Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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What does it mean if my case is put on the stet docket

Maryland has a rule allowing a case to resolve other than a trial, dismissal or guilty plea.  With the defendant's consent the case can be put on the stet docket. The following is from an information sheet found in the District Court for Prince Georges County and it summarizes the situation neatly:

 If the state moves to place your case on the stet docket, and you agree to the stet, and the judge agrees to the stet, then your case is placed on an inactive status for three years. Essentially, the state puts the file on a shelf and stops time on the case.
The stet is not a conviction or an acquittal. It is a compromise between dropping the case and prosecuting you. Because it is not a conviction, you do not have to tell employers about it if they ask whether you have ever been convicted of any crime.
For tlie first year, either you dr the state may request that the case be reactivated. The case would be removed from the shelf and brought back into court for trial. Time is restarted, and you are back in the same position as you are now, i.e., about to stand trial. . .
For the last two years, the case may only be brought back into court upon written petition to a judge, who must agree there is good cause to reactivate the case.
To receive the stet, you must waive your right to speedy trial. In other words, if the case is reactivated in the next three years, you may not say you did not get your trial.quickly enough.
You keep all your other trial rights. . ' • *;~
Tlie state may put some conditions on the stet, such as paying money to someone or some organization, staying -away from someone or some place, getting counselling, clearing up your driver's license, or anything else appropriate to your case. The state may also set a time, limit in which you must meet the condition(s) or eise have the case reactivated. It is your choice whether or not to agree to the condition(s), but you cannot have the stet disposition for your case unless you do agree and do meet the condition(s).

Child Support Statute

Child support and the general assembly. Under Maryland law an individual is entitled to child support under the following conditions: an individual who has attained the age of 18 years and he was enrolled in secondary school has the right to receive support and maintenance from both of the individual's parents until the first to occur of the following events:

The individual dies

The individual marries

The individual is emancipated

The individual graduates from or is no longer enrolled in secondary school or

The individual attains the age of 19 years.

You would think that the general assembly would put this particular provision in the Family Law Article under child support. Instead, it is in the Maryland code, Gen. Provisions 1-401. Even experienced family practitioners are hard-pressed to find this particular section.

The Maryland Gen. Provisions Article, in case you are interested contains the following titles:

Rules of interpretation
official oath
open meetings act
Public information act
Maryland public ethics law
United States
emblems, designations, commemorative days and months
and false claims.

Quite the potpourri of laws.

Further Expansion of Maryland Expungement Law

Maryland expungement law has become applicable to ever more situations. One of the newer situations is where the person is found guilty of the crime. I found information on the Maryland People's Law Library which is very helpful; below is a list of crimes which might be expunged even if you were found guilty. You will note that some of these crimes are felonies. You owe it to yourself to clean up your record if you can. If you can't do it on your own I can help you for a fairly nominal rate.

Guilty Verdict

If you were found guilty of one of these charges you may request an expungement no less than three (3) years after the guilty conviction or the satisfactory completion of the sentence, including probation, whichever is later:
  • urination or defecation in a public place,
  • panhandling or soliciting money,
  • drinking an alcoholic beverage in a public place,
  • obstructing the free passage of another in a public place or a public conveyance,
  • sleeping on or in park structures, such as benches or doorways,
  • loitering,
  • vagrancy,
  • riding a transit vehicle without paying the applicable fare or exhibiting proof of payment, or
  • certain other transportation charges (Md. Code, Transportation § 7-705).

If you were found guilty of one of these charges you may request an expungement no less than ten (10) years after the guilty conviction or the satisfactory completion of the sentence, including probation, whichever is later:
  • disorderly intoxication,
  • possessing a controlled dangerous substance (CDS),
  • use or possession of drug paraphernalia,
  • unauthorized manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing of a CDS,
  • breaking and entering a motor vehicle,
  • general theft (Md. Code, Criminal Law § 7-104),
  • littering and illegal dumping, or
  • disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct.

If you were found guilty of one of these charges you may request an expungement no less than fifteen (15) years after the guilty conviction or the satisfactory completion of the sentence, including probation, whichever is later:
  • assault in the second degree,
  • violation of an interim peace order,
  • failure to comply with a protective order,
  • felony theft,
  • possession with intent to distribute or dispense a controlled dangerous substance, or
  • burglary in the first, second or third degree.

