Articles Posted in Sentencing

Criminal law in Maryland allows the state to punish people convicted of crimes in several ways, including incarceration, fines, and restitution. Just like all other aspects of criminal law and punishment, there are rules about when and how the state can order restitution. If those rules aren’t followed, the restitution order isn’t valid. Whether you’re dealing with a jail sentence, a fine, or a restitution order, a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense lawyer can help you take the proper action if the state has failed to follow the rules in your case.

C.P. was a man who pleaded guilty to two counts of assault in 2008 as part of a plea agreement. The court sentenced him to a period of active incarceration plus five years probation. Additionally, the court noted that, as a condition of probation, the state would propose an order for restitution.

The state released C.P. in June 2015, which also represented the start of his five-year period of probation. Those five years came and went and the man’s probation ended on June 19, 2020. In early February 2021 — seven and one-half months later — the state submitted a proposed order of restitution. The following October, the trial court entered an order demanding that C.P. pay $6,116 in restitution.

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There are so many reasons why representation from a skillful Maryland criminal defense attorney is worthwhile. One of those reasons is that there are countless areas of the law that are well-known to criminal defense attorneys, but largely unknown outside those circles. By having a knowledgeable attorney on your side, you can have the full benefit of all of the law, and make sure that your rights are protected to the maximum.

One of those areas of the law is “merger.” Even people who have a little bit of knowledge of the law probably think that the law of “merger” refers simply to the process of two business entities combining to form one, larger business. In Maryland though, “merger” has an important meaning in criminal law and, as one case recently demonstrated, it can make a massive difference in the amount of time you serve.

First, here’s a little background about criminal sentences. Say you’ve been put on trial for several crimes. The jury hears the evidence and acquits you of some charges, but convicts you on two crimes. The judge sentences you to serve two years for Crime A and 10 years for Crime B, and also declares that the sentences shall run “consecutively.” That means that your total time of imprisonment is the one sentence plus the sentence for the second crime. In other words, 12 years. (With “concurrent sentences,” the total imprisonment would’ve been 10 years.)

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In any criminal case, there are varying forms of success. Obviously, the primary target the defendant seeks is an acquittal. However, even if the result of a trial is a conviction, there are still battles to be won, such as ensuring that your case does not result in you receiving a sentence that is illegally severe. Whether you are at the point of battling for an acquittal or battling for a fair sentence, you need an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney who knows how to fight for you.

The case of K.V. shows how important this can be. K.V. was a man on trial for multiple felonies based upon events that occurred when K.V. was 17 years of age. Allegedly, K.V. was a member of a group that carjacked a 26-year-old man in Baltimore. K.V. was the member who took the wheel of the stolen car. With K.V. behind the wheel, others took the vehicle owner and put him in the car’s trunk, where they reportedly shot him five times. Later, the group set the car on fire.

Of the numerous criminal charges that K.V. faced, two were kidnapping and armed carjacking. The accused was eventually found guilty on all charges and the trial judge issued separate sentences for each of the crimes involved.

In a criminal case, it is important to have skilled Maryland defense counsel on your side to help you make sure that you’ve advanced all available arguments regarding errors made by the prosecution and/or by the trial court in your case. Sometimes, the best possible outcome, if you’ve been convicted, is a reversal of that conviction. In other cases, the evidence is just too extensive, and a reduction of your sentence is the best possible result. Even if you can’t get a reversal of your conviction, that does not mean that your case is not still worth fighting for – it is. Sometimes, a successful argument seeking a reduction in a sentence may cut many, many years off the total time you might have otherwise spent incarcerated.

As an example of this notion, take E.B.’s case. The underlying event leading to E.B.’s trial was a domestic dispute. Based on the girlfriend’s statement to police, they obtained a search warrant for E.B.’s residence and, inside, they found the knife used in the alleged attack and some clothes E.B. allegedly cut off the girlfriend’s body during the dispute.

The state charged E.B. with first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. During the state’s closing argument, the prosecutor referenced the knife and asked the jury, “Can you imagine being choked and having this thing put at your neck?” The jury convicted the man on both assault charges and the reckless endangerment charge.

In any criminal defense, there are two essential parts of the process. First, there is the pursuit of a dismissal or acquittal. Failing that, there is the second part, the pursuit of a fair and just sentence. In the case of one man convicted of assault, the Court of Special Appeals recently threw out a trial judge’s decision to hand down the maximum sentence. The sentence had to be reversed because the judge relied upon statements made by the prosecutor, but the prosecutor’s statements did not have the required level of reliable evidence and details to support them.

