How does the Focus and Purpose of the Juvenile Justice System Compare to that of the Criminal Justice System in Maryland?

The juvenile justice system in Maryland covers youth under the age of 18 who are accused of acts that are criminal in nature and would be charged criminally if committed by an adult. The focus and purpose of the juvenile system, and the outcomes of cases, vary from that of the adult system. Just because a youth is facing a petition through the juvenile court system and not through the adult criminal justice system does not mean that the parents, family, or child should not take this matter seriously. If you or someone in your family is facing a petition in the juvenile courts, it can be of great assistance to contact an attorney familiar with representing youths in these matters.

Focus of the Juvenile Justice System

The juvenile system of justice in Maryland, like in other jurisdictions, is concerned with the well-being, supervision, and rehabilitation of the child. The goal is not to specifically punish children who are found to be delinquent, but to protect society, restore victims, and put the child on a course to improve behaviors going forward in life. The juvenile justice system attempts to balance between the interests of the child and the interests of society when considering how to treat delinquent youth.

How does the stated purpose of the Juvenile Justice System differ from the Criminal Justice System?
Like the juvenile justice system the criminal justice system is also concerned with rehabilitation of offenders. However the criminal system is mostly focused on punishment and retribution, as the accused are adults and are held at a higher level of accountability than youths. The juvenile justice system seeks to avoid harsh punishment when possible and prefers giving youths a chance to improve, develop, and grow to become rehabilitated once adults.

Outcomes in the Juvenile Justice System

Because the stated purpose of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation and reformation, the resulting outcome from a delinquent finding can be much more intensive than what an adult might face if convicted of the identical offense in criminal court. For instance, a juvenile who is found delinquent may be ordered to be under constant supervision by the Department of Juvenile Services, have grades, attendance, and behavior in school monitored, may be subject to curfews or GPS monitoring, have to complete community service, and complete restitution in a case. While the juvenile may avoid having to spend time in a detention center these are still severe consequences curtailing that child’s freedom.

Legality of a Traffic Stop for Having a Covered License Plate in Maryland

What is the law on license plate covers in Maryland?
Maryland, like all states, has an interest in having all vehicles on the road have license plates clearly visible and legible. If a license plate number is covered, obscured, blocked, or altered this is a problem for tag readers (at toll booths, for instance) and causes a problem if that vehicle is involved in a hit and run or other crime and no one can properly identify the vehicle.

For that reason Maryland has a law for “failure to maintain legible registration plate free from covers.” This law is codified in Transportation Article § 13-411(c)(1) and states that plates must be “maintained free from foreign materials, including registration plate covers as defined in § 13-411.1 of this subtitle, and in a condition to be clearly legible.”

What exactly does that prohibit?
What type of covers are forbidden by this law? T.A. § 13-411.1 defines registration plate covers as any “tinted, colored, painted, marked, clear, or illuminated object” that covers the characters of the registration plate or causes the characters to be distorted in an image taken of the tag. This obviously forbids any cover that goes directly over the license plate, including one that is plastic, clear, and see through. Under the law these are even illegal to sell in Maryland.

But what about license plate covers/frames that only go around the border of the registration plate? A lot of car dealerships leave these on the back plates as free advertising for the dealership and these can be purchased from any college or university gift shop promoting the school. Are these also illegal? The statute is unfortunately not clear, but I do not believe that the statute intended to apply to these frames. If the frame covers up the month or year of the registration in the upper right or left corner then that would be a problem. If it covered up the name of the state at the top, I would argue that as long as it is evident what state the plate is then there is also no problem and that is an illegal traffic stop. Likewise if the frame only covered up some text at the bottom of the license plate I would argue that also is not prohibited in the statute.

What should I do if I’m charged with a traffic citation or criminal offense because of a stop for failure to maintain legible plate free from covers?
Definitely consult with an attorney as soon as possible! Do not just accept a criminal charge or traffic citation for this just because you were charged. Because there is no clear-cut case law on this issue, this often must be fought and argued in court at a suppression motion or motion to dismiss. I have won traffic and drug cases for my clients where there was an initial stop by the police based on the allegation that the license plate was unlawfully covered. If this type of thing has happened to you or a relative or loved one, call our office today to speak with attorney Chris Peretti at 301-875-3472. Our office has the experience and knows how to beat these cases in court.

Can a Police Officer Stop Someone for an Obtructed Windshield in Maryland?

