Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.
State Criminal Code provides a police officer the ability to identify the laws violated and apply the proper criminal charges under state law. When you hear politicians say that America is a nation of laws, they are not overstating the obvious. There are over 4000 Federal laws and even more state and local laws. Fortunately, as a police officer, you’ll confine your attention to the laws enacted by your state’s legislature and local government ordinances.
Aside from your state criminal code, you’ll be responsible for enforcing your state’s transportation code’s vehicle laws which covers everything from rules of the road to accidents and accident reports.
When I decided to become a police officer, I would have had to find a law library to get a head start on studying criminal and transportation codes. Today, you need only go to the Internet to view your state’s legislative website or use a site like FindLaw.com to easily query your state criminal code and transportation code.
Police Academy State Criminal Code Instruction
Your police academy training will familiarize you with your state criminal code involving crimes against persons and crimes against property. For example, crimes against persons include murder, rape, assault, and crimes against property include burglary, theft, and destruction of property. As you go through the various codes and become more and more familiar with them, you’ll become increasingly prepared to apply those codes to incidents that you’ll encounter in the field.
When it comes to charging a suspect, it may, or may not, be your decision to determine the statute to be applied. In one scenario, you’ll choose the charge supported by your statement of probable cause.
In another scenario, you’ll submit your statement of probable cause, and a reviewing court official will determine the charging statute. Regardless of the initial procedure, your probable cause will be reviewed in a timely manner by a court official.
Let’s do a scenario applying your state criminal code. You’re a police officer in Maryland. You’re on foot patrol when you observe a suspect pointing a handgun at a man and woman standing on the sidewalk. You watch as the suspect points the handgun back and forth between the two victims. You see both victims handing the suspect money and cell phones. Once in possession of the victims’ property, the suspect puts the handgun in his waistband and walks away in your direction.
You confront the suspect with your service pistol drawn and pointed at the suspect. The suspect follows your commands without incident, and you arrest the suspect. If only all arrests were this easy.
What did you just observe in this scenario? You saw the suspect rob two victims at gunpoint taking money and cell phones from both victims. You saw the suspect wear and carry a handgun and use that handgun in the commission of a crime.
The charges you place against the suspect will be in relation only to the two victims since the suspect followed your commands. The suspect did not assault or attempt to assault you. The suspect did not offer any resistance to your arrest. In this scenario, the following charges would be applicable under the Maryland State Criminal Code:
3-403. Robbery with dangerous weapon
Prohibited (a) A person may not commit or attempt to commit robbery under 3-402 of this subtitle: (1) with a dangerous weapon; or (2) by displaying a written instrument claiming that the person has possession of a dangerous weapon.
Penalty (b) A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 20 years. 3-202. Assault in the first degree 4-204. Use of firearm in commission of crime 4-203. Wearing, carrying, or transporting handgun
In the beginning, working with your state criminal code can be a little overwhelming. However, things will get easier once you become comfortable with understanding the codes and their application. Your department will have a booking and charging procedure with which you’ll quickly become acclimated. The time and effort required from you will depend on the level of sophistication of the procedures. If your booking and charging documents are fully computerized, your task will be made easier especially where duplication is required.
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