Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime. Most know that. It does not matter whether a driver is intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, which is why it is referred to as a driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI), terms broad enough to encompass those driving under influence of a number of different substances.

Man Arrested for Elevated Caffeine Levels

One driver in California has been charged with a crime that seems to stretch the limits of this definition. Recently, a man was pulled over for driving with too much caffeine in his system. The man was charged after he allegedly swerved, cutting off an unmarked officer’s car. Testing showed 0% alcohol in his system and no traces of other illegal substances. The man is currently scheduled to go to trial, and the only evidence that the state has is a blood test showing elevated caffeine levels. The test results were independently confirmed by a second laboratory, which also found only caffeine in the man’s blood.

When someone is charged with a crime, there are many variables that go into a person’s decision to plead guilty. Many are also unaware of the constitutional waivers that come with a guilty plea, and the rights that can be lost. A recent case shines some light on the often harsh consequences of pleading guilty, when new evidence is discovered.

New DNA Evidence Discovered

The case involves a Defendant who was convicted of sexual assault. He later learned that there was evidence that had not been tested for DNA, which could possibly exonerate him for the crime. He moved to have the newly discovered evidence DNA tested.

A few weeks back we wrote about concerns that were being raised over Maryland’s bail system. Legislators had been made aware of a constitutional problem about how judges determine bail amounts, and about defendants’ ability to pay them. Now, the issue has gone from a talking point to what may be a rule change on the issue.

The Problem With Bail Determinations

The problem is that in many cases courts were determining that defendants were entitled to bail, and setting bail amounts. However, courts were not considering a defendant’s ability to pay the bail amount. A “small” bail of $1,000 may be a large bail if that defendant is homeless.

It was a busy election season, and among the different measures and candidates on the ballots were differing referendums and amendments designed to legalize the use of marijuana to differing extents. While the laws have passed in many different states, there remain hurdles to the implementation of these laws.

New Laws Passed

Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota expanded the ability to legally obtain marijuana, most for medical purposes, in the previous election. The uses will likely be highly regulated, prescribed by medical providers, and available in relatively limited amounts.

A new Maryland case has put limits on how and when officers can constitutionally frisk (pat down) individuals at a potential crime scene. The case is important in determining whether evidence obtained by officers at a crime scene are admissible in a trial, and is a victory for the rights of the accused.

Frisk of Individual is Challenged

The situation began when police observed the defendant sitting in a stationary car that had a broken tail light. He was not the driver, but was in the back seat. Police reported that he seemed nervous, and although the driver stated he was waiting there to pick someone up, police did not believe him.

When someone is arrested and is awaiting trial, bail and the ability to pay it is the difference between awaiting trial a free person, or doing it behind bars. Bail is intended to balance two important principles.

The first is that we are innocent unless proven guilty, and thus, someone should not be imprisoned before he or she is convicted unless a danger to the community. The other is to avoid the possibility that someone accused of a crime may run away or flee in an effort to evade a trial. Thus, a system of bail allows someone arrested and awaiting trial to be free before trial, unless a court makes certain findings.

How Bail is Determined

When it comes to drunk driving there is almost universal agreement that those who cause injury by getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, should be held responsible for their actions, both civilly and criminally. For the most part, laws are in place to make sure that this happens.

But there is a sticky area of law when it comes to being drunk behind the wheel when it involves those who provide alcohol to others who then get behind the wheel intoxicated and cause injury.

But along with many other new laws coming into effect, Maryland’s laws are set to bring at least some clarity to this area of law with a new change.

Maryland police have made numerous arrests in connection with what appears to be a real-life mob operation, and racketeering charges are now pending against numerous members of the gang.

Real Life Gang Story

Police allege that the gang, known as MMP, controlled numerous streets and neighborhoods in Baltimore, engaging in a drug trafficking ring. The indictment alleges that the group managed “shops,” where they would distribute illegal drugs. One such shot is believed to be a BP gas station.

Maryland has passed the Justice Reinvestment Act, a sweeping crime reform bill that is coming into law in phases. One of the most anticipated new changes has to do with the expungement of criminal records. Many see it as an opportunity to start fresh, as the law creates opportunity to erase a criminal record where that opportunity did not previously exist.

What is Expungement

Expungement is the ability to have a criminal record, particularly convictions, erased from the public records. The benefit of expungements is that it allows people a better opportunity at a fresh start; the stigma that comes from a criminal record can make it difficult for people to find employment, or other opportunities.

Whenever drones, cameras, or other surveillance equipment are involved in our lives, the first question we usually have is how that technology will impact our right to privacy. This is particularly true when it comes to law enforcement, where the constitution provides us certain privacy rights, and restricts how and when the government can search our property.

Baltimore Police Using Overhead Surveillance

It was recently revealed that the Baltimore police department has been surveilling people from the sky, using a Cessna that was funded by a private donor. The news came as a surprise even to the mayor and the city council. Many are upset not just at the nature of the program, but over the allegation that it has been kept hidden for some period of time.