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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Griffin v. Lindsey, — A.2d —, No. 88, 2015 WL 4627383 (Md. Aug. 4, 2015).

September 03, 2015

Defendants in the underlying criminal case were indicted for offenses relating to the shooting of the victim.  One of the defendants entered into a plea agreement that did not mention restitution and that contained a clause indicating that it represented “the full and complete agreement of the parties.”  The court accepted the plea and postponed defendant’s sentencing until a later date.  At sentencing, the state, arguing that the victim has an absolute right to request restitution regardless of whether it is addressed in a plea agreement, advised the court that the victim was seeking $9,700 in restitution.  The court disagreed, holding that it could not order restitution because it would violate the terms of the plea agreement by adding to defendant’s penalty.  Defendant’s sentence was imposed without ordering restitution.  The victim filed a motion for reconsideration within 30 days of sentencing, and the Circuit Court denied the motion, reiterating that imposing restitution would violate the terms of the plea agreement and reasoning, for the first time, that ordering restitution would violate “the Constitution.”  Approximately three months after sentencing, but within 30 days of the denial of the motion for reconsideration, the victim filed an application for leave to appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, which was granted, and the intermediate appellate court reversed, holding that although the application was untimely with respect to the original judgment, it was timely with respect to the court’s decision on the victim’s motion for reconsideration.  The Court of Special Appeals further held that the trial court violated its discretion when it denied the victim’s motion for reconsideration, finding that the court had discretion to order restitution as a condition of defendant’s probation without violating the terms of the plea agreement and without violating defendant’s protections against double jeopardy.  On appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that the right to appeal is one that is construed narrowly and, although the statute governing the right to appeal applies to decisions that deny or fail to consider a right secured by 12 specific statutes, including restitution, the statute did not provide a right to appeal with respect to decisions made in response to motions to reconsider.  In this case, the victim failed to file an application for leave to appeal the sentence based on the denial of the victim’s right to restitution within the 30 day time frame following sentencing, and because statutory authority neither provided for the right to appeal from the motion to reconsider nor tolled the 30 day period during the pendency of the motion for reconsideration, the Court of Appeals held that the victim’s appeal was untimely.  In a footnote, the Court of Appeals noted that a victim could file an application for leave to appeal and simultaneously move for reconsideration of defendant’s sentence, so as to ensure compliance with the 30 day requirement.  Because the Court of Special Appeals did not have jurisdiction to consider the victim’s untimely appeal, its judgment was reversed.  Two justices dissented from the majority opinion, arguing that its holding is contrary to the language and the purpose of the statute, the interests of judicial economy, and the language of the Maryland Constitution.  The dissent focused on the inherently unfair nature of the majority’s opinion, and case law and reasoning in support of a contrary conclusion, as the majority’s holding effectively divested the victim of his right “to appeal an erroneous decision, despite state constitutional provisions and statutes that suggest that the General Assembly is committed at the very least to not erecting such barriers between crime victims and their rights.”