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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most states have court rules and laws that govern the preparation and enforceability of a plea agreement between a criminal defendant and the State. According to case law, plea agreements play a “crucial role” in the Maryland criminal justice system. Part of the allure of a plea agreement is the level of certainty it provides to the person charged with a crime, as well as to the State. Furthermore, the use of plea agreements (rather than a trial) serves to reduce the overcrowding of courts by disposing of cases in an more efficient manner. It is important to ensure that any applicable legal rules are complied with in order to protect one’s rights at this very important stage, as well as throughout the whole criminal process. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
The highest court in Maryland recently addressed the legality of a criminal sentence that is below the terms of the binding plea agreement. In this case, a grand jury indicted Tommy Garcia Bonilla back in 1989 on two counts of first-degree murder as well as other serious crimes. Count I and Count III represented the two separate murder charges. In 1990, Bonilla and the State entered into a binding plea agreement with the following terms. If called upon by the State, Bonilla would testify against one of his co-defendants and would plead guilty to Counts I and III. In return, the State agreed that Bonilla would receive a sentence of life imprisonment on Count III, and a consecutive life imprisonment sentence with all but 20 years suspended on Count I.
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.
Every stage of a criminal case, from arrest to the final appeal, presents an opportunity to assert one’s rights. The Constitution and local state laws ensure that no citizen may be deprived of these rights unfairly and without due process. Maryland courts are often called upon to interpret various provisions of the state criminal code as it applies to any one particular person alleged to have committed a crime. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, you may be entitled to assert a solid defense to the charges. The most effective course of action is to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.
In a recent case, Wiredu v. State of Maryland, the appellant successfully appealed part of his sentences. According to the facts, Wiredu was driving home on a four-lane road (two southbound and two northbound lanes) when his truck collided with a motorcycle headed in the oncoming lane. Although Wiredu testified that the motorcycle swerved into his lane, an officer witnessed the accident and testified that Wiredu “merged” into the motorcycle’s oncoming lane. The officer’s version of the incident was corroborated by a Baltimore firefighter who also witnessed the accident.
Throughout a criminal case, from an arrest to a possible conviction and sentencing, the person charged with a crime has multiple opportunities to challenge or defend against the charges, conviction, and ultimate sentence. The United States Constitution guarantees citizens certain protections, covering a broad range of rights. One such right protects a person from multiple punishments (sentences) and trials for the same offense. While the Maryland Constitution does not have this “double jeopardy” provision, case law has upheld these protective principles. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who fully understands the various laws and defenses applicable to your situation.
In a recent Maryland case, a man was convicted of multiple crimes: robbery with a dangerous weapon, second-degree assault, theft of property valued less than $1,000, and representing a “destructive device” and making a false statement about that device. The court sentenced him to incarceration for two separate and consecutive terms: 20 years for robbery with a dangerous weapon and 10 years for making a false statement about a destructive device. According to the evidence at trial, during the robbery of a shoe store, the defendant claimed that he had a gun and stole money and boots. He allegedly presented the store clerk with a note stating that there was a bomb in a box and that she should wait 30 minutes before calling the police (after he left), or else he would blow up the store.
In most criminal cases, the defendant will have opportunities throughout the proceeding to raise a number of different defenses. These defenses can serve to reduce the severity of the criminal charges or set forth a complete defense. Additionally, if a person is convicted of the charged crimes, he or she may challenge the decision on various grounds and through specific legal mechanisms. In order to challenge a conviction, the defendant must be able to set forth supporting information and evidence to satisfy the legal requirements. The best way to determine if you are eligible to challenge a conviction is to consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Depending on the case, a defendant may bring something known as a “writ of error coram nobis,” which is a civil action, independent and separate from the underlying action from which it emanated. According to Maryland case law, this proceeding enables a “convicted person who is not incarcerated and not on parole or probation, who is suddenly faced with a significant collateral consequence of his or her conviction, [to] … challenge the conviction on constitutional or fundamental grounds.” In a recent criminal case, the defendant pleaded guilty to using a minor to distribute heroin back in 1999. He was sentenced to six years in prison, and all but 18 months were suspended, followed by three years of probation. Continue reading →