The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the “double jeopardy clause,” protects a person charged with a crime against multiple punishments for the same offense. Courts are expected to rule on issues that come before them with an eye to ensuring that a criminal defendant’s Constitutional rights are sufficiently protected. The punishment phase of a criminal trial takes place during sentencing. One way to protect against double jeopardy is through the “merger” of sentences. Like most phases of a criminal trial, there are rules and legal requirements governing the possibility of merging sentences. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal attorney as soon as possible.
In a recent case emerging from Maryland’s highest court, the State appealed the court of appeals’ decision to merge a defendant’s sentences for all predicate felony convictions during the sentencing phase of a felony murder conviction. Here, the State alleged that the defendant (and three others) kidnapped another person, placed him in a vehicle, and tried to get money from him. The State further alleged that one of the four people shot and killed the victim when he attempted to escape. The four were charged with multiple crimes, including first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence or felony, and unlawfully carrying, wearing, or transporting a handgun.