This past Wednesday I got a call from a former client, JT, who is from a state where it is legal to travel with a handgun in the car, to help his employee, AJ, who had just been arrested in West Virginia and was awaiting extradition to Maryland. Unlike the state they were from, in Maryland it is illegal to possess or transport a handgun in a car, with very few exceptions. I had represented JT on a handgun charge in Prince George's County, Maryland and obtained a good result. Prince George's County takes a hard line on people found illegally possessing a handgun and prosecutes them very aggressively. JT, and his employee, AJ, were driving to a construction job in another state when JT got tired and asked AJ to drive. He did, but when he was pulled over for speeding, police found AJ didn't have a drivers license. A search of the car yielded the handgun. The gun belonged to JT, it was JT's car, and AJ didn't even know it was there.
Initially in District Court at the time of their arrest and release, in late October, 2011, JT was charged with illegally transporting the handgun and AJ was charged with speeding and driving without a license. In early December, both JT and AJ were indicted in Circuit Court for illegally possessing and transporting the handgun. In Maryland when someone who is initially charged in District Court is indicted in Circuit Court, the District Court loses jurisdiction to the Circuit Court and any initial bond that is posted to gain release is supposed to transfer to the new Circuit Court case. In this case when the indictments were returned a Circuit Court judge issued bench warrants and set a $25,000 bond for each as if there had been no District Court bond set and satisfied. That should not have happened.
Since I represented JT, I arranged for a "walk in arraignment," where the judge recalled the warrant and let him out on his original terms of release. Ultimately JT pleaded guilty to illegally transporting a handgun and received probation before judgment. However, AJ and his lawyer appeared in District Court in February, where he pleaded guilty to speeding and the driving without a license was stetted (postponed indefinitely). Apparently no one ever realized AJ had an outstanding warrant since early December in the same case in Circuit Court, because if they had, they also would have known that the indictment deprived the District Court of jurisdiction over at least one of the charges, driving without a license. Although, as JT's lawyer, I knew AJ had also been charged, I gave it no thought, because AJ had a lawyer who I assumed was on top of it. This Wednesday when AJ was stopped for a traffic offense in Berkeley County, West Virginia he received a rude awakening. There was an unserved bench warrant for him from Maryland for the gun charges. AJ was jailed pending extradition to Maryland. JT called me to see what I could do.
Continue reading "Fighting for Justice - One Case at a Time" »