Articles Posted in Sentencing

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 →

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.

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