Medley v. State

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Medley v. State, No. 87, Sept. Term 2004. Opinion by Harrell, J. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE - ILLEGAL SENTENCE - FINE - JURY COSTS Petitioner elected a jury trial in the Circuit Court for St. Mary s County. On the day of trial, he entered a guilty plea to one count of possession of marijuana and was convicted. The trial judge, at sentencing, assessed, in pertinent part, a thousand dollar fine, stating that the Court is going to see to it in these fine cases that they are paid, because after all, the jury has to be paid. The judge s remark, taken at face value, expressed a legally erroneous misunderstanding of the judge s sentencing discretion in levying or setting a fine. Md. Code (1957, 2003 Repl. Vol.), Article 38, §§ 1, 2, & 4(b); Md. Code (1973, 2002 Repl. Vol.), §8-106 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article; Md. Rules 2-509 & 4-353. As a result, the thousand dollar fine was an illegal sentence. Circuit Co urt for St. M ary s County Case # 18-K-02-716 IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 87 September Term, 2004 JOSEPH W. MEDLEY v. STATE OF MARYLAND Bell, C.J. Raker Wilner Cathell Harrell Battaglia Greene, JJ. Opinion by Harrell, J. Filed: April 1, 2005 Following his conviction on 6 February 2003 of one count of possession of marijuana, based on a guilty plea and agreed fac ts before the Circuit Cou rt for St. Mary s County, Joseph W. Medley was sentenced by the trial judge as follows: I here by sen tenc e you to fo urteen days St. Mary s Co unty Detention Center, give you credit for fourteen days served. In addition to that, you have to p ay a fine of a thousand dollars, plus $125 court costs. Fine and costs are due today. And the Court is go ing to see to it in these fine cases that they are paid, because after all, the jury has to be paid.[1] On 7 March 2003, Medley filed a motion to correct illegal sentence, to wit, the $1,000 fine. That motion was denied. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment in an unreported opinion We granted certiora ri, Medley v. State, 383 Md. 569 , 861 A.2d 60 (2 004), to consider whether the trial judge erred in imposing the $1,000 fine beca use after all, the jury has to be paid. Lacking an ability on this record to attribute a connotation to the trial judge s remark other than its plain meaning denotation,2 we hold that M edley s fine was an illegal 1 Prior to enterin g a guilty plea, M edley elected a ju ry trial. The judge, in querying Medley at the plea proceedings regarding the rights he would be waiving, said: Most importantly, Mr. Medley, the Court has available today for you a jury. You have indicated that you wanted this case tried by a jury. I have a jury standing by in the jury assembly room. If you want a jury trial, you can have one. 2 See Rossville Vending Machine Corporation v. Comptroller, 97 Md. App. 305, 32324, 629 A.2d 1283, 1293 (1993), for an elaboration of the difference in meaning between connotation and denotation. senten ce and reverse the judg ment o f the C ourt of Specia l Appe als. I. A sentencing judge has wide discretion in achieving the principal objectives of sentencing punish ment, d eterren ce, and rehabili tation. Jackson v. State, 364 Md. 192, 199, 772 A.2d 273, 277 (2001) (citing Poe v. State, 341 Md. 523, 531, 671 A.2d, 501, 505 (1996 ); State v. Dopkowski, 325 Md. 671, 679, 602 A.2d 1185, 1189 (1992)) (some citations omitted). We m ay overtu rn a sen tence, h owev er, if we conclude that either: 1) it violates constitutional standard s; 2) t he se nten cing judg e wa s mo tivat ed by ill-will, prejudice or impermiss ible considerations; or 3) the sentence excee ds statut ory limits. Jackson, 364 Md. at 200, 772 A.2d at 277 (quoting Gary v. S tate, 341 Md. 513, 516, 671 A.2d 495, 496 (1996) (some citations omitted)). In the present case, we are confronted with a record where, taken at face value, the judge linked or justified the thousand dollar fine to reim bursement for jury costs. This objective falls outside the sentencing judge s statutory authority under then §§ 1, 2, & 4 (b) of Article 38 of the Maryland Code,3 § 8-106 of the Courts and Judicial 3 Sections 1, 2, and 4 of former Article 38, in effect at the time of Medley s sentencing, dealt with fines and forfeitures. Md. Code (1957, 2003 Replacemen t Volume). The portions of this Article rele vant to this ap peal were excised fro m Article 38, 2004 Md. Laws, Chap. 26, and re-enacted without substantial change as § 7-501 (defining costs and fines ), § 7-502 (liability for costs), and § 7-504 (f ailure or inab ility to pay fine). Md. Code (1973, 2002 Repl. Vol., 2004 Supp.) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article. We shall refer throug hout this opinion to th e former s ections of A rticle 38 in effect at the time of sentencing. Section 1 s tated, in releva nt part: (continued...) 