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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Lafontant v. State, — A.3d —, No. 1228, 2010 WL 4872249 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Dec. 1, 2010).

December 03, 2010

Defendant and the state agreed to a plea bargain on a vehicular manslaughter charge without consulting with the victim’s representative.  The plea was accepted by the trial court.  At a later sentencing hearing, the victim’s representative requested restitution, citing Maryland’s law affording victims the independent right to make a restitution request.  Defendant objected as restitution was not a part of the agreed-to plea.  The court asked defendant if he wanted to withdraw his plea but defendant refused to do so.  The court then sentenced defendant to the prison term contemplated by the plea, and at a later hearing required defendant to pay restitution as a condition of probation.  Defendant appealed from the court’s restitution order, arguing that he was entitled to have the plea specifically enforced without the restitution award.  The appellate court rejected defendant’s argument, holding that the trial court did not err in awarding the victim restitution because Maryland’s restitution statute gives the trial court discretion to award restitution as a condition of probation.  The court explained that although the plea bargain did not address probation, the trial court had advised defendant that probation could be added to the sentence and defendant knowingly went-forward with the plea; thus, the order of restitution as a condition of probation was within the court’s discretion. The court further noted that the victim’s request was proper under the Maryland restitution statute and, finding no error, the court upheld the trial court’s restitution order.

NCVLI participated in this proceeding as amicus curiae arguing to protect a victim’s right to restitution.