Maryland offers a very unique opportunity for those who are given criminal sentences they believe are unjust. If a person is sentenced to a sentence that they feel is unfair, and a few other factors are present, then that person can appeal their sentence to a three-judge panel for review of their sentence. Many attorneys caution against pursuing this because of the possibility that the three-judge panel will increase the sentence, which is completely within panel’s authority if the client pursues the three judge review. The 3-judge panel can decrease the sentence, increase the sentence, or leave the sentence the same. A defendant is not entitled to a hearing, but sometimes a hearing is granted.
It is possible that you or a loved one has already been sentenced and your attorney failed to discuss the possibility of a three-judge panel review, or a motion for modification of sentence in Maryland. (See our post on that here) If your attorney failed to properly advise you, it may be possible to pursue a post-conviction case. If you are successful, the judge may allow you a late attempt at filing for a 3-judge review or motion for modification of sentence.
This area of law is quite nuanced. For example, in Maryland there is something called a “binding plea.” If the prosecutor, judge, and defendant agree to this, then no one can wiggle out of it. This binding plea may be for a specific term of years, say 5. Or, it may be to a specific limited range of years, say 5-10 years. Finally, a binding plea can be a “cap”. (example: “no greater than 5 years”) Under a binding cap plea, the judge can sentence anywhere below the cap, just not above. This becomes relevant in the context of a 3-judge panel review because, although the 3-judge panel can increase your sentence, if a binding plea was entered into then that panel can only go to the top of that binding plea.
Tevin Moultrie v. State, is a case that perfectly lays out these issues and gives an example of where an aggressive lawyer can get a second chance for their client. Moultrie had entered into a plea agreement with the state and he was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 30 years. Generally, as stated above, the 3-judge panel can increase the sentence. But a court cannot do it f it the sentence is already a maximum statutory sentence or there is a binding “cap.” In Mr. Moultrie’s case he had nothing to lose in filing a petition for 3-judge review. The Court of Special Appeals ordered that he be allowed to petition late for a 3-judge review because his attorney did not do his job in asking for that review.
Our firm handles 3-judge panel petitions, motions for modification of sentence, and post-conviction work in Maryland. For a free consult call 301.513.7832. Or, you can email Justin at justin.eisele at seddiqlaw.com.