November 2010 Archives

November 1, 2010

Maryland Appellate Court Upholds Reasonable Suspicion Requirement

court of appeals.jpg In an October 2010 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals in Annapolis overturned the gun and drug convictions of a passenger in a car after determining that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to detain the individual while a drug dog was brought to the scene. The decision provides an important discussion of the extent of Fourth Amendment protection for individuals facing criminal charges, and how these rights can be protected by an experienced Maryland criminal law attorney.

Hayward T. Henderson was the passenger in a car on May 2, 2005 when the vehicle he was traveling in was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. The driver of the car was ticketed, and a second passenger in the car who had an outstanding warrant was arrested. In conjunction with the arrest of the second passenger, the second passenger was searched, and the police found drugs hidden in his hat. The police thereafter handcuffed Henderson, and detained him while a K-9 unit trained to detect drugs was brought to the scene. Notably, it took the K-9 unit between nine and twelve minutes to arrive on the scene. During the scan, a semi-automatic pistol was found in the car. At that point, all three individuals were placed under arrest.

The Court held that the detaining Henderson for between nine and twelve minutes was unreasonable, because there was no reasonably articulable suspicion on which to base his detention. Speaking for the Court, Judge Joseph F.Murphy, Jr. wrote, "[t]he Fourth Amendment protects occupants of automobiles against continued detentions based on less than reasonable articulable suspicion."

The Court continued, "[a] warrantless search . . . is presumptively unreasonable, and the state has the burden of overcoming that presumption." The Court held that the mere fact that Henderson was on an "alert list" for possible criminal activity was insufficient to support the prolonged detention, because the State could not explain how individuals were added to the alert system.

Brassel, Alexander & Rice has experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys who understand the intricacies of the Fourth Amendment and can protect the constitutional rights of individuals facing criminal charges.