Criminal law in Maryland allows the state to punish people convicted of crimes in several ways, including incarceration, fines, and restitution. Just like all other aspects of criminal law and punishment, there are rules about when and how the state can order restitution. If those rules aren’t followed, the restitution order isn’t valid. Whether you’re dealing with a jail sentence, a fine, or a restitution order, a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense lawyer can help you take the proper action if the state has failed to follow the rules in your case.
C.P. was a man who pleaded guilty to two counts of assault in 2008 as part of a plea agreement. The court sentenced him to a period of active incarceration plus five years probation. Additionally, the court noted that, as a condition of probation, the state would propose an order for restitution.
The state released C.P. in June 2015, which also represented the start of his five-year period of probation. Those five years came and went and the man’s probation ended on June 19, 2020. In early February 2021 — seven and one-half months later — the state submitted a proposed order of restitution. The following October, the trial court entered an order demanding that C.P. pay $6,116 in restitution.
C.P. appealed, arguing that what he received was an “illegal sentence.” His attorney asserted that the sentence wasn’t inherently illegal, but became so when the trial court ordered him to pay more than $6,000 in restitution (as a condition of probation) more than seven months after his probation ended.
When an Order of Restitution Constitutes an ‘Illegal Sentence’
The appeals court (which used to go by the name “Court of Special Appeals” but now holds the moniker “Appellate Court of Maryland”) concluded that C.P. was correct. Past Supreme Court rulings addressing Rule 4-345(a) — the rule that deals with illegal sentences — have said that “there must be a sentence to revise.” After a defendant has completed his sentence, however, “there is no longer a sentence to correct.”
That standard similarly applies to restitution. Maryland precedent says that the state’s restitution statute only allows courts to order restitution “where the court is otherwise authorized to impose punishment.” In C.P.,’s situation, the plea agreement clearly indicated that restitution was part of the defendant’s criminal sentence as a condition of probation. The state was free to pursue restitution at any time during the five years C.P. was on probation.
The state was not free, however, to wait more than half a year after the defendant’s period of probation expired and then seek to force C.P. to pay. When the trial court imposed restitution at that point, the sentence became illegal, meaning that the order of restitution had to be thrown out.
Whether you’re dealing with incarceration, fines, or restitution, there are limits to what the state can do in terms of punishing you. Having a skilled legal team on your side can help you ensure you receive a punishment that doesn’t exceed what the law allows. The knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to help, putting our decades of experience to work to see to it that you get justice. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form today.