Expungement Tool I Found

In Maryland, when you are charged with a crime or a traffic offense your name along with your address and date of birth usually appear on a public database, "Maryland Judiciary case search".  Virtually anyone at any time from anywhere on the planet can access this database, putting your name and find the above information including not just criminal and traffic convictions, but simply the fact that you are charged.  Employers, relatives, friends, people who who do not wish you well, can all access this information.

There are occasions where you can have your personal information expunged.  In general, in order to have the matter expunged the charge must be entered nolle prosequi, the defendant was acquitted, received probation before judgment or received a stet.  Sometimes the expungement can be requested immediately with a waiver and sometimes several years must pass.

I have no relation with this service provider, I don't receive anything from them, I do recommend it as an efficient tool to help you file for your expungement requests.


It does not take a great deal of evidence to be charged with driving while impaired

I have been practicing law since 1986.

When I first began practicing law it was much harder to prove alcohol-related driving cases and the sanctions were lower. For example, the alcohol driving crimes back then were driving while intoxicated which required a .15 BAC and driving under the influence of alcohol which required a .13 BAC.

There was no administrative per say sanctions for a high breath test.

Currently we no longer have driving while intoxicated. Driving under the influence per se requires a breath test of .08 BAC and driving while impaired requires a test of .07 BAC. A test of .06 BAC will often result in a charge against the defendant.

Even if there is no breath test the case law indicates that not much impairment is required to be convicted.  The following is from a Maryland appellate case, Meanor v. State, 774 A. 2d 394 - Md: Court of Appeals 2001

"Prior to 1995, § 21-902(a) prohibited a person from driving or attempting to drive a vehicle while intoxicated, and § 21-902(b) prohibited a person from driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of alcohol. Neither term—intoxicated or under the influence—was legislatively defined, and neither had been judicially defined by us for purposes of § 21-902. In Clay v. State, 211 Md. 577, 584, 128 A.2d 634, 638 (1957), we defined "under the influence of alcohol," for purposes of the manslaughter by automobile statute, as "drinking to the extent of probably affecting one's judgment and discretion or probably affecting one's nervous system to the extent that there is a failure of normal coordination, although not amounting to intoxication." (Emphasis added). In Alston v. Forsythe, 226 Md. 121, 132, 172 A.2d 474, 479 (1961), we applied that definition in a civil action for negligence arising out of an automobile accident.
The pattern jury instruction drafted by the Maryland State Bar Association Standing Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions (MPJI-Cr 4:10), which is often used by the trial courts and was used in this case, not only makes clear that the distinction between the two states is one of degree but provides what seems to us a better definition of "under the influence" and a workable and reasonable distinction between that and intoxication. It states:
"The distinction between driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence of alcohol is one of degree. A person is under the influence of alcohol when the alcohol that [he][she] has consumed has impaired normal coordination, although not amounting to intoxication. Another way of saying this is that the person's abilities have been reduced or weakened by the consumption of alcohol.
Intoxication means more than being under the influence of alcohol. A person is intoxicated when the alcohol that [he][she] has consumed has substantially impaired normal coordination."

Obviously it's not a good idea to drink and drive for many reasons. But if you do find yourself in that unfortunate situation you need experienced counsel to defend you. Call me if you need some help.

Why it's often worthwhile defending your speeding ticket

Speeding charges or one of the most common charges seen in traffic court. In Maryland speeding convictions put points on your driving record. Points on your driving record lead to increased insurance premiums and even cancellation of insurance coverage.

In Maryland speeds from 1 mile over to 9 miles over equals one point
10 miles to 29 miles over the limit two points
30 miles over the limit five points
anything over 85 mph five points (for example the speed limit is 65 mph and you are clock doing 86 mph that would be five points)

When you receive a speeding ticket you could simply pay the ticket and the points would be automatically assessed against your driving record. That may be convenient but it could lead to long time insurance increases, insurance cancellation and if you accumulate eight points or more license suspension, 12 points or more license revocation.