Maryland Traffic Stop for Something Hanging From the Rear-view Mirror
So, what exactly is the law for having a hang-tag, air freshener, fuzzy dice (does anyone have these anymore?), graduation tassel, or any other object hanging from a vehicle’s rear view mirror? Maryland law prohibiting obstruction of a windshield, Transportation Article 21-1104(c), states that “a person may not drive a vehicle on a highway with any object, material, or obstruction so located in or on the vehicle as to interfere with the clear view of the driver through the windshield.”

Does this mean that any object, no matter what, hanging from the rear-view mirror is grounds for a police officer issuing a traffic stop/citation in Maryland? No, that’s not it. The law is unclear regarding whether anything can be the basis for the stop. The law states that the object must “interfere with the clear view” of the driver. Obviously, this is a matter of interpretation–certain objects, based on their size, color, reflective properties, etc. may be more distracting and cause an interference with the clear view of the driver, while other objects just may be too small or unassuming to pose any sort of threat of interference. The law is unsettled and unclear as to what constitutes an obstruction and what doesn’t.

So, if the law is unclear, what does that mean I should do in the future?
Well, to be totally safe you should not drive with anything hanging from the rear-view mirror. If you need to have a handicapped tag or parking tag be sure to take it off while you are driving and put it on when you are parked. Otherwise you are running the risk of a police officer pulling you over and issuing a citation based on his or her interpretation of the law (or worse, if there is contraband in the car). To absolutely be on the safe side, for now you do not want to have anything hanging.

If I have already been stopped and this is the basis for a citation or criminal charge, can I fight this?
Absolutely! If this is just a citation you should consult an attorney and see if it is worth fighting the citation. If you are charged with a criminal offense (possession of drugs, gun, etc.) based on a traffic stop for an obstructed windshield, you should contact a criminal defense attorney IMMEDIATELY! I have fought and won traffic cases and gotten drugs suppressed for my clients in the past because of the uncertainty of the law and the ability to argue that the law is ambiguous and does not cover the specific object hanging from the rear-view mirror. To contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti for a free consultation regarding your obstructed windshield case, call 301-875-3472.

Get a Free Online Price Quote for Your Maryland or DC Criminal or Traffic Case!

The firm’s website has just added a new feature which will enable potential clients to simply submit their case information and receive, within a few hours, a no-cost/no-obligation personalized price quote sent to their email inbox from attorney Chris Peretti.

We understand that some folks are simply too busy and don’t have the time to make a phone call or schedule an office appointment. Or they may have no idea how much a lawyer costs and just want a quick idea of what they can expect to spend. Hopefully this new feature can help some of these people. This applies to any criminal defense or traffic defense case in any county of Maryland or the District of Columbia. For criminal/traffic cases the price quote will be a flat/fixed fee, which encompasses all work done for the case, all court dates, etc. for the case from start to finish.

To use this new feature to receive a price quote, click on the Price Quote tab at the top of the page, or follow the link below:
Free Online Price Quote for Maryland/DC Criminal or Traffic Defense Case

Chris Peretti as a Guest on Lonny The Street Lawyer: Winning a Case Even Though The Client Committed the Crime

I had the pleasure recently of being a guest on Lonny The Street Lawyer. LTSL is a weekly radio program hosted by attorney Lonny Bramzon who uses the show to provide listeners a fresh view from a insider–an attorney working in the trenches–on what is happening out on the streets locally and in the courthouse.

The focus of our show was on using motions to suppress to win a case even if the client committed the crime. Lonny and I talked a bit about motions to suppress generally, with some specifics on suppressing statements and excluding physical evidence. The goal was to make the public aware that these procedures exist and how they can play out in court and to just generally realize that yes, even though someone may have “done the crime” there is still a possibility that evidence could be suppressed so as to avoid a conviction. It was an enjoyable experience and I hope to be invited back on the show again in the near future. You can catch Lonny the Street Lawyer weekly on Thursdays from 8-9PM on WLVS online at www.listenvisionlive.com.

Do the Police Have to Read Someone Their “Miranda Rights” Before an Arrest?

Here is a general set of facts similar to a type of arrest is seen all too frequently in Maryland:

The police pull someone over for some kind of traffic stop–speeding, rolling a stop sign, having expired registration tags, etc. The officer comes into contact with the driver, states that he smells marijuana, and orders him of the car. Police search the vehicle and find a bag of weed in the center console. Officer then puts the driver in cuffs and arrests him.

