Articles Posted in Current events

I recently handled a sentencing for a client of mine for driving while impaired (DWI).  Under Maryland law, one year of ignition interlock is required if you are convicted of the higher offense, driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI).  However, the relevant statutes do not require it for DWI, unless the “trier of fact finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the person refused to take a test arising out of the same circumstances as the violation.”  More often than not, in Maryland, a driver who refuses a breathalyzer test at the time of arrest if found guilty of anything, will not be found guilty of the higher offense DUI, only the lower DWI.  So the question is what does this phrase mean, that the “trier of fact finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the person refused to take a test arising out of the same circumstances as the violation.”

The answer can be found in Wadlow v. State, 335 Md. 122, 642 A.2d 213 (1994).  In Wadlow, the indictment charged the defendant with possession with intent to distribute more than 448 grams of cocaine but it did not refer to the sentencing enhancement under Art. 27, § 286 (f).  Also, the jury was never asked to decide the amount of cocaine.  As a result the Maryland Supreme Court reversed the part of the sentence that relied on possession of more than 448 grams.  The Court said:

In Maryland, however, we have generally drawn a distinction between sentence enhancement provisions that depend upon prior conduct of the offender and those that depend upon the circumstances of the offense. In the former situation, involving recidivism, we have made it clear that determination of the requisite predicate facts is for the sentencing judge. See Maryland Rule 4–245(e) (“[T]he court shall determine whether the defendant is a subsequent offender….”). The State must give timely notice to the defendant of its intention to seek enhanced penalties because of one or more prior convictions, but that notice is not filed with the court until after the acceptance of a guilty or nolo contendere plea, or after conviction. The applicable Rule also provides that “[t]he allegation that the defendant is a subsequent offender is not an issue in the trial on the charging document….” Md.Rule 4–245(d).

On July 1, 2023, recreational marijuana became legal in Maryland.  Adults over 21 years old are permitted to possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and also to possess two pot plants.  (Two plants is also the limit per household).  With these changes it is important to remember that driving while impaired by marijuana is still a crime and a person who refuses a breathalyzer or after being examined by a so-called “drug recognition expert” refuses a blood test, can have his or her driver’s license suspended.

These drug recognition experts can be challenged on the ground that their testimony is insufficiently reliable to be considered by a court.  As noted in an op-ed by Regi Taylor in the Baltimore Times on July 1,

Greenbelt-based attorney, Lenny Stamm, takes issue with the “scientific reliability” of methods used to identify suspected impaired drivers, particularly “assessments conducted by the state’s Drug Recognition Experts.” Stamm is an author and recognized national authority in his field, conducting seminars and lecturing widely on the DUI topic.

On May 5, 2023, the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys’ Association is holding its 19th Annual Advanced DUI Defense Seminar at the Doubletree Hotel in Linthicum, Maryland.

The seminar, organized and run by Leonard R. Stamm in conjunction with the MCDAA will feature presentations by experienced lawyers as well as an expert chemist.  The schedule is shown below.  If your lawyer attends this program, he or she is getting the most up to date training available for how to handle DUI cases.

MCDAA’S 19th Annual Advanced DUI Defense Seminar 

It has recently come to our attention that the approval required for breath test operators in Maryland changed with the below statute, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 10-304, effective on October 1, 2022.

“Qualified person” means a person who has received training in the use of the equipment in a training program approved by the toxicologist in the Department of State Police Forensic Sciences Division and who is either a police officer, a police employee, or a person authorized by the toxicologist in the Department of State Police Forensic Sciences Division.

Only a “qualified person” is allowed to conduct a breathalyzer test in Maryland.

A few years ago, the Maryland legislature reacted to the tragic death by a drunk driver of Noah Leotta by enacting Noah’s Law.  The supporters of Noah’s law increased penalties and closed some loopholes in Maryland’s DUI laws but failed to achieve one objective.  The legislature did not agree that every first offender who gets a DUI should be required to have an interlock installed in their car for a minimum of 6 mos.  The proponents of this measure have made annual attempts to impose this requirement.  This year that attempt took the form of House Bill 451 and Senate Bill 528.  As a representative of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys’ Association, Leonard Stamm filed written objections to the proposal and testified against the bills before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 10, 2023.

