Maryland Court Upholds Decision Not to Merge Criminal Sentences

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.

As it turned out, there was no bomb, and the defendant was caught, arrested, and convicted at trial. The defendant appealed the decision, but only so far as his sentence was concerned. Specifically, he argued that the state should have merged his convictions for robbery with a deadly weapon and making a false statement regarding the destructive device. The court of appeals disagreed with the defendant/appellant’s claims. The court reviewed the following legal principles (and defenses):  1) Maryland common law as it provides “well-established protections” against double jeopardy and the related “required evidence test,” 2) principles of lenity (including legislative intent), and 3) notions of “fundamental fairness.”

In conducting its review to determine whether the sentences should have merged, the court looked at the language of each criminal statute:  Maryland code section 3-403(a) concerning the robbery conviction and section 9-504 regarding the destructive device conviction. Essentially, the court concluded that these are “distinct offenses” that are intended to be punished separately. Since they are “wholly distinct offenses,” the court held that they do no merge under the required evidence test, there was no evidence of legislative intent for merger under the lenity rule, and under these facts in particular, there is no compelling argument that “fairness” warrants such a merger.

Here, appellant’s arguments regarding his sentence were not effective. The court affirmed the consecutive, separate terms under these circumstances. It is important to realize that every case is unique and presents an entirely separate set of facts that have the potential to affect the outcome of a case in many different respects, and at varying stages of the proceedings. An experienced criminal defense attorney would be able to assess the circumstances of your arrest and charges in order to prepare a solid, effective defense.  Anthony A. Fatemi has extensive experience handling criminal defense cases in Maryland.  Our office will work diligently to develop a strong strategy to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

Related Blog Posts:

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Reinstates Criminal Conviction

Maryland Court Interprets “Enhanced Sentencing” Statute in Robbery Case

Maryland Court Upholds Conviction of Robbery and Other Related Charges

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