Not Just the State – Federal Criminal Laws Affect Maryland Residents, Too

While the mental image we all conjure of a “criminal” might be someone in handcuffs being stuffed into the back of an Anne Arundel squad car, hundreds of thousands of people, many of them in Maryland, find themselves in the crosshairs of the “Feds” instead. And not always for the reasons you might expect, such as drug running, murder, or counterfeiting. The list of Federal crimes (which is much longer than what is shown through that link), has grown to include tax crimes, immigration violations, and environmental crimes. Every year on average, over 50 new Federal crimes are added to the books.

Our experienced Maryland criminal law attorneys are not just members of the Maryland Bar; our attorneys are admitted to practice before the Federal Courts in Maryland as well. Our attorneys can assist you in facing criminal charges ranging from the most notorious to the criminal charges that you might not even understand, such as when you are charged with a crime for doing exactly what you thought was the correct thing to do.

sewer.jpgA Maryland man named Lawrence Lewis recently learned that criminal penalties can apply even when you believe that you are doing the right thing. Mr. Lewis, working as a custodian for at a military retirement home, had to decide what to do when rising sewage waters threatened to flood an area full of sick residents. He did what custodians at the home always did, and what they thought they were supposed to do – he diverted the sewage into an outside storm drain, one he thought was connected to the local water treatment facility. As it turns out, the sewage flowed directly into the Potomac River, and Mr. Lewis found himself facing Federal charges for violating the Clean Water Act.

Typically, criminal activity consists of two parts: a mens rea, that is, a “guilty mind,” and an actus reus, or the “guilty act.” The “guilty act” is fairly self-explanatory: it means the action that violated the law. But typically, for someone to be guilty of a crime, there must also be evidence that there was an intent to commit the crime. Mens rea suggests that the person who is guilty of a criminal act acted in some sort of culpable fashion. But as Mr. Lewis learned, not all crimes require a guilty mind. Sometimes, you can be found guilty even when you believe that you are not only not breaking the law, but when you believe you are doing something absolutely necessary for the public well-being.

Mr. Lewis’ “crime” had no mens rea. In the end, it did not matter what he thought was right. Rather than facing a trial and possible jail time, Mr. Lewis’ attorney (not affiliated with Brassel Alexander) worked with the Federal prosecutor to set up a plea deal, under which Mr. Lewis accepted a year of probation.

Our Maryland criminal attorneys are well-versed in assisting clients reach the right decision when it comes to fighting charges or accepting plea deals. Each case is different, whether there are allegations that a defendant committed murder, was caught with a bag of marijuana, or even violated an obscure law when he thought he was doing the right thing. Each case needs its own analysis, and an advocate that will fight for the best resolution for the client.

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