There are a number of objections to the bill that were detailed in the letter submitted to both the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

My name is Leonard R. Stamm, appearing on behalf of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys’ Association.  I have been in private practice defending persons accused of drunk driving and other crimes for over 38 years.  I am author of Maryland DUI Law, and of all post 2013 updates to Maryland Evidence: State and Federal, both published by Thomson-Reuters.  I am currently a Fellow (former Dean) of the National College for DUI Defense, a nationwide organization with over 1500 lawyer members. I am a former president of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys’ Association.  I have co-authored amicus briefs filed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National College for DUI Defense in the Supreme Court cases of Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 564 U.S. 647 (2011), Missouri v. McNeely, 569 US 141 (2013), and Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 US __, 136 S. Ct. 2160, 195 L. Ed. 2d 560 (2016).

Today, August 2, 2022, I read an op ed in the Washington Post by an Indian woman, Aaditi Lele, who recently became a US citizen who is a student at Vanderbilt University.  It is worth sharing.

Less than two months ago, I took the oath of naturalization to become the first American citizen in my family. I watched as new Americans from dozens of countries stood together, speaking in unison of our commitment to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.” But in the wake of multiple decisions by a Supreme Court that seems intent on rolling back Americans’ liberties, I’m left wondering what warped interpretation of the Constitution I’ve committed to defend.

From the day my family moved from Pune, India, to the United States a decade ago, when I was 8 years old, I’ve been bombarded with glorified images and slogans about the American Dream — “Land of the Free!” — and encouraged to embrace this nation’s ideals. I came to believe this messaging. The idea that pursuing citizenship would help me secure my rights was not lost on me, so I did exactly that.

On March 21, 2022, the Director of the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division notified the State’s Attorney co-ordinator for Maryland that the MSP lab would cease doing blood alcohol testing because the accrediting agency determined their testing procedure violated scientific requirements for blood alcohol testing.  Read the letter here.  MSAA BAC Letter_031522

On April 13, 2022, Clarke Ahlers and Serge Antonin released their podcast, the Black and White and thin Blue Lines, https://lnns.co/bZlMhf7g6KX , with special guests Lenny and Michael Stamm where we discuss the MSP lab fiasco, and wonder why it took almost 6 months to tell anyone about it.

If you have a DUI charge and a blood alcohol test, call 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.

Last week both houses of the Maryland legislature overrode Governor Hogan’s veto and passed the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2001.

The Act will improve the criminal justice system in Maryland a number of ways:

  1. Set stricter standards for use of force by police;

We have noticed lately what seems like an extraordinary number of referrals to the MAB.

When anyone suspects that a driver may have a physical or mental condition that would affect their ability to drive, he or she may refer that person to the Medical Advisory Board (MAB) of the MVA.[1]  Initially, the referral goes to the Division of Driver Wellness & Safety (DW&S).[2]  DW&S sends the person a series of questionnaires that must be completed and returned as well as consent forms for the driver to allow the MVA to obtain reports from the driver’s physician and relevant treatment programs, detailing the condition, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and any medications they have been prescribed. 

After receiving the information, DW&S may take a number of actions.  Parameters are set forth in COMAR § 11.17.03.04 for how to respond to specified medical conditions to guide the MVA’s determination.  DW&S may further refer the person to the MAB for review by a physician.[3]  The Medical Advisory Board makes recommendations to the MVA when individuals are referred to the MAB and a certain physical or mental condition is indicated.[4]

On this Veteran’s Day we pay tribute to the over 17 million veterans in the US today.  These are men and women who have personally sacrificed to preserve our freedoms, and the great experiment in republican democracy that has survived for over 225 years since the adoption of the US Constitution in 1788.  The genius of the US Constitution is the separation of powers between three branches of government, and between the federal government and the states.  With the addition of the Bill of Rights, we are very fortunate to have a representative government, that respects individual liberties.

Our firm is sensitive to the needs of veterans with links to websites that cater to veterans’ needs.  https://www.lstamm.com/veteran-s-resources.html

In recognition of the sacrifices made by veterans, our firm offers reduced fees to many veterans seeking representation for a traffic or criminal matter.

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