When you receive a speeding ticket even if the ticket is only $160 (a not unusual rate for a two point speeding ticket) you might consider spending the several hundred dollars it might cost to retain me.

Case in point. I was in traffic court recently. Most people were unrepresented. Several were lucky, the police officer did not show and the tickets were dismissed. That's a pretty good reason for asking for a trial. The defendant has the presumption of innocence and the burden is on the state to have the evidence to prove the defendant guilty. If the officer does not show many times the court will dismiss the ticket.

Before my trial I watched others plead guilty on their speeding tickets. They had the same officer as my client. The judge often would reduce the points on the ticket somewhat and would reduce the fines but there were still convictions.

Under the law of Maryland there really should not be a trial penalty. In other words, the judge should not hold it against you if you exercise your constitutional right to have a trial.

Speeding trials in Maryland are often trial by surprise (I really don't know what the officer will say specifically or what evidence the officer necessarily has, there is no official discovery process for nonserious traffic cases). Nonetheless I have done this for many years and generally know what the officer needs. In my case the officer testified that he was certified to use laser equipment to establish speed and had his certificate as to his qualifications. He also testified that the equipment he had was properly checked out and certified but he did not have the certifications with him. I objected arguing that the best evidence rule required the presence of the certificates. The judge correctly, in my opinion, ruled that the officer did need these certificates and found my client not guilty.

It cost my client several hundred dollars more than the original ticket but it saved my client from increased insurance premiums and possible insurance cancellation.

If you receive a speeding ticket feel free to call me, I might be able to help.


Federal Housing Assistance/Section 8 Housing and Criminal Convictions

I practice criminal defense. Besides the direct possible consequences of a criminal conviction such as incarceration, probation with home inspections, drug tests, counseling, etc. can come collateral consequences such as termination of housing privileges.

Federal Housing Assistance, Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8 Housing) provides housing assistance to qualified persons. The programs are administered in Maryland through County agencies. Persons in the program must adhere to guidelines or risk termination of benefits and ultimate eviction.

One of the program guidelines addresses criminal convictions. If you are convicted of certain crimes, some as ordinary as assault, can have the person and those residing with the person terminated from the home.

The Court of Appeals for Maryland addressed this matter in Karen McDonald Versus Harford County Housing Agency.

When you are contemplating your options in a criminal case you should consider whether a conviction can have you removed from your home.

Preparing for an Assault Case

My client was terrified.  He was accused of grabbing a woman by the hands and puckering up to kiss her.  He denied any involvement.  I could not figure out a motive why the woman would accuse my client of this.  They did not know each other and had only met for a few minutes in a work environment.

There were no other witnesses to the event so I needed to develop reasonable doubt with other evidence.  It was basically a she said he said type of situation.  The courts are often likely to believe the "victim" because there is no obvious reason for the victim to make this up and there are strong reasons for the defendant to lie, the defendant's liberty is at stake.

I researched whether the area had security cameras.  Apparently it did have security cameras but it was a business establishment and it had changed owners.  Nonetheless, I pushed on the first donors to give me the name of the former owners and followed up the former owners.  Unfortunately not only were the cameras pointed in the wrong direction but any recording had long since been erased.  Nonetheless, at least I made the effort.

I pushed my client as to why the "victim" would make this up but he had no idea.

I listened to my client's side of the story and not only did the facts seem logical, his presentation seemed believable, he was not defensive or exaggerating in his presentation, it was matter of fact and straightforward.  I thought that a trier of fact would believe his side of the story even if it believed the "victim's" side of the story.

Finally, I brought in character witnesses who knew my client well and could testify that in their opinion and by reputation in the community he was an honest and law-abiding citizen.

I was as ready as I could be for trial.

On the trial date the "victim" did not show up.  The prosecutor argued for a postponement and I made it clear to the judge that the prosecution did not have good cause to seek a postponement.  They could not tell the court why the "victim" wasn't in court and they could not tell the court when the "victim" might be available next.  The court denied the postponement request and the prosecution was compelled to enter the case nolle prosequi.

My client was very relieved and I believe justice was served.

Provisional License and Tickets

If you don't know and you have a Maryland provisional license receiving a conviction or even a probation before judgment can have dire consequences on your ability to drive and your ability to receive a regular license.

