Plea of “Autrefois Acquit” in Maryland

In a recent case, a Maryland appellate court considered two protections provided by the prohibition against double jeopardy. The first protection was the plea of autrefois acquit, which prevents a second prosecution of the defendant for the same offense after he’s been acquitted. The second was the doctrine of collateral estoppel, protecting against re-litigation of an issue of ultimate fact that was already determined in favor of the defendant.

The case arose when a police officer in uniform, driving a marked car, initiated a traffic stop of the defendant by turning on his emergency lights. The defendant stopped his car for a moment, but then drove around the police car and continued down the street. The officer pursued him for a half mile. The driver and passenger jumped out of the car at an apartment complex and ran. The officer didn’t follow, but waited for other officers to come.

The defendant’s car was owned by his girlfriend. An officer suspected as much. He filed an Application for Statement of Charges and the defendant was charged with multiple traffic offenses and also disobeying a lawful order of a police officer and four counts of fleeing and eluding police.

After the State presented its case, the court granted the defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal in connection with the charge that he had disobeyed the direct order of a police officer. However, the court also convicted the defendant of four counts of fleeing and eluding police officers.

The defendant filed a de novo appeal. Before trial he moved to dismiss the four counts of fleeing and eluding. He argued that since he had been acquitted of disobeying the police officers, he should not be prosecuted for fleeing and eluding. He argued that being prosecuted for eluding the police violated he protections against double jeopardy.

The court denied his motion. The defendant appealed. He argued that disobeying a police officer’s lawful order is a lesser-included offense of fleeing and eluding the police. He believed this made them the same crime for double jeopardy purposes. The State argued that these crimes weren’t the same under a double jeopardy analysis. Drivers must stop their vehicles whether or not an order is lawful under the fleeing and eluding statute. The crime of disobeying the lawful order of a police officer requires that the order be lawful.

The appellate court explained that the Fifth Amendment prohibition against double jeopardy prevents a defendant from being accountable twice for the same offense. The test is whether each provision requires the prosecution prove a fact that the other does not require. Generally, lesser-included offenses don’t require proof of something not required by the greater statute. You can’t be prosecuted successively for both the greater and less included offenses. The appellate court agreed that lawfulness was an element of the offense of disobeying a lawful order but not of fleeing and eluding the police. It concluded the two crimes were not the same in terms of double jeopardy and that collateral estoppel did not apply to protect the defendant.

If you are arrested or charged with a crime, you should consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney. We will develop the best strategy we can to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More Blogs

Criminal Email Harassment in Maryland,  Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, February 12, 2014

Bill of Particulars in Maryland Criminal Defense, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2014



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