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What is the Process for Sentence Modification in Maryland?

In October, many of the provisions of the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) take effect. This extensive revision of Maryland criminal law means that certain mandatory minimum drug sentences may qualify for a retroactive reduction. The JRA “eliminates mandatory minimums for controlled dangerous substances felonies.” It also permits felony drug offenders – although not those considered “kingpins” or high volume dealers – to apply for “retroactive reconsideration” of their sentences if they are currently incarcerated. These are not automatic “get out of jail free” cards, even if individuals arrested for similar crimes after October 1, 2017, are not subject to the same sentencing guidelines. Formal action is required, and there is a strict time limit. A Maryland criminal defense lawyer can explain how the JRA changes affect a particular inmate and whether they are eligible for retroactive reconsideration of their cases.


JRA Retroactive Reconsideration


Those currently serving a mandatory minimum felony drug sentence without parole option must file a motion for reduction of the sentence and removal of the lack of parole by September 30, 2018. The court considers not only the nature of the drug crime itself when it comes to a sentence reduction but the defendant’s history, behavior, rehabilitation odds and threat level to the public.


Motion for Reconsideration of Modification of Sentence


For situations not falling under JRA, the sentencing judge can consider modifying a sentence, after a “motion for reconsideration of modification of sentence” is filed. The motion requires filing with the clerk of the court within 90 days after sentencing. Unlike many other governments or business time limits, the 90 days does include weekends and holidays. Only one petition for modification per trial or sentence is permitted under Maryland law.


Another option involves writing a letter to the sentencing judge requesting such a modification and including the current sentence and case number. The letter must include reasons for the request, such as facts unavailable at the time of sentencing. The State Attorney’s Office should also receive a copy of the letter. Because such matters are so important, it is imperative that everything is done correctly and in a timely manner. That’s why a skilled defense attorney is an inmate’s best alternative for such action. It is never wise to send a letter to the sentencing judge without having an attorney review it.


If all the information necessary to file the motion to modify is not obtained within the 90-day time limit, all is not lost. A defense attorney can file the motion “sub curia,” or “under law.” That means the judge can decide the motion at a later date, and there is time to collect and submit the documents necessary for the filing. However, the court cannot modify a sentence more than five years after the original sentencing.


It is possible that a prior attorney did not effectively represent a client by not filing a motion for modification within the correct time frame. In such situations, the client may argue the previous attorney was ineffective and hire a seasoned Maryland criminal lawyer to protect their right to request such a modification.



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If you or a loved one is eligible for sentence modification under the new legislation, you need the services of an experienced Maryland criminal lawyer. Contact us today for a consultation.