When Having the Charges Dropped in Your Maryland Criminal Case Isn’t the Best Available Outcome

Legal News GavelIf you or a loved one is facing criminal charges related to controlled substances, it is extremely important to have skilled Maryland drug crime counsel by your side representing you at every step along the process. The lawyers working for the state are experienced in the rules of law and procedure. The law provides you with certain rights and certain ways to utilize those rights to your advantage in your court case, so you need to make sure you have legal knowledge and experience on your side in the form of a skilled attorney to protect your rights.

A recent drug crime case serves as a clear example of why having quality representation matters. Leonard was charged with conspiracy to distribute methlenedioxymethamphetamine (a popular party drug better known as MDMA, “Molly,” or ecstasy). Leonard’s case went through the entire trial process. Leonard was convicted and sentenced for violating Maryland’s controlled dangerous substance laws.

Leonard filed an appeal of his conviction in a timely manner. The attorneys for the state apparently recognized that they had a problem. The basis of Leonard’s appeal, that the state lacked sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction of violating the controlled dangerous substance laws, was valid. Seeking to avoid an unfavorable outcome in the Court of Special Appeals, the state nol prossed the case in the trial court.

A “nol pros” means, essentially, that the state is dropping the charges. The law, however, gives the state the option to go back at a later date and reinstate the charges that it nol prossed if the statute of limitations hasn’t expired. After it filed its nol pros papers in Leonard’s case in the trial court, the state then asked the appeals court to dismiss Leonard’s appeal. The state’s argument was that, since it had dropped the charges, the appeal was moot.

At this point, if you were in Leonard’s shoes, you might think this was a totally favorable outcome, right? The state was dropping the charges, and you would be free. This is not entirely accurate and highlights how knowledgeable counsel can help. Leonard’s counsel believed that the state’s actions were a strategic ploy. If Leonard won his case on appeal, that outcome might directly trigger an acquittal, which would forever prohibit the state from prosecuting Leonard on these drug charges. If the courts allowed the prosecution to nol pros the case and get the appeal dismissed, the state potentially could charge Leonard again later on the same alleged violation (presumably once the state had shored up the evidentiary shortcomings in its case).

As a result, Leonard’s counsel argued that the state should not be allowed to nol pros the case and that Leonard’s appeal should be allowed to go forward. The Court of Special Appeals agreed and heard arguments, eventually concluding that the state had insufficient evidence and that Leonard’s conviction should be reversed.

The state’s highest court recently upheld that decision by the Court of Special Appeals. The state’s power to nol pros a case, the high court explained in its opinion, only related to pending charges. Once a defendant has been tried, convicted, and sentenced, the state no longer has the legal power to nol pros a case. The defendant has a statutory right to an appeal, and the appeals court was correct to hear Leonard’s in this situation.

Leonard won a more complete victory because he had counsel who knew how to advocate for his best outcome. To make sure you get a fair outcome based upon the law and the facts of your case, contact knowledgeable Maryland drug crime attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. Attorney Fatemi has been defending the accused in Maryland for many years, providing strong representation at every step in the process. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

The Right to a ‘Speedy Trial’ and the Role it Plays in Your Maryland Criminal Case, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, July 31, 2017

Maryland Man Accused of Drug Crime Allowed to Continue Pursuing Appeal Despite Nol Pros, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 22, 2017

 

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