Sometimes technology moves so fast that the law does not have time to catch up to it. Judges and courts end up dealing with novel issues that they did not anticipate. Sometimes new technologies come about and we can see the potential legal issues that may arise far in advance. Such is the case with the newly released iPhone X.

Facial Recognition Technology

The new iPhone X will have a unique facial recognition technology, where the phone recognizes its own owner’s face. The phone unlocks when it is held in front of the user’s face. But many privacy experts and civil liberties organizations have concern about how this kind of technology may be used by law enforcement at the scene of a potential crime.

What is a prosecutor’s job? That often depends on whom you ask. Like any attorney with a client, prosecutors represent the state or the government, and the government’s mission is to punish those who are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing crimes. To serve a client, a prosecutor must have this goal also.

A prosecutor’s job also is to seek justice and, like all attorneys, to do what is ethically and morally correct. The interests of a client cannot compel a lawyer to misrepresent something to a court, or to ignore vital evidence even if it is against the interests of the client.

This begs the question of what a prosecutor does when evidence shows that a defendant is innocent? Although the duty of the prosecutor is to refrain from prosecuting without probable cause, unfortunately, in the zeal of representation, this is not always what happens.

Many areas of the country, including Maryland, have leaned towards lighter sentences for certain criminal convictions and have begun to understand the value of rehabilitating those convicted of crimes. The rising crime statistics in Baltimore have begun to turn that tide around, however, and the Governor is now proposing legislation that would result in harsher, stiffer penalties.

Rising Crime Leads to Discussion on Sentencing

Violent crime in Baltimore is increasing by 15% every year. At a recent meeting, The Governor pinned blame for rising crime rates on those who are released from prison too early. Many of the city and state’s top law enforcement officials attended. Baltimore judges were invited, but declined, citing laws that require judges to remain impartial, and to avoid being swayed by public opinion.

Battered spouses face difficult challenges when they take actions to defend or protect themselves. Many courts do not understand the psychological difficulties that battered spouses face, and laws are only recently evolving to provide some protections to those who act in self defense to avoid further domestic abuse.

Battered Spouse Charged With Murder 

A recent case involved a wife who testified that she had been beaten with belts, wooden boards, and stabbed, among other horrific attacks from her husband. She testified that she was afraid to leave him for fear that he would follow and harm her. He repeatedly said he would kill her. She said that she was terrified of him every day.

Can you be convicted of a crime for doing nothing more than talking? Surely, you can—we all know it is a crime to threaten someone with violence. What about being held responsible for the death of someone else simply because of the words that you use? Could you be guilty of murder or manslaughter?

Texting Leads to Manslaughter Conviction

You certainly can when it comes to suicide, as a recent case in Massachusetts demonstrates. A young woman was recently convicted of manslaughter for allegedly sending a series of texts encouraging a young man to kill himself. The young man was her boyfriend, and evidence showed numerous intimate calls and text messages that prosecutors say encouraged or drove the young man to commit suicide.

A new law went into effect earlier this year that changes how the crime of rape is investigated, prosecuted, and proven. The new law changes what state prosecutors have to prove in court and eliminates a hurdle that prosecutors often face when trying to prove rape charges.

Old Law Made Prosecutions Difficult

Maryland’s criminal rape statute, as it existed before the change, required the state to show not only that there was no consent by the victim, but also that the victim resisted the rape attempt, and was overcome by the use of force by the perpetrator.

The Maryland public is generally aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated. We know to avoid getting behind the wheel when we have had too much to drink, or when we may be under the influence of medication. Government studies have educated us on how alcohol in our blood can impair reaction times on the road.

But there is one risk that many of us take every day, which can make driving just as dangerous, if not moreso, than driving drunk – drowsy driving. As the name implies, this is the act of getting behind the wheel when we have not had enough sleep.

Why it is so Dangerous

A recent case from a Florida state court has created more discussion about controversial “stand your ground” laws. These laws are really just a smaller part of the larger criminal law question of what the self-defense rights are of someone who is attacked, and when someone can legally claim self-defense. 

The Right to Self Defense

In Maryland, as in most other states, there is a right to take whatever reasonable actions are necessary to protect ourselves and our family from physical violence. There must be a situation where someone would reasonably feel threatened, and the actions taken in self-defense must also be reasonable. The force used must also be proportional to the perceived risk.

In 2002, Maryland and Washington D.C. made national news when a pair of snipers terrorized the area, randomly killing citizens. The manhunt ended in the capture of two individuals, one an adult, and one, Lee Malvo, who was, at the time, a juvenile. The killing spree was considered one of the worst the nation had ever seen. The man was sentenced to death and executed in 2009, but the juvenile, Malvo, was sentenced to life in prison.

Juvenile Life Sentences Unconstitutional

In the years since Malvo’s conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that sentences for life without parole—considered the most severe criminal sentence after capital punishment—are unconstitutional as applied to juveniles. The high court has determined that while juveniles can and should be held accountable for their crimes, there must be some avenue for potential release, no matter how severe the crime committed. Otherwise, the sentences violate the eighth amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.

A common belief is that in Maryland criminal law, all theft-type crimes are the same. Although words like burglary and larceny and embezzlement and theft are used interchangeably in our day-to-day life, in fact, they have different meanings, and apply in  different situations.

Embezzlement

Embezzlement is perhaps the most different from the group. Most theft-type crimes require that the accused take possession of property by force, or without permission. In common terms, the items must be “stolen.” In many cases, someone can legally have possession of an item, but retain the item wrongfully, or use the item in a way that exceeds or violates the scope of why the person was entrusted with it in the first place. The person does not have to intend to steal anything at the time he or she takes possession of the item.