2 Proceedings Article,4 and Maryland Rules 2-5095 and 4-353.6 (...continued) If any person shall be adjudged guilty of any offense by any court having jurisdiction in the premises, he shall be sentenced to the fine or penalty prescribed by such act of Assembly or ordinance and shall be liable for the costs of his prosecution; and in default of payment of the fine or penalty he may be committed to jail in accordance with § 4 of this article un til thence discharged by due course of law. Section 2 stated: Except as provided in § 7-302 of the Courts Article of the Code, all fines, penalties and forfeitures, when recovered shall be paid to the county or city where the offense occurred or cause of action originated unless directed to be paid otherwise by law imposing them. Section 4 stated , in releva nt part, th at, (cos ts shall n ot cons titute a pa rt of any f ine). . . . 4 § 8-10 6 states, in relevan t part, § 8-106. Compensation of jurors. (b) Per die m. A juror shall receive a State per diem amount of $15 for each day the juror atte nds co urt. Md. Code (1973, 2002 Repl. Vol.) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article (emphasis added). 5 Rule 2-509 provides that only the First (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties), Second (Caro line, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne s, and T albot Counties), and Fourth (Allegany, Garrett, and Washington Counties) Judicial Circuits may assess special costs equal to the total compensation paid to the jurors wh o reported . . . to a defend ant if a jury trial is removed from the assignm ent at the initiative of a party for a ny reason w ithin the 48 hour period, not including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, prior to 10:00 a.m. on the date schedu led. . . 6 Rule 4-353 states that a judgment of c onviction or a disposition by proba tion before (continued...) 3 In reviewing the sentencing judge s actions, we are mindfu l that, absent a misstatement of law or conduct inconsistent with the law , a [t]rial [judg e is] presum ed to know the law and apply it properly. Cheney v. State, 375 Md. 168, 179, 825 A.2d 452, 459 (2003) (quoting Ball v. State, 347 Md. 156, 206, 699 A.2d 1170, 1194 (1997)). In Cheney, we explained that this foundational principle of law is deeply rooted in a strong presumption that judges perform their legal duties p roperly. Id. at 181, 825 A.2d at 459 (citing Bank of the United States v. Dandridge, 25 U.S. 64 , 69-70 (18 27); Schow gurow v . State, 240 Md. 121, 126, 213 A.2d 475, 479 (1965 ); Albrecht v . State, 132 Md. 150, 156, 103 A. 443, 445 (1918)). Equally important is the companion presumption that judges know the law . Id. at 181-82, 825 A.2d at 459-60 (quoting Samson v. State, 27 Md. App. 326, 334, 341 A.2d 817, 823 (1975)); Grumbine v. State, 60 Md. 355, 356 (1883). Because of these potent presumptions, we are reluctant to find error, opining that the judge misperceives the law, unless persuaded from the record that a judge made a misstatement of the law or acted in a manner inconsistent with the law. Perry v. State, 381 Md. 138, 154 n. 8, 848 A.2d 631, 641 n. 8 (2004) (h olding that a judge s comment that he did not have to hold a hearing outside the presence of a jury did not indicate that the judge did not know his legal duty to determine a child s com petency prior to testifying); Cheney, 375 Md. at 184, 825 A.2d at 461-62 (holding that judge p roperly knew and applie d the law b ecause he did not mis state the law); 6 (...continued) judgment or an accepted plea of nolo contendere shall include an assessment of court costs agains t the def endan t unless o therwi se orde red by the court. 4 Davis v. State, 344 Md. 331, 339, 686 A.2d 1083, 1086 (1996) (holding that absent an express ruling to the contrary, a judge is presumed to know and apply correctly the law); John O. v. Jane O., 90 Md. App. 406, 429, 601 A.2d 149, 160 (1992) (holding that, [u]nless it is clear in the record that a trial judge does not know the law, the presumption remains that the judge knows and applies correctly the law) (citing Lapides v. Lapides, 50 Md. App. 248, 252, 437 A .2d 251, 254 (198 1)). Cheney reviewed whether a sentencing judge interpreted properly a sentencing statute (former § 413 of Article 27 of the Maryland Code ) for first deg ree murde r, after its death penalty provisions had been excised in Bartholo mey v. Sta te, 267 Md. 175, 297 A.2d 696 (1972), w hen the jud ge did not a cknow ledge exp ressly his statutorily-gran ted discretion to suspend all or a portion of the sentence.7 Cheney, 375 Md. at 178, 825 A.2d at 457-58. In that case, the judge observed that the only portion of the sentencing statute (§ 413) surviving Bartholomey provided for a life sentence, without mention of the potential of a suspended sentence. He ordered a life sentence without mention of suspension of any part. On appeal 7 The statute in effect at the time of Cheney s sentencing stated that [e]very person convicted of murder in the first degree . . . . shall suffer death, or undergo a confinement in the penitentiary of the State for a the [sic] period of their natural life. Cheney, 375 Md. at 178, 825 A.2d at 457 (citing Md. Code (1957, 1971 Repl. Vol.), Article 27, § 413). Section 413 did not address the potentiality for suspension of the sentence. Id. After § 413 was abridged in Bartholomey, we held that a sentencing judge had the discretion to suspend a mandatory life sentence under then-§641A. Id. at 176 n.4, 825 A.2d at 456 n.4 (holding that § 641A, a statute that granted generally a sentencing judge the discretion to suspend a sentence and place a defendant on probation, was applicable to mandatory life sentences for murder) (citing State v. Wooten, 277 Md. 114, 116-18, 352 A.2d 829, 831-32 (1976)). 