Brown Law Blog

Firm Wins Coram Nobis for Immigration

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? …

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Holder Orders More Reasonable Drug Policies

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….

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A Cruel Decision by the BOP

One of the many difficulties of being incarcerated in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is that an inmate can be designated to a facility very far away from home. We have even had clients from Baltimore who were sent to California. Even though a federal judge can request a specific designation at sentencing, the decision of where to place an inmate is entirely up to the BOP.

A faraway designation is especially difficult on families, many of whom cannot afford the trip to visit a family member who is serving time. Considering air fare, rental car, and a hotel, a trip to an out-of-state prison can be expensive, particularly if the destination is in a remote area that is far from a major airport….

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An Increase in Federal Good Time Credit?

Every couple years, it seems, there is a new effort to implement a law that would allow federal inmates to earn more good-time credit, and thereby shorten their sentences. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, sponsored the latest effort, which was sent to the Judiciary Committee.

Under current law, a federal inmate receives up to 54 days off his sentence for good-time credit. This means BOP inmates serve about 85 percent of their actual sentences – a rate far higher than most state systems….

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Gun Cases Moving up to the Feds?

FEDERAL AND STATE GUN OFFENSES BALTIMORE, MARYLAND In Alston v. State, an unusual opinion that was 8 years in the making, the Maryland Court of Appeals (Chief Judge Bell) held, among other things, that a felon in possession of a handgun is not subject to the mandatory 5 years without parole — if the predicate conviction…

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2255 Win in Armed Career Criminal Case

FEDERAL DEFENSE MARYLAND / 2255 This past week the Firm won another 2255 Motion. In US v. Gerome Young, the defendant was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing he was determined to be an armed career criminal, based on three prior convictions for either a serious drug offense or…

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Federal Cuts To Slow Down Prosecutions

FEDERAL CRIMINAL DEFENSE MARYLAND It is still early in the budget crisis known as “sequestration.” But, it is expected that cuts to federal spending will directly affect the criminal justice system, particularly in federal district court. The word is, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will have a smaller budget, which means they will prosecute fewer cases….

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Firm Wins Coram Nobis in Baltimore City

Coram Nobis — Baltimore City Federal Criminal Defense Baltimore, Maryland The firm won a contested coram nobis proceeding in Baltimore City last week. Our client was facing federal prosecution as an Armed Career Criminal. This was because he had three previous convictions for either drug felonies, violent felonies, or a combination of both. As an…

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The NRA’s reach into federal judiciary nominations

FEDERAL GUN LAW In the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut, much has been made about gun control and the NRA’s obstinate role in the proliferation of firearms. But in recent weeks another concerning role of the NRA has come into focus. As Linda Greenhouse points out in the Times, the NRA has begun…

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Death Knell of Second Degree Assault as “Crime of Violence”

Federal Criminal Defense Baltimore, Maryland For years Maryland’s second degree assault statute has been a thorn in the side of criminal defendants. Although second degree assault may result from a non-violent incident, it is almost always used by federal prosecutors as a “crime of violence” to enhance federal sentences – often to extreme results. In…

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District Judge: 2nd Deg. Assault NOT a Crime of Violence

Federal Criminal Defense Baltimore, Maryland Judge Deborah Chasanow, a United States District Judge in the District of Maryland, has held that that a conviction under Maryland’s second-degree assault statute does not count as a crime of violence for purposes of a sentencing enhancement. In the case, United States v. Barrett Allen West, Judge Chasanow built upon…

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Federal Coram Nobis Granted, Removal Avoided

FEDERAL CRIMINAL DEFENSE BALTIMORE, MARYLAND In United States v. Akinsade (No. 09-7554), the Fourth Circuit took a rare step and granted coram nobis relief to a Nigerian immigrant convicted in federal court. Akinsade, who came to the U.S. legally as a child, worked as bank teller at Chevy Chase bank when he was a teenager. When he…

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Fourth Circuit finds child abuse statute does not qualify as predicate conviction for Guidelines sentencing enhancement; could have sweeping impact on second degree assault enhancements

Maryland Federal Criminal Defense In United States v. Gomez, (12-4089), the defendant, a citizen of El Salvador, was deported from the United States after pleading guilty to state child abuse charges. After reentering the U.S. without permission, the defendant was charged with illegal entry, and pleaded guilty in federal court. At sentencing, the government sought to…

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Suppression Won, Client Walks

Maryland Criminal Defense — Drugs The Firm scored a nice victory in Baltimore City Circuit Court today. Our client was charged with possession with intent to distribute CDS. He was facing a long sentence. We challenged the stop of his car, arguing that it was illegal, and attempted to suppress all of the evidence obtained…

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Fourth Circuit demands more than a police officer’s visual estimate of speeding to justify traffic stop

Maryland Federal Defense In United States v. Sowards (No. 10-4133), the defendant was stopped for speeding after a police officer visually estimated that the defendant’s vehicle was traveling 75 mph in a 70-mph zone. The officer’s assessment was uncorroborated by other evidence, such as radar equipment or pacing methods. During the traffic stop, a K-9…

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Expert Notice in 2255 Proceeding

An interesting issue recently arose in a 2255 hearing in Federal Court. The Petitioner wished to use a “Strickland expert” — that is, another lawyer who would testify as an expert in a particular area of criminal defense. Presumably, this expert would testify that trial counsel — the subject of the 2255 — was ineffective…

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Another Reason Why You Should Never Go to Court without a Lawyer

The importance of having legal representation in court cannot be overstated. Today, associate attorney Melissa Kujda was awarded a default judgment against a landlord who tried to sue one of our clients. Every aspect of the landlord’s complaint was frivolous – the landlord was seeking rent that our client already paid, and the total amount…

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Fourth Circuit Rules on Career Offender Status

In a published opinion, the Fourth Circuit found that the lower court was wrong when it counted the defendant’s prior conviction for second degree assault as a “crime of violence.” For some time, Maryland’s second degree assault statute has caused confusion in federal court. The Government inevitably argues that second degree assault must be a…

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Fourth Circuit’s Pro-Defendant Ruling: US v. Massenburg

The Fourth Circuit has long been among the most conservative, pro-Government, anti-defendant circuits in the country. That may be slowly changing, however, with the appointment of progressive judges like Andre Davis. In a recent opinion, in US v. Massenburg, Judge Davis wrote for a panel that reversed a trial court’s denial of a suppression motion….

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Double Win in White Collar Post-Conviction

After winning a state court post-conviction, and obtaining a new sentencing, a white collar client of the Law Office of C. Justin Brown was granted additional relief by a Circuit Court judge this week. The Circuit Court Judge reduced the client’s sentence to a new term that should allow the client to get home by…

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