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Regardless of the number or the severity of the crimes charged by the state, the law imposes certain protections against improper overcharging by prosecutors and over-sentencing by courts. In one recent case decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, a man convicted of sexually abusing a girl across a four-year period could be charged under the Maryland statute that makes carrying on a continuing course of sexual abuse of a child a crime, but the law only allowed the state to charge him with one violation of this crime, not 10 violations, since his continuing course of abuse involved only one victim.

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In three separate rulings, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals tossed out the life-without-parole sentences imposed against three men. The cases show the special circumstances that are involved in sentencing any youthful offender in a murder case. In each case, the offender was under 18 years old at the time of the crime, and, in each case, the sentencing judge did not do a meaningful analysis of the offender’s youth and potential for rehabilitation before issuing the sentences. Based upon recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, a court may only sentence an under-18 offender to life without parole after first concluding that the offender’s acts showed a rare degree of “irreparable corruption.”

Each of the men who won their recent appeals had been convicted of first-degree murder. Aaron Holly, along with a 24-year-old man, was convicted in the shooting death of a Baltimore County woman in a botched robbery. Marcus Tunstall, while in the company of an older man, shot three people in a string of drug-related robberies. Kenneth Alvira and two 19-year-old men carjacked a woman. As part of the carjacking, the driver was stabbed and died from her wounds. Holly and Tunstall were 17 at the time of their crimes; Alvira was 16.

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A criminal arrest and prosecution are serious matters, whether the alleged crime is a felony or misdemeanor. After reviewing your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney would be able to assess the circumstances and the applicable law, and prepare a strong defense of the charges. It is also important to understand that a person who has already been convicted of a crime may also have an opportunity to challenge the conviction or the ultimate sentence. These options can achieve positive results for the “appellant.” For instance, in some matters, a sentence has been deemed “illegal” and thrown out by an appeals court. For these reasons, it is vitally important that you reach out to a local Maryland criminal defense attorney if you have been charged or convicted of a crime.

A court-imposed sentence typically corresponds directly to the crimes of which a defendant has been found guilty. In a recent Maryland criminal case, Octavius Savage was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder as well as second-degree murder. He was acquitted of first-degree murder charges. The court issued two sentences:  a term of life imprisonment for the conspiracy to commit murder conviction, and 30 years of incarceration for the second-degree murder conviction. Savage appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion by imposing an illegal sentence as described above.

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Maryland’s criminal justice system may seem complicated and intimidating to a person who has been arrested or charged with a crime. It is important to remember, however, that you may be able to assert any number of valid defenses. For instance, there exist both substantive and procedural criminal defense strategies. Substantive defenses are aimed at negating an element of the crime (e.g., lack of intent), while procedural defenses focus on the circumstances surrounding the investigation of the alleged crime. For example, law enforcement activities must follow established legal procedures and any investigation may not violate an individual’s constitutional rights. For these reasons, anyone arrested or charged with a crime is strongly encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Despite the availability of various defense strategies, keep in mind that many crimes, whether categorized as a felony or a misdemeanor, carry a statutory minimum sentence. With respect to certain drug-related offenses, critics have argued that minimum sentences often exceed the nature of the crime, result in prison overcrowding, and waste taxpayer dollars. In an effort to address these concerns and many others, Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan, recently announced recommendations by the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council. According to the Governor’s press release, the recommendations are intended to safely reduce Maryland’s incarcerated population, control corrections spending, and reinvest in more effective, less expensive strategies to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

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Depending on the facts of a criminal case, a person may invoke any number of claims to overturn his or her conviction. For one, under Maryland law, a defect in the return of a jury verdict could render a conviction illegal and therefore a nullity. But understanding the situation under which such a claim might be viable and successful is a significant part of the post-conviction relief process. An experienced criminal defense attorney from Maryland would be able to assess your case in order to determine whether you would be able to challenge a conviction.

Under Maryland Rule 4-345(a), a court has the authority to correct an illegal sentence at any time. This refers to a situation in which no sentence or sanction should have been imposed, which includes a verdict of conviction that has not been finalized properly. Article 21 of the State’s Declaration of Rights in its Constitution provides that every person is entitled to a speedy trial by an impartial jury, “without whose unanimous consent he ought not to be found guilty.” Essentially, this means that a jury’s verdict must be unanimous in order to sustain a criminal conviction.

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