Case in point-my client has a provisional license and he received moving violations in Maryland approximately one month apart.  My client thought it would be a good idea to pay the moving violations.

With a provisional license under the current law if you receive a conviction you must thereafter complete the driver improvement program or be subject to suspension.

If you receive a second ticket you can be subject to suspension for up to 30 days.

If you receive another ticket you can be subject to suspension up to six months.

Once you receive that conviction a probation before judgment the motor vehicle administration will send you a letter to the address they have on record.  If you fail to respond, if you fail to send them the $150 they will suspend you up to the maximum amount automatically.

My client already had one conviction and had done the driver improvement program.  He had no idea that he would be suspended for the other two tickets.

Under Maryland law there is a certain amount of time to request that the court vacate a judgment.I filed the appropriate motion with the court and the court granted my request and provided us new trial dates.

On the first trial date we were able to secure a not guilty verdict because the officer was not able to prove that my client was speeding.

On the second trial date the officer failed to show up and again we obtained a not guilty verdict.

Because we won the two cases in court the motor vehicle administration no longer has a case against my client.  Not only that but he can immediately apply for his regular license.

Something as simple as moving violations can have dire consequences if you had a provisional license.  You should seek competent counsel when determining how to address your moving violations.

Maryland Good Samaritan Law Interpreted by Court of Special Appeals

The Maryland good Samaritan law has been on the books since October 2015.  Maryland, like the rest of the country has been suffering an opioid crisis.  Maryland Gen. assembly made a determination that it was more important to protect lives then prosecute people. Basically, there should not be a criminal prosecution for drug possession if it is discovered because a good Samaritan called in an overdose problem.

Specifically the statute states as follows:

(a)   The act of seeking, providing, or assisting with the provision of medical assistance for another person who is experiencing a medical emergency after ingesting or using alcohol or drugs may be used as a mitigating factor in a criminal prosecution of:
(1)   the person who experienced the medical emergency; or
(2)   any person who sought, provided, or assisted in the provision of medical assistance.
(b)   A person who, in good faith, seeks, provides, or assists with the provision of medical assistance for a person reasonably believed to be experiencing a medical emergency after ingesting or using alcohol or drugs shall be immune from criminal arrest, charge, or prosecution for a violation of § 5–601, § 5–619, § 5–620, § 10–114, § 10–116, or § 10–117 of the Criminal Law Article if the evidence for the criminal arrest, charge, or prosecution was obtained solely as a result of the person’s seeking, providing, or assisting with the provision of medical assistance.
(c)   A person who reasonably believes that the person is experiencing a medical emergency after ingesting or using alcohol or drugs shall be immune from criminal arrest, charge, or prosecution for a violation of § 5–601, § 5–619, § 5–620, § 10–114, § 10–116, or § 10–117 of the Criminal Law Article if the evidence for the criminal arrest, charge, or prosecution was obtained solely as a result of the person seeking or receiving medical assistance.
(d)   A person who seeks, provides, or assists with the provision of medical assistance in accordance with subsection (b) or (c) of this section may not be sanctioned for a violation of a condition of pretrial release, probation, or parole if the evidence of the violation was obtained solely as a result of the person seeking, providing, or assisting with the provision of medical assistance.
The statute is not a model of clarity. After this particular statute was put on the books I was present for discussions between the state attorney's office, high-ranking brass for Montgomery County police And defense attorneys. It was not clear how the statute was to be interpreted. Who was protected?
The person making the call? The person overdosing? Other people just standing around at the party possessing drugs?
The Court of Special Appeals addressed this issue recently. In that case the defendant was overdosing. His girlfriend called for medical assistance and he was arrived. At the time he was overdosing he was on probation for drug offenses. His probation officer requested that he be found in violation of probation and the judge determined that he was in violation of probation.
His attorney appealed the matter claiming that the person suffering the overdose, the defendant, should be immune from prosecution. The court of special appeals agreed holding that the general assembly intended to protect the residents of Maryland rather than prosecute them in this sort of situation.
It is still not clear what would happen to other people at the party close to the drugs or possessing their own drugs in terms of criminal prosecution.
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