1 N. Charles St., Suite 1301
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-244-5444
FAX: 410-934-3208

Brown Law Blog

The Federal Sentencing Commission has recommended a change to the Sentencing Guidelines that could shorten drug sentences by an average of 11 months. This proposal is yet another indication that lawmakers and policymakers are starting to realize that federal drug penalties are way too long and  need to be reigned in. The Commission’s recommendation is not yet in effect. It still has to pass the Commission’s approval process and get the thumbs up from Congress

Read More

I get asked the question all the time. Why do you represent criminal defendants? Sometimes I ask myself. But this is why. I have sat in prison visiting booths with inmates serving life sentences whom I believed were innocent. I have stood side by side with guilty defendants who were better human beings than the people judging them. I have seen men plead guilty to crimes they did not commit – and face very long

Read More

A recent report by Human Rights Watch underscores an obvious fact of federal drug prosecutions: the Government uses the threat of sentencing enhancements to all but force criminal defendants to plead guilty. As a result, 97 percent of federal drug cases result in guilty pleas. By statute, criminal defendants receive extreme mandatory enhancements in some drug cases if they already have drug convictions. At certain drug quantities, a person with two prior drug convictions can

Read More

One of the great injustices of the Maryland state bail system is that it discriminates against the poor. People who are charged with crimes are often held on high bails that they cannot possibly afford. This can happen for even relatively minor criminal allegations. The only way they can get out is by paying a bail bondsman, who may charge an exorbitantly high interest rate. Oftentimes, judges and commissioners, when setting bails, err on the

Read More

The war on marijuana in the U.S. is waning. A recent Gallup poll reveals that more than half of Americans – 58% – agree that now is the time to legalize marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use for adults and, this past September, the DOJ declared that it will not impede the implementation of those laws. The support for medical marijuana is also rapidly gaining momentum. Today,

Read More

Second degree assault in Maryland can no longer be counted as a crime of violence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), according to a Fourth Circuit opinion issued today by a unanimous panel, United States v. Thomas Royal. This ruling has been a long time in the making, but it is good to see that the issue has finally been laid to rest.

The bottom line is that far fewer people will be categorized as Armed Career Criminals, which saves these people from draconian 15-year mandatory sentences. In addition, the ruling is very likely to apply to career offender designations. We still do not know how this will play out for people who have already been sentenced to enhanced sentences based on a second-degree assault conviction. But rest assured we will be litigating this in the very near future.

Read More

Another client of the Firm was re-sentenced after a successful 2255 motion. In United States v. Randolph Wells, a federal district judge granted post-conviction relief to our client based on an erroneous calculation of his criminal history. The error was costly — it made Wells a “career offender” and subjected him to a sentence of 188 months.

In Wells’ motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, we argued that an old conviction for battery should not have counted as a predicate offense for purposes of a career offender designation. The judge agreed. After granted the 2255 motion, he called Wells back to court for re-sentencing. This time sentencing went better. Wells received a sentence reduction of 108 months. Congratulations Mr. Wells!

Read More

Today was a good day for one of our clients. After we won post-conviction relief for him — via 28 U.S.C. § 2255 — a federal Judge re-sentenced our client today, giving him back seven years of his life. In U.S. v. Gerome Young, the defendant had initially been sentenced as an Armed Career Criminal. This was because it was thought that he had three prior convictions that counted as Armed Career Criminal predicates. It was later discovered, however, that one of the convictions did not actually count. After the 2255 petition was granted, the Court agreed to re-sentence Young. Without an Armed Career Criminal designation, the sentence, by law, had to be significantly shorter.

Congratulations Mr. Young!

Read More

The Firm won another coram nobis petition this week — this time for a Cuban immigrant who was facing collateral consequences from an old second-degree assault conviction in Baltimore City. This is the second consecutive coram nobis petition we have won in Baltimore City.

In this case, we argued that the old conviction should be thrown out because it was obtained in violation of our client’s Sixth Amendment right to be represented by a lawyer in a criminal trial. In fact, the Petitioner was forced to represent himself at a district court trial — even though he did not speak English and he was not familiar with our legal system. As a result of this conviction, he was subject to a removal order and he was unable to leave the U.S. to visit his family — for fear that if he left he would not be able to return.

How did we win it?

Read More

This week U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a change in policy that could offer some benefit to people charged with federal drug crimes. Make no mistake, these are policy directives only and not federal law – and their impact is likely to be minimal. In fact, I’m not even sure that we will see a real change. Nonetheless, it is at least a start in reforming our unfair, arbitrary, expensive, and self-defeating federal drug laws. Here is what Holder said he would do:

* Direct US Attorneys to develop local strategies for determining “when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not.” This may mean that local prosecutors should use more discretion when deciding which cases to actually charge federally.

Read More