At no point during this whole ordeal did any officer ever read the driver his Miranda Rights! Does that mean the possession of marijuana case gets thrown out? That the charge is going to be automatically dismissed?

No. Miranda Rights apply to statements made by the accused, NOT to physical evidence obtained by the police! If there are no statements made by the arrested, the fact that Miranda Rights were never read is not going to have any impact at all on the evidence in the case or the validity of the arrest.

In circumstances such as these where the police find contraband in close proximity to the arrested–in a car, in their jacket pocket, etc.–they may not ask any questions or seek to obtain any statements from the arrested. The police likely think they have enough evidence, and with probable cause to arrest someone will just charge them and call it a day. In this case there are no incriminating statements made such as “the marijuana is mine” that would need to be suppressed. The fact that Miranda Rights were not read to the arrested is totally irrelevant and immaterial to the case under these circumstances without any statements being made. The marijuana may still be used as evidence (provided, of course, that the search was constitutional!) and the police do not have to read the arrested their Miranda Rights.

What is the Potential Outcome for a Possession of Marijuana Citation Less Than 10 Grams in Maryland?

What the actual outcome will be for a Possession of Marijuana Less Than 10 Grams citation varies depending on a number of factors, but there are many potential outcomes. Some of the most common are:

1. Nolle Prosequi / Charge dropped
A skillful lawyer can put your case in a position to have the charge dropped for a number of reasons. For instance, the State was not prepared for trial with their witnesses or the drugs were not properly analyzed.

2. Stet or Nolle Prosequi for a Drug Diversion Program / Community Service
Sometimes the best thing to do is take a deal where you do something (drug diversion program, community service, etc.) in exchange for the charges being dropped. Often this may be the best deal that an attorney can negotiate for you in the case.

3. Probation / Fine
The maximum penalty for this offense is 90 days in jail, but that is rarely the actual outcome. Even on a conviction (or a Probation Before Judgment) the judge may only place the Defendant on supervised or unsupervised probation or impose a fine for a first conviction.

4. Jail
Cannot be longer than 90 days in jail, but if someone has one or more prior convictions, and depending on the jurisdiction, the State may be seeking jail time. While the sentence is up to the judge, not the prosecutor, a judge could send a message by imposing some period of jail–whether that be a weekend, a week, a month, or the maximum time.

It is imperative to obtain an attorney in any situation where being locked up is a possibility! There are other possible outcomes than jail time for possession of a small amount of marijuana in Maryland, and having an attorney can not only keep you out of jail but can a lot of times keep your record clear. Feel free to contact attorney Chris Peretti at 301-875-3472 for a free consultation. I routinely defend folks charged with possession of marijuana and know all the ins and outs of the process, how to identify the best defenses, and how to take the specific approach in your case to get you the best result possible.

What factors determine what will happen to my Possession of Less than 10 Grams Citation in Maryland? How can I get the best result?

What is the expected result for someone who has received a citation for possession of marijuana less than 10 grams in Maryland? Rarely does someone get the maximum penalty for this type of offense, but the result depends on a number of factors.

1. Having an Attorney v. Representing Yourself
No doubt about it, having an attorney is a factor as to the outcome of a case like this. An experienced attorney can work a case that otherwise would be jail time to probation, from a conviction to a probation before judgment, or from a plea to a dismissal, acquittal, or diversion outcome.

2. County/Jurisdiction
Some areas of Maryland, namely the urban counties around DC and Baltimore, have a more forgiving and lenient attitude towards personal marijuana possession. In these areas you may be more likely to avoid jail time especially compared to counties in the northwest or eastern shore of Maryland.

3. Steps to Address the Situation
Whether it be a drug class, drug treatment, or community service–having taken some steps to better yourself or your community or address any issues that you may have will go a long way towards getting a better result in the case.

4. Background
Is this a first offense? If so, there’s a much better chance of avoiding the most serious repercussions for this citation. If someone has multiple offenses, then there is a definite chance of going to jail for some time. Someone with a job, strong community participation, etc. is also going to be in a better position to avoid jail time.

It is difficult to say exactly what will happen to someone accused of a possession of marijuana without getting a complete understanding of the situation, including the facts of the case, the location of the case and the background of the individual who is accused. Feel free to contact Attorney Chris Peretti at 301-875-3472 for a free consultation. It is important to speak with a lawyer who handles these types of offenses, knows how this system works, and can fight to get you the best result out of your case. I can explain to you the process and put you in the best position to avoid jail time, minimize costs, and keep this kind of charge off your criminal record if possible.