Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz prevails in Second-Degree Assault Case
At Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C., we take a lot
of pride in trying cases. From time to
time we end up trying a case that on its face seems like it should be pled
out. Last month we successfully tried
such a case and obtained an acquittal for a client.
On its face the case appeared to be a slam dunk
conviction for the state. The defendant
and the alleged victim, who lived together, had been arguing throughout the
day. The victim returned home in the
evening and was texting with the defendant from another room in the house. The texting led to an argument in the home
and the defendant “walked aggressively” toward the victim, yelling at her. As the defendant approached the victim, the
victim was frightened and pushed him away.
The victim then struck the defendant again before the defendant pushed
back. The state produced multiple photos
of the victim showing injuries to her face.
On cross examination, the victim in the case admitted
that the defendant was in another room grabbing boxes when she entered and
confronted him. She admitted that she basically shoved a phone in his
face. Finally, the state called the
responding police officer as a witness.
Although the officer had no personal knowledge of the facts of the
assault, he did testify that the victim appeared to have sustained an injury
when he saw her on the following day.
Why did we try this case?
When we evaluated the case, there were some things that simply didn’t
add up. Our client advised us that just
prior to the assault he was trying to remove some of his belongings from the
home. While he was in the process of
doing this, the victim entered the room and struck him in the face with her
phone. He said he pushed her away. As he pushed her away, she fell and hit her
face. The victim had no marks on her at
that time. There was another person who
was present at the time that the state did not call as a witness in their case,
but that we did. This other witness
testified that the defendant did not lay a hand on the victim until she
assaulted the defendant. At that point
the defendant pushed her back and she then fell over some items that were on
the floor and may have hit her face on the bunk beds.
We called our client’s young son as a witness for the defense.
Earlier in her testimony, the victim had testified that the defendant
had thrown a soccer ball at her earlier on the day of the assault. Our client’s son had witnessed the incident
and testified that he observed the defendant throw the ball into the ground,
not at the victim. This significantly
impacted the credibility of the victim in my opinion. This witness was also in the house at the
time of the alleged assault. Although he
did not see what transpired between the defendant and the victim, he testified
concerning the appearance of the victim immediately after the assault. Our witness testified that the victim did not
appeared to be injured at that time.
We also called our client to testify as to his version of
the events. The defendant testified that he pushed the victim away only in self
defense and that the victim fell and tripped at that time, resulting in
apparent injury to her. As indicated
previously the judge ruled in favor of the defendant, finding him not guilty of
the alleged assault.
In criminal cases in
Maryland and elsewhere, the state has the burden of proof. That is to say that the defendant is presumed
to be innocent and that presumption is not overcome unless the judge or jury is
convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence presented shows the
defendant is guilty. The defendant is
not required to prove his or her innocence.
In this case we argued that our client was not guilty because he acted in self-defense. When self-defense is presented, the state has
the burden of proving that self-defense does not apply. There are four factors or elements that must
be present for the self-defense defense to apply. The state must prove that any one or more of
the factors are absent in order to win the case.
The four factors for self defense are:
1. The accused must have had reasonable grounds to believe himself in apparent imminent or immediate danger
of bodily harm from his assailant or potential assailant.
2. The accused must have in
fact believed himself in danger.
3. The accused claiming the
right of self-defense must not have been the aggressor or provoked the conduct;
4. The force must not have
been unreasonable and excessive; that is the force must not have been more
force than the exigency demanded.
When self-defense is presented, the defendant must
produce some evidence to support each element.
At that point, the burden shifts to the state to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense. The state can do this, by proving that at
least one of the factors listed above is absent.
If you have been charged with a crime, you want an
attorney who is going to carefully evaluate the evidence and explore all
options for you. Earlier in my career, I
would have likely advised my client to enter a plea in this case. In this case, the evidence didn’t add up and
as a result we were able to obtain an verdict of not guilty. This allowed our client to obtain an
expungement of the charges. It also
allowed our client not to be burdened with the hassle of being on probation or
having to attend anger-management classes, not to mention that our client did
not go to jail.
information contained on this page is provided as general information and does
not constitute legal advice. An attorney
can provide you with legal advice only after learning the specific facts of
your situation. The experienced
attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you are
charged with assault or any other crime in the State of Maryland. We’d be happy to sit down with you and
carefully evaluate your case and provide appropriate advice. There is never a consultation fee for
criminal defense consultations.
The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:
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