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Narcotics Distribution Repeat Offender’s Case Successfully Resolved with Health General Exception to Mandatory Sentence

Of all of the cases that Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorneys/Lawyers are called upon to handle, some of the most difficult are cases involving repeat offenders in drug distribution cases. In Maryland, if a person who has been previously convicted of a either possession with the intent to distribute a narcotic such as heroin, cocaine or prescription controlled dangerous substances, is again charged, he will likely face a mandatory jail sentence that must be served without the possibility of parole. Some jurisdiction such as Baltimore County, pursue these mandatory sentences in virtually every case. Other jurisdictions such as Baltimore City more often than not use the threat of invoking the mandatory sentence to pressure defendants into plea bargain on terms that prosecutors view as favorable.

In Maryland, in cases where a person is charged with distribution of or possession with intent to distribute narcotics such as cocaine, heroin or prescription drugs, a second offender will be subject to 10 years in prison without the possibility of parole. A third offender is subject to a mandatory 25 year sentence without parole and a person with 4 or more convictions faces 40 years. However, in cases involving second offenders, a defendant who is convicted may be eligible for a modification of that sentence if the person is found to be in need of drug treatment by the Department of Health and Mental Hygene and to be sufficiently motivated to take advantage of the opportunity to receive treatment.

For a Maryland Criminal Attorney to put his client in a position to have his mandatory sentence modified, the attorney must file two motions within 90 days of the imposition of the sentence. The first is a motion for modification of sentence. The purpose of this motion is to allow the court to maintain jurisdiction over the case beyond the 90 day period. The second motion is a motion under section 8-505 of the Health General Article.

In the case that I handled last week, the client had been caught on a wiretap conducted by the Baltimore County Police. The wire was active for over a month and during that time the police recording my client engaging in several highly incriminating conversations regarding the distribution of cocaine. In addition to this evidence the prosecution had secured the cooperation of two individuals who had been federally indicted. Each of these individuals was prepared to testify that they had purchased cocaine from my client on multiple occasions including several transactions that had been picked up on the wire.

I discussed with my client that in my estimation, the State had a strong but not airtight case against him. I advised him that we should take the case to trial unless we could secure a guarantee that a Health General 8-505 motion would be granted within a reasonable period of time.

My client was fortunate in that we drew an extremely favorable judge for this case. After several months of negotiation with the State in which I pointed out to the prosecutor the weaknesses in his case, we reached an agreement that the judge would grant the 8-505 motion after my client had served approximately one year of his 10 year mandatory sentence. At this point I advised my client that he would be crazy to risk a conviction which would have subject him to a mandatory 10 year non-parolable sentence in this matter given the relative strength of the State’s case, particularly given that he received a guarantee from the judge that he would grant the motion after just one year.

We did run into one hiccup in that in the original report the evaluator found that while my client was clearly a long time drug abuser who could benefit from drug treatment, he lack sufficient motivation to take advantage of an opportunity to receive treatment. Fortunately I had him re-evaluated last month and the evaluator found that, not surprisingly, a year in the Division of Corrections had provided my client with the motivation that she had found that he previously lacked.

We appeared before the judge on the motion last week and he granted the it committing my client to the Department of Health and Mental Hygene for drug treatment. My client will be transferred to the Guadenzia program where he will complete a 60 day inpatient treatment program at which point he will be allowed to return home to his family. The total time he will serve including the treatment program will be just a few days over 15 months. This was not the perfect result in the case but 15 months is a far cry better than 10 years by any measure.

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