I’ve been sentenced in Maryland State Court. What are my options now?
In criminal matters in Maryland State Court there are two main parts to a case. First, there is the choice to either go to trial or decide to plead guilty. If you are found guilty by a jury, or if you plead guilty, then you will face sentencing by your Maryland judge. After you are sentenced there are various options to you. We are going to write a serious of blog posts to address these options. This particular blog post covers the topic of Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence. However, you also have the right to file an appeal, and a right to file an application for sentence review. If your attorney did not help you to exercise these rights, or was gave ineffective representation to you at your plea or trial, then you have the option of filing a post-conviction case against your attorney.
Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence.
In Maryland you have the right to ask your sentencing judge to modify your sentence. This is a very unique remedy. Many states consider a judgment to be final after you are originally sentenced, and the only way to get relief is by some form of appeal. You should speak to counsel about utilizing this right. Our firm recommends that a Motion to Reconsider be filed in each case. Why is that?
Each of our clients have a story. We do our very best to tell our client’s story at their first sentencing hearing. But, the beauty of the Maryland Courts is that we get two bites at the apple! With a motion to modify we get the opportunity to have the judge sit and reconsider their original decision. We can supplement our motion with certificates of achievement, family histories, and attach progress reports showing how well you have done since the judge’s original sentence.
We sometimes advise our clients to wait a little while before they ask for a hearing on their motion to modify. However: YOU ONLY HAVE 90 DAYS TO FILE THE MOTION. The motion has to be filed within 90 days of you being sentenced. This filing stays your right to be heard on the reconsideration at a later day if you wish. We can always ask for a hearing later, but we CANNOT file the motion after the time has passed.
There is no risk in filing a motion for reconsideration. Under the law, a judge cannot increase your sentence after you request a reconsideration. Did you hear that correctly? Yes, the judge does not have to reduce your sentence. But, the Court has no right to increase your sentence. As a result, the Maryland Courts have said that failure of counsel to file a motion to modify a sentence is ineffective assistance of counsel. Matthews v. State, 161 Md. App. 248, 252 (2005). If your trial counsel failed to file a motion our firm can be retained to file a post-conviction case against your trial counsel asking that you be able to file a late (belated) motion to modify.
UPDATE: A recent Maryland Court of Appeals decision shows exactly how important it is to have diligent counsel for your Motion for Reconsideration (Modification) of Sentence in Maryland. In State v. John Schlick, Mr. Schlick’s attorney failed to file a timely motion for modification. Normally, the court would only have five years to rule on whether the sentence should be modified. That date runs from the date someone is sentenced. However, the Maryland Court of Appeals held recently in that case that if the trial court finds that your attorney was ineffective, because they failed to file the motion for reconsideration at your request, then the date for starting the calculation of that five years changes. The new five year date would then run from the date of the order from the judge saying that your attorney failed to file the motion for reconsideration for you. So, if you have a hearing on your post-conviction motion, and the judge grants your motion on say January 1, 2020. The following deadlines apply:
90 days from that date to file the late motion for modification.
5 years from January 1, 2020 for the court to consider your request.
You MUST get your request for a hearing in in advance or the court may not have time to schedule a hearing. Here is a copy of this recent decision on Motion for Modification (Reconsideration) of sentence in Maryland.
Both of our attorneys have received extensive training on sentencing advocacy. We feel it is our duty to make the judge in each of our cases sees the good side of our clients. We are all humans, and we all make mistakes.
Email either one of our attorneys, we would love to represent you. Mirriam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Justin can be reached at email@example.com.