There are claims that members of Maryland’s law enforcement community target out-of-state license plates of legal gun owners. Once they input a license plate number, they find out if you have a gun permit or conceal carry permit in your home state and if you do they will find a reason to pull you over and search your vehicle. If they find your gun, you can and probably will be arrested and the gun confiscated.
That’s what happened a year ago to John Filippidis of Florida. He and his family were driving through Maryland when he was pulled over by a Maryland Transportation Authority Police officer. Supposedly he was pulled over for speeding, but that wasn’t the real reason. Within moments of being stopped on busy Interstate 95, several other police cars arrived. His wife was placed in one police car, and his kids in another. The office who pulled him over wanted to know if he had his Kel-Tec .38 semi-automatic handgun with him in the car. He told the officer no, but they conducted a thorough search anyway. When they found no trace of the gun or ammunition, they let the family go and only issued Filippidis a warning for speeding.
The only way they could have known about his handgun was when they ran his Florida license plates. Filippidis has a legal handgun permit to own the gun in Florida but Maryland does not recognized legal permits issued by other states. What happened to him got national attention and in interview with The Washington Times, Filippidis said:
“My wife’s hysterical, shaking and crying. I don’t have a criminal record. I own a business. I’m a family man, and I tried to explain that to [the officer]. But he had a bad attitude, didn’t want to hear my story. He just wanted to find that gun and take me away from my family. That was his goal, but he couldn’t do it, because I didn’t have a gun, like I told him.”
Even with all of the negative publicity they received about this incident, the MDTA said that what happened to Filippidis was perfectly legal as determined by an internal review. Since declaring their illegal searching to be legal, the MDTA have continued to target out-of-state cars whose owners have legal gun or conceal carry permits in their home states.
The very same officer that stopped Filippidis also stopped Florida resident John Tonnesen IV from Lake Worth. When they searched his work truck the officer found his .45 caliber Ruger which led to Tonnesen’s arrest. He told the media:
“It was unloaded and stuffed into a bag far from me. There’s scanners in Maryland that scan every tag, and Florida is one of their target vehicles. They’ll find whatever reason they can to pull you over.”
Paul Kramer, a criminal defense attorney in Baltimore also used to be a deputy US attorney for Maryland and is very familiar with the state’s strict gun laws. He says this kind of thing happens more often than not. One of his clients was a security officer from Pennsylvania who was pulled over speeding. When police asked him about his gun, he said he did have it and when they saw it, he was arrested for having the gun and the bullets in the same locked container. Maryland law requires that a gun being transported in the state must be in a locked container and all ammunition must be in a separate container. Kramer commented:
“You think that Maryland would honor legitimate people with guns rather than charging people who are legitimately carrying but doing it incorrectly. I would think that the police would want to take the time to go after those people who don’t have a legitimate right to have a gun rather than locking up people who have a valid license.”
“An otherwise law-abiding citizen can get arrested here. It’s just a waste of officer time and resources. The police should let those people go.”
After Filippidis went public with his ordeal, dozens of other out-of-state gun owners have shared similar experiences while driving in Maryland. So please take this as a warning to all legal gun owners who plan on traveling to or through the state of Maryland. Be aware that you just may be pulled over for some minor traffic violation and then have your person and car searched for your gun(s). My best advice is to avoid Maryland at all cost. If you have family there, invite them to visit you instead you going to visit them.