What Happens When the Judge Doesn’t Go Along with Your Maryland Plea Agreement?

You probably are familiar with the concept of plea bargains in criminal cases. What you may (or may not) know is that when the prosecution and defense reach a plea agreement, the judge isn’t obliged to follow the deal’s terms. So, even once you have worked out a plea deal with the prosecution, it is essential to be prepared for every possible outcome, including the judge not going along with the deal. In other words, you need skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel that can have you prepared for all possibilities.

A recent case from Baltimore County was an example of this scenario. The background to the case was a domestic dispute. H.H. had allegedly gotten into an argument with his girlfriend at her home and, after being escorted out by other men, threatened to “shoot up” the home. A few hours later, three men arrived at the residence, burst through the rear door and shot up the home. Based on these events, the state charged H.H. with 52 counts, including two attempted murder charges, several assault charges and multiple gun crimes.

H.H. pled guilty, as part of a plea deal, to one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault, and the state nolle prossed the other charges, meaning that it declined to prosecute those other 51 counts. The sentence to which H.H. agreed was 15 years with all but three years suspended. The judge sentenced H.H. not to 15 years with all but three years suspended but to 25 years with all but 13 suspended. In other words, the judge tacked on an extra 10 years. The man asked to withdraw his plea and receive a new trial, but the judge refused.

The defendant appealed and he won. There are several useful pieces of information that this appellate opinion revealed. For one thing, it demonstrates just how quickly one must sometimes act to protect one’s rights in criminal litigation. The law only gives the accused 10 days from the date of the verdict to request a new trial and to withdraw a guilty plea. While, as the appeals court noted, that 10-day period doesn’t start to run until the court announces the sentence, that is still a small period of time and requires quick, decisive action.

The court also clarified what is (and is not) required of a defendant when filing a request for a new trail and to withdraw a guilty plea. The state had argued that the law required a defendant to assert that “his plea was not voluntary, or that he did not understand the nature of the charge to which he was entering a plea, or that he did not understand the consequences of the plea.” The appeals court explained that the law actually doesn’t impose that high of a burden on a defendant. The accused must, in his filing, simply submit his filing on time (which H.H. did). As a result, H.H. was entitled to have the hearing he sought.

Your criminal trial can take many twists and turns, some of which may be extremely unexpected. Skilled legal counsel can help you be confident that you are as prepared and safeguarded as possible. Experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been providing effective representation for the accused in Maryland for many years, and is ready to discuss your case with you. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

A Baltimore Man Receives a Second Chance After Getting Sentenced for a Crime that Should Have Been Merged, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, Jan. 10, 2019

Maryland’s Highest Court Reviews Legality of Criminal Sentence Below a Binding Plea Agreement, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, June 8, 2015

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