take a check
that is below the fair market value of your car. Again, until your car is replaced, the
defendant insurance company must pay for any rental expenses and or taxi expenses you
incur because you were missing your car. Bear in mind if you own a Chevy Chevette, you
cannot rent a Rolls Royce and expect to be fully reimbursed.

I hope that the above is helpful. If you have any questions please call me. I am
always happy to help you.