The State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, has announced on January 29, 2019, that marijuana possession cases will no longer be prosecuted in Baltimore.  In an article in the New York Times, Marilyn Mosby stated that it makes no sense to prosecute marijuana cases because it diverts resources from investigating more serious crimes and it alienates members of the community whose support police need to investigate these crimes.  Additionally, the State’s Attorneys’ office will be reviewing 5,000 marijuana possession convictions and proposing legislation to make it easier to vacate convictions for marijuana possession.

As the Daily Record reported yesterday (Jan. 23, 2019), a bill will be introduced in the Maryland legislature to expand Noah’s Law (named after Noah Leotta – a police officer killed by a drunk driver) to require an ignition interlock be installed as a condition of a probation before judgment.  Currently, first offenders who blow a .15 or higher, or refuse to submit to a breath or blood test are required to obtain an ignition interlock for one year or have their licenses suspended for 180 or 270 days respectively (for a first test failure or refusal).  If the driver submits to a test with a result of .08 or more but less than .15, the 180 day interlock is optional.  That person may elect instead to drive with a permit that allows driving for work, school, medical, or alcohol education restricted driving privileges.  Currently, some first offenders escape the interlock where they win the MVA hearing for a test failure or refusal, or if they have an out of state driver’s license.

There are some significant problems with the proposal, such as dealing with individuals who share cars with family members, who don’t own a car, who have to drive clients to earn a living or who live out of state.  Currently, out of state drivers are not allowed to participate in Maryland’s ignition interlock program.  This can be a devastating problem for drivers who live out of state and work in Maryland.  Additionally, the law would deprive judges of the discretion to deny interlock in an appropriate case.  This was the decision the legislature made a few years ago when Noah’s Law was enacted.  Also commercial drivers are not allowed to drive commercial vehicles while their licenses are restricted in this way.

As the Daily Record reported:

On Thursday, the nation was transfixed as the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.  Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by Ford and a number of other females when they were in high school and college.  All of the complaints say that Kavanaugh was extremely inebriated at the time.  However, when Kavanaugh was asked about his drinking habits he became very defensive and refused to answer the questions, although he did admit to on occasion drinking too much and liking beer.  At all costs, he had to deny his alcoholism, if he suffered from it, because that would lead to questions of whether he drank to the extent of experiencing blackouts, a symptom of heavy drinking, where the person has no memory of their conduct while drunk.  If he experienced blackouts, then his denials would be much less credible.  Although the senators’ questions for the most part avoided touching on his alcoholism, it appears evident that his alcoholism or lack is central to the case.

In drunk driving cases, all clients represented by attorney Leonard Stamm are referred to a program approved by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to determine if the client has a drinking problem and to receive an appropriate level of education and treatment.  A directory of programs nationwide can be found here.

Clients are assessed to determine if they have a drinking problem using a number of psychological screening tests.  The most well known is probably the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test also known as the MAST test.  Clients are give a score based on their answers.  A higher score indicates a likely drinking problem.  Other tests include the Alcohol Use Disorders Test or AUDIT test.

On Wednesday, September 12, 2018, Leonard Stamm appeared in the Court of Appeals to argue the case of Owusu v. MVA.  Owusu was arrested for drunk driving and taken to the police station.  At the police station he was read the DR-15 Advice of Rights Form.  This is a form police officers are required to read to DUI suspects advising them of the penalties for refusing or failing a breath test for alcohol.  In Owusu’s case he was read the form and told that if he failed the test he would lose his driver’s license for 180 days, but that if he refused he would lose his license for 270 days.  Additionally he was told that since he had a commercial driver’s license or CDL, that if he refused the test his CDL would be disqualified for one year.  The one year disqualification meant that he not be able to perform his job as a bus driver for one year.

Immediately after reading the form, that contained a lot of other information as well, to Owusu, the officer tried to be helpful.  He told Owusu that since he was a bus driver he would be out of work for 180 days if he failed the test and 270 days if he refused.  Although probably well meaning, the officer’s statement was false. Critically, the officer did not tell Owusu he would be out of work for one year if he refused as a result of the one year disqualification of his CDL.  The one year disqualification was huge because it means Owusu will have to retake the CDL knowledge and skill tests with it, but not with a 270 day suspension.  Owusu testified at the hearing that after the officer advised him, he was not aware he would lose his CDL, and that, if he had he would have submitted to the test.

As Stamm had argued in the MVA hearing and again in the Montgomery County Circuit Court without success that the giving of the false advice failed to comply with the relevant law requiring the arresting officer to “fully advise” the driver of the administrative penalties and also violated Owusu’s due process rights.  Stamm also unsuccessfully argued in the hearing and appellate court that the DR-15’s form’s advice of a 270 day suspension on a refusal, and eligibility for a restricted license, without telling drivers that the required period of interlock restriction is longer, one year, violated his statutory and due process rights.

I was born in 1955, ten years after the end of the Holocaust.  Growing up, I was fascinated and terrified by thoughts of it.  What would it have been like to have lived through that period?  What would it have felt like?  I am Jewish.  Would I have survived?  Would I have ended in a death camp, as a slave laborer, hiding in a cellar, or fought in the Resistance?  How would other people who were not Jewish have treated me or my family?  How could normal people let such a thing happen?  Could it happen anywhere else?  Were Germans different than other people or is any group of people capable of perpetrating such horrors? “Never again!” proclaimed the survivors.

In recent posts on Facebook, I have coined the term my “Never again radar.”  It is going off now.  The usual response to comparisons with Nazism and Hitler is that such comparisons are basically an admission of the weakness of the argument.  The misuse of such comparisons runs the risk of trivializing the comparisons, and of not being taken seriously when the comparison is justified.  With Trump however, I believe the comparison is justified for the reasons I argue below.