5 to the intermed iate appellate c ourt, Chen ey successfu lly argued that the judge ignored case law interpreting other statutory provisions (§ 641A) allowing a sentencing judge to exercise his (or her) discretion to order a suspended sentence for first degree murder. Id. at 177, 825 A.2d at 457. The Court of Special Appeals concluded that the judge rendered an illegal sentence because he impermissibly did not consider a suspend ed sentenc e as being w ithin his judicial d iscretion . Id. In reversing the Court of Special A ppeals and affirming the original se ntence, w e held that the sentencing judge was presumed to have acted properly because he did not misstate the law. Id. at 184, 825 A.2d at 461. Absent an express misstatement of the law, the judge was presumed to know the law that allowed him the discretion (under then-§ 641A) to order a suspende d sentence even tho ugh § 41 3 was silen t as to that. We agreed w ith the Court of Special Appeals that the judge properly interpreted and stated the provisions of § 413 of Article 27. We re versed the in termediate appellate court s judgment, however, because the judge said nothing on the reco rd that evinced he was not aware of his discretion to suspend the sentence under § 641A. Unlike the Court of Special Appeals, we presumed that he was aware of his discretion under § 641A and chos e not to exe rcise that discre tion to suspe nd all or any pa rt of the life sen tence. Id. at 184- 85, 825 A.2d a t 461-6 2. It is clear, after reviewing the statutory provisions relevant to the present case, that the Circuit Court lacked the authority to levy or set a fine premised, in whole or in part, on paying for or reimbursing jury costs that may have been incurred because Medley did not 6 waive his jury election u ntil the day of trial. A sentencing judge ma y assess court co sts to a defend ant in a crimin al trial but, unde r § 4 of A rticle 38, those costs shall n ot constitute a part of any fine. Although Rule 4-353 allows a sentencing judge to levy costs to the defenda nt, only those sentencing judges sitting in the First, Second, or Fourth Circuits may impose jury costs St. M ary s County lies w ithin the Sev enth Judicial Circuit. Md. Rule 2509. Furthermore, the jury costs per mitted by Ru le 2-509 are permissible only in civil cases. Gantt v. State, 109 M d. App . 590, 59 8, 675 A .2d 581 , 585 (199 6). L astly, j ury per diem costs are paid by the State of Maryland, not by St. Mary s County. Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 8-106. The Co unty would receive the payment of any lawful fine in this case. § 2, Art. 38. Unlike in Cheney, the sentencing judge s statement, because after all, the jury has to be paid, taken at face value, evinced an incorrect understanding of the relevant law. There is no plausible statutory authority that would allow a judge in th e Circuit C ourt for St. Mary s County to order a fine , or set the am ount thereo f, to pay who lly or in part the cost of a jury. The State maintains before us (having convin ced the Court of Special Appeals) that the sentencing judge s co mments s hould not be taken literally, but rather should be construed as being akin to a glib rend ition of the metaphor, the p iper must be paid. In essence, the State asks us to perceive a connotation not apparent from the context of this record or to attribute to the remark a legally benign motive found only in some assumed judicial consciousness shared by the trial judge and us. Typically, we will not attribute to the words 7 of a lower court s opinion or order a sense beyond the plain meaning of language appearing in the reco rd, unle ss the co ntext su pports a differe nt readin g. See Pete v. State , 384 Md. 47, 53 n. 7, 862 A.2d 419, 422 n. 7 (2004) (resolving a conflict between an apparent typographical error in transc ribing the ora l opinion of the sentencing judge in ordering probation by examining the plain language in the probation order). Acquiescence in the State s argument is not possible in this case. JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS REVERSED. CASE REMANDED TO THAT COURT WITH DIRECTIONS TO VACATE THE SENTENCE IMPOSED BY THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR ST. MARY S COUNTY AND TO REMAND THE CASE TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR A NEW SENTENCING. COSTS IN THIS COURT AND IN THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS TO BE PAID BY ST. MARY S COUNTY. 8