One of my happiest days as a lawyer - not most profitable financially, but happiest - occurred 6 months ago in District Court in Montgomery County, MD. A pro se defendant was being prosecuted for alleged driving while suspended case which, in MD, is theoretically jailable and as charged was perhaps really jailable. The prosecutor was getting a great deal of hearsay and self-incriminating material into evidence from the officer, but made a fatal mistake in failing to get the officer to ID the location of the offense, which under MD’s constitution and basic principles of due process should kill the case.
I was in court having pled out my own paying client’s case on very favorable terms, and was awaiting a dispo[sition] sheet from the burdened clerk. Seeing this unfair beat down going on while waiting, I stood up at the end of the State’s case and requested of the bench that I be appointed as pro bono counsel for the Defendant. The judge looked mildly surprised, then said it was fine if the defendant was fine with it, which he was. I shook the defendant’s hand, told him to say NOTHING in his defense and let me make a motion.
The court then dismissed the case on my defense motion for acquittal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, since location is jurisdictional and not mere venue in MD criminal cases. I sat down with the thanks of the Court and to the smiles and nods of a room full of my sisters and brothers in the Bar. I suspect that the judge might have dismissed the case on her own, but who knows? Glad my client didn’t find out.
For non-lawyer types: