More than a Decade Ahead of my Time

Gary S Bernstein

| Sep 17, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

I can’t remember exactly but it was in 2012-2013 when I had a bad Domestic Violence Assault in Harford County.  I prayed a jury trial and the case was set for trial.  The couple were not married and had been on and off again.  My client who was in jail called me and suggested he and the girlfriend get married so she could assert the Marital Privilege. My initial reaction was that this smacked of a deliberate obstruction of justice and that they both could be charged with that. When the case came for trial I was able to work it out for probation.  I have thought about my decision over the years.  Well last week the Court of Appeals had before it the EXACT case.  The defendant was CONVICTED of Obstruction of Justice for doing exactly what I wouldn’t let my client do.  The issue which would have been identical to my case was that if it is a sham marriage for the sole purpose of allowing the girlfriend-now wife- to raise the marital privilege and not testify is that Obstruction of Justice.  I thought it was back then and the Court of Appeals sounded like they might agree.

I think my client would have charged with that because of his assaultive history and the State hated him.  He accepted a probably undeserved probation and agreed to remain in alcohol treatment and anger management.  If convicted of Obstruction of Justice, and no way a Harford County judge was going to dismiss that charge and not let the jury decide, he would have been killed at sentencing.  It “helps” to not only know the law but to understand it as well.