As I have thought about this blog for a while, I visualized about five similarities.  But then when I started to list them, it became apparent that five was too limited.  My first written list of ten grew quickly to eighteen.  Here is the list, I offer brief descriptions of each below: persistent lying; alternative facts; attacks on the press; promotion of bigotry and racism; loss of civility and respect for government officials; gaslighting opponents; hypocrisy; attacks on judges; nationalism and demanding obedience to the flag; demanding loyalty; mass rallies with exhortations to radicalism; encouragement of violence against opponents; advocating jail for political opponents; support for autocrats and attacks on democratic leaders; Nazi dog whistles; Nazi support; studying Hitler’s speeches, and attacks on the rule of law.  There is some overlap here.  I don’t claim this is an exclusive list, and I have deliberately left out some other equally odious character traits of Trump’s that do not necessarily justify invoking the Nazi comparison, such as his misogynistic treatment of women, nepotism, narcissism, corruption, theft, or the Russia investigation.  And my brief overview can’t possibly do justice to the myriad of ways Trump has attacked our country.

Many people will remember the nurse in Utah who refused to draw blood in a DUI case under directions from a police officer and was arrested.  She subsequently settled a lawsuit for $500,000 and the officer was fired.  As a result the Utah legislature tried to fix the problem.

In Anne Arundel County doctors and nurses have also refused to follow illegal directions from police officers.  In response, bills were introduced in the Maryland Senate and Maryland House of Delegates to try to fix the problem. The bill would require qualified medical persons to withdraw blood where the driver did not consent to a test after an officer developed reasonable grounds (defined as reasonable articulable suspicion) to believe a person was driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs and there was an accident resulting in a fatality or life threatening injury.

The problem is that the Supreme Court has held in two cases, Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552, 185 L. Ed. 2d 696 (2013) and Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016), that before police may direct a qualified medical person to withdraw blood the officer must have probable cause and a warrant, unless an exception to the warrant requirement such as exigent circumstances or consent exists.  However, not every case involving a fatal or life threatening injury will involve exigent circumstances.

The National College for DUI Defense held its Winter Session in Atlanta this past week.  The program was titled “Prescription for Disaster” on the topic of defending DUI cases involving prescription drugs.  The speakers included Tony Palacios and Ron Lloyd on “Learn What the Cops are Taught: Drugs That Impair Driving & ARIDE Overview for Lawyers;” Jay Tiftickjian on “What if it Becomes Legal in My State? Navigating Through the Haze of Prescription and Legalized Marijuana;” Dr. Fran Gengo on “An Expert’s Opinion: The 3 Most Important Things Lawyers Need to Know About Prescription Drug DUI Cases;” MIchael Nichols spoke on “Not Your Father’s DUI: Unusual Aspects of Defending DUI Drug Cases;” Erin Gerstenzang spoke about “Ethically Avoiding the Personal & Professional Disaster: Client Management Before, During and After Court;” Dr. James O’Donnell spoke about “How to Investigate and Prepare to Challenge the State’s Expert in a DUI Drug Case:”  Dr. Randall Tackett spoke about “The Opioid Crisis in America;” William C. “Bubba” Head spoke about “Waking Up to Disaster: Defending the Ambien Case and other Sleep Driving Issues;” Doug Murphy covered “Challenging Drug Recognition Experts;” and Flem Whited spoke about “Dr. Whited’s Rx to Win a DUI Drug Case.”

On January 3, 2018, Leonard Stamm gave presentation to the Prince George’s County Public Defenders in Hyattsville on “Drug Recognition ‘Experts.'”

If you are charged with a state or federal traffic or criminal case, call 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.

Under current Maryland law, if a driver is arrested for a DUI, he or she will be asked to submit to a breath test for alcohol.  If the result is 0.08 or more but less than 0.15, the person faces a driving license or privilege suspension of 180 days.  If at a hearing challenging the suspension, the suspension is sustained, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) holding the hearing has discretion to allow the driver to drive to and from or during the course of employment, alcohol education, education, and for medical purposes for the driver or family members.  If the driver blows .15 or more, the suspension is also 180 days for a first offense and 270 days for a subsequent offense, but the only option for the ALJ is to allow the driver to drive  only with an ignition interlock in the car for one year.  Similarly, if the driver refuses to take a test, the penalty on a first offense is 270 days or two years for a subsequent offense, and the ALJ can only allow the driver to drive with an ignition interlock in the car for one year.

Although these suspensions may be challenged at an administrative hearing, if the challenge fails, the ALJ’s options are limited as noted above.  However, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration does not allow out of state drivers to participate in the Ignition Interlock System Program.  This critically affects drivers who live outside of Maryland but work here.  The only option is to challenge the suspension, and appeal any defeats.  But if that effort fails, the driver is SOL.

Hopefully the legislature will remedy this situation soon.  Stay tuned.

This week, my friend, Brian Karem, editor of the Montgomery Sentinel and writer for Playboy, after months of abuse of the media by Trump, finally fought back. Calling out the President’s lies are not “fake news.”  The press is not the “enemy of the people.”

President Trump, by calling the news media “the enemy of the people” and calling facts “fake news” is attacking all of us. Thursday and Friday he attacked Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.  Today he released a wrestling video, showing him punching and wrestling a person with a CNN logo on his head.  He calls CNN FNN – fake national news.

There is a reason that freedom of the press is enshrined in the First Amendment. The Founders set up an elaborate system of checks and balances that is being tested as never before, at least during our lifetimes.  With a Congress unwilling to restrain the executive, willing to steal Supreme Court seats, an executive that repeatedly lies, insults, and bullies his opponents, an independent counsel that could be fired as soon as Trump thinks he can get a way with it, and a president that is unwilling or unable to defend the country against a Russian cyber attack, the media is our last line of defense.