In Maryland, you have many rights in relation to criminal law. One of those is the right to know the charges against you. One very important side-effect of this right is that the state generally cannot charge you with one crime and then convict you of a similar, but different, crime that was not included. When it comes to protecting all of your rights, including this one, it pays to have legal representation from a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense lawyer.
For example, your rights in Maryland may potentially protect you from being charged with an attempt and then convicted of the commission of the act if the commission crime was not a charged offense. That’s what happened to one Somerset County man, and he was able to use that error to get his armed robbery conviction overturned.
In this man’s case, it all allegedly started when the accused, L.F., and his girlfriend went to K.B.’s home. An argument erupted there and L.F. allegedly hit K.B. Additionally, L.F. allegedly had a gun and demanded that K.B. give him drugs.
The altercation led to criminal charges against L.F. — 16 of them, in fact. Count six was attempted armed robbery, and count seven was attempted robbery. The jury did not convict L.F. of either of those crimes but did find him guilty of robbery and armed robbery, two crimes the state had not charged.
Because the crimes of which the jury found L.F. guilty were uncharged, the convictions could not stand. Despite the prosecution’s focus on the fact that armed robbery and attempted armed robbery (as well as robbery and attempted robbery) were crimes contained in the same statutory subsections, and arguing that the guilty verdicts on robbery and armed robbery essentially constituted findings of guilt on attempted robbery and attempted armed robbery, the Court of Special Appeals was clear that this was not how the law works.
A Crime Must Be in the Indictment for a Conviction to Stand
It is important to understand the key principle for which this case, and the 1966 Court of Appeals case upon which this court relied, stands. Contrary to the state’s arguments, Maryland law does not allow for “constructive amendment” of an indictment. What that means in plain English is that, to be found guilty of a crime, that crime must be in the indictment or the amended indictment. Even if the jury instructions addressed a crime, the verdict sheet listed that crime, and the arguments from both sides’ legal teams contested that crime, the law says that if a crime isn’t in the indictment, you generally can’t be convicted of it.
Convicting an accused person of uncharged crimes is a violation of Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, the appeals court reminded readers.
When you are facing criminal charges, the U.S. Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights, along with other laws, provide you with substantial legal protections. To b sure you are getting the benefit of all of the protections that your rights give you, you need a skilled advocate on your side. Look to the experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to make sure you get justice. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.