Monday, April 15, 2013

Persistence Pays off

I have a client charged with assault among other things in the District Court.  On the trial date he was locked up and I had received the case one day earlier.  I did not want to postpone the case because he was locked up on this case.  I had as much information as I needed for the trial.  The odds weren't good but he was on probation in another matter so the guilty plea was out of the question.  At the trial the victim testified that my client had assaulted her.  An independent witness was extremely unhelpful to my client.  She was close enough to see what was going on, have good vision, had no interest in the outcome of the case.  At the end of the case my client was convicted.  The judge gave a surprisingly high sentence for the activity involved.  There were no weapons.  Nobody needed medical attention.  It was more of a fracas.  Despite the fairly small nature of the assault the judge sentenced by clients to 10 years in prison with all but two years suspended.

We appealed the case requesting a jury trial.  Between the time of the conviction in District Court and the time that the case came to trial in the Circuit Court the victim apparently became homeless and lost interest in pursuing the case.  All charges were dropped.  Instead of a 10 year sentence was all but two years suspended, my client had the charges dropped against him.

If you need a lawyer who is persistent and always tries to get the best result for you, please call me.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bicycle equipment failure leads to significant settlement

My client was riding his bicycle in the countryside when his seatpost bolt snapped, the saddle fell off and he fell off his bicycle badly breaking his leg.

He had purchased his bicycle new several years earlier. He had taken good care of his bicycle. He had not abused his bicycle. His bicycle was properly maintained.

As an avid bicyclist and former mechanic I do not like making product liability claims without good reason. In this case there was a good reason. A part as important as a bolt holding on the seat should not fail. It is such a critical part. If it fails, the seat must fall off. If the seat must fall off there is a reasonable likelihood that the cyclist will follow. In this case, the cyclist did follow and broke his leg.

Years ago I worked in a law firm that defended automobile manufacturers such as BMW from product liability suits. I had the bicycle mechanical background to analyze the situation. I had the legal background to prosecute the situation. I had an expert metallurgist available to examine the bolt. My client was very sympathetic and credible. His injuries were very real. Combining all of these factors led to a favorable settlement for my client.

Shielding a Protective Order

The state of Maryland has a powerful, far-reaching and very public website.  It basically includes a great majority of the court cases filed in Maryland.  It includes civil, criminal, traffic, special proceedings and many other forms of cases.  It is a well-known and widely used website.  Employers use it for background checks, I use it to look for people or check on witnesses.  Some of those records stay on for years.  If you Google "Maryland Judiciary case search" it will get you write to that website.

Recently I had a high-profile client who some years ago had a protective order issued against him.  That protective order was dismissed but when I was doing some research for my client I found that he was still listed on the Maryland website.  There was his name and his address and a spurious claim that was dismissed by agreement.  I told my high-profile client about this rather public aspect of a long past incident.  He was justifiably upset.  I told him that there is a mechanism in Maryland whereby a protective order that is dismissed or where the petitioner loses at trial and their claim is denied can be shielded or sealed from public scrutiny.

It is not particularly difficult.  We petitioned the court for relief.  The court granted a hearing.  The "victim" would be notified of the hearing and could present their own evidence as to why the matter should not be shielded.  Assuming the victim did not meet that burden of proof the court would shield the record.  That is exactly what happened in this case and my high-profile client can enjoy his anonymity on this website.  In other words, if you go looking for him on this website you will not find him.

If you need help shielding or ceiling your record please contact me.

When Is a Theft Not a Theft

Recently a client came to me accused of theft.  It seems that he and his longtime "friend" had come to an agreement regarding borrowing a truck.  The longtime "friend" agreed to rent the client the truck for one month for $500.  Money exchanged hands and my client put his tools into it and all was good.  At the end of the month my client advises that he agreed to purchase the truck for an additional $1000 (the truck was rather old and used).

The "friend" claims no such agreement took place and preferred theft charges against my client.  My client did not know this until he was stopped by the police during a felony stop.  If you don't know it, a felony stop in Maryland involves police with their guns out ordering you around.  My client was quite surprised and extremely compliant.  During the course of the investigation my client produced the written lease agreement.

The police called the "friend" who did not tell them anything about the lease and claimed that my client was a stranger.

Prior to trial I presented the lease evidence to the prosecutor.  Despite this evidence of a lease, even though the lease was expired by one week when my client was pulled over and arrested for theft, it did not persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges.

My client was charged with theft in violation of criminal law 7-104, theft of a motor vehicle in violation of Maryland criminal law 7-105, and unauthorized use of property.  At trial during cross examination the "friend" testified that he only knew my client through a third person and that my client was somewhat of a stranger.  The officer testified that the "friend" never mentioned anything about a lease or about knowing the client.

When the state rested their case I asked the judge to acquit my client of all of the criminal charges.  I argued that under Maryland law the commission of the theft (the actual taking of the item) must coincide with the criminal intent to take the item.  In other words, when you are stealing something you need to know at that time that you are stealing something.  Clearly, in this case that was not the situation.  My client received the truck with the permission of the "friend".  I had case law to back up my argument.  Despite this argument the judge at that point acquitted my client on only one of the charges.

We needed to put on a defense.  My client took the stand.  My client testified that he knew the "friend" for 17 years and the "friend" had been at the client's home on many occasions.  My client also testified that he had made an agreement to purchase the truck and paid an additional $500 after the lease expired.

At the conclusion of the case the judge acquitted my client of all of the criminal charges.

I told my client that in the future he should get receipts for his cash payments.  A receipt for that purchase payment may have avoided the charges altogether.