Baltimore man coerced into confession, guilty pleas vacated
In 2007, Baltimore police conducted a warranted search of a local man’s home. Their investigation turned up a handgun, crack cocaine and other drug paraphernalia. Based on this evidence, the man was arrested and later pled guilty to a multiple counts of drug charges.
Three years after this case began, it was determined that the warrant to conduct the search was obtained on false pretenses. An agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration lied about getting testimony from an informant, which was the basis for approving the search warrant. When this revelation surfaced, the convicted man sought to appeal his case and retract his guilty pleas.
Recently, a Baltimore circuit court ruled that the man was “effectively coerced” into pleading guilty, which overturned the conviction and allowed him to retract his earlier plea. Although the man received legal counsel, the advice was based almost entirely on illegally seized evidence.
Had it been known that the validity of the drug evidence taken from the man’s home likely wouldn’t stand in court, he probably would have approached his case differently. As a result of the police misconduct, the man will now have the ability to enter a new plea.
This case shows the importance of fairness at all stages of the criminal process. The criminal justice system is based on a foundation of respect for civil rights, which weren’t upheld in this instance. When facing drug charges, no matter how serious, it’s crucial to make sure that evidence is collected in a way that’s consistent with the law.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Cop’s Lies Cost Government on Appeal,” Dan McCue, April 3, 2013
Our firm has helped Baltimore residents work through difficult criminal cases. To find out more, please visit our Maryland drug crime defense page.