Every phase of a criminal case is significant. And each part of the proceeding — from arrest to sentencing — must comply with applicable state law. These laws are in place to ensure that people who are accused of a crime are afforded basic constitutional rights, among other things. Under Maryland’s enhanced sentencing statute, if a person is sentenced as a repeat violent offender, he or she could be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Like most criminal statutes, the language may be subject to interpretation depending on the circumstances of a case. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to understand your rights as early as possible in the proceedings. An experienced criminal defense attorney would be able to help defend your case with full knowledge of the laws applicable to Maryland cases.
In a recent criminal case, the defendant was arrested for robbing a bank. He was previously convicted for armed robbery in 1991 and 1995 and for robbery in 2001. The State brought the case against the defendant as a “repeat violent offender.” The defendant was convicted of two counts of robbery and sentenced to serve two concurrent terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The defendant appealed, arguing (among other things) that the trial court erred in sentencing him to two life without parole sentences under the Maryland enhanced sentencing statute. He claimed that his previous robbery and armed robbery convictions are not enumerated crimes of violence under § 14-401, and thus he should not have been sentenced as a fourth-time offender.
The State argued that the defendant’s interpretation ignored the clear legislative intent behind the law. The court conducted a thorough review of the enhanced penalty statute, concluding that robbery and armed robbery have always been included in the list of violent crimes that would form the basis for imposing a more severe penalty against repeat offenders. But the defendant argued that two of his previous convictions arose under “common law” and not the statutory provisions cited by § 14-401. The court proceeded to interpret the statutory language and consulted other sources in order to discern the intent of the legislature.