A Maryland Woman Obtains a Favorable Court of Special Appeals Ruling More than a Decade After Her Guilty Plea

There are many ways that effective criminal defense counsel can help you. Obviously, there’s your criminal trial. However, even afterward, there are ways of seeking to ensure you get justice. Sometimes, you may even be able to obtain relief more than a decade after your case ended. In some situations, there are appeals. Other times, appeals aren’t an option and other legal tools are required. The key for you is retaining an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney who knows how best to utilize the system for you.

K.S. was an example of a criminal defendant in need of justice. In 2002, she pled guilty to forgery and identity theft. After that guilty plea, all of the defendant’s jail time was suspended. She made full restitution to her victims and had “no further contact with the criminal justice system.”

In 2015, K.S. was back in court. This time, she was not a defendant accused of a crime. Instead, she was seeking to have changes made to her conviction. You may be thinking at this point, what can she do 13 years after she pled guilty? The reality is that, while the options are limited, there are certain tools available, even under those circumstances.

K.S.’s 2015 action was one where she sought something called a “writ of coram nobis.” Coram nobis is Latin for “error before us.” In Maryland, in order for the court to be able to give you relief on this basis, you have to show three things: (1) that the grounds for your filing was something of “constitutional, jurisdictional, or fundamental character”; (2) that you are continuing to endure “significant collateral consequences” from your conviction; and (3) that this “coram nobis” option is the only avenue left available to you, meaning that the law had closed other doors like a direct appeal or a motion asking the trial judge to order post-conviction relief.

In a sense, you actually have to clear four demonstration hurdles. In addition to the previous three, you have to demonstrate that the court must rule in your favor in to “achieve justice.”

As for how this process works in practice, K.S.’s case is a good illustration. She showed that she never got adequate information about the consequences of pleading guilty, so that was a constitutional issue and cleared the first hurdle. The deadline for filing an appeal had passed, so she had proof of the third item on the list.

The key to this case was answering the question, “what is a significant collateral consequence?” Does an inability to get a job in your career field count? According to the Court of Special Appeals, the answer in K.S.’s circumstance was yes.

K.S. was working as a mortgage originator when, in 2005, the legislature passed a law requiring that mortgage originators have licenses. The law also said that people who had convictions for felony crimes involving “fraud, dishonesty, breach of trust, or money laundering” were barred from being licensed. Basically, K.S.’s 2002 guilty plea left her unable to get a license and, therefore, unemployable in her chosen profession. That consequence was, in the court’s view, significant and was not known by K.S. when she entered her plea in 2002. Based on that, the appeals court entered a ruling in K.S.’s favor.

K.S. was able to get relief 13+ years after she entered her guilty plea. While you don’t need to remember all the legal Latin from K.S.’s case, you should take away from this item that there is often a greater array of legal options available than you, as a layperson, might believe. A skilled attorney can help you match Maryland’s options to the specifics of your circumstance. For the advice and counsel you need, reach out to knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been diligently representing the accused in Maryland for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

Contact Information