DUIs and Troubling Trends in Carroll County, Maryland
The new State’s Attorneys regime in Carroll County is acting with little respect towards the legal process and the bench, at present, is letting them get away with it. We were in Court for trial last week for what was a rather innocuous DUI case. We were there to try the case as there were several triable issues. When I approached the prosecutor she made an offer on the case. I told her it is a trial and to let me know when her officers arrive. The prosecutor agreed and we all waited.
Later on the prosecutor approached me and offered the lower DWI count as a plea deal. I asked her why she was doing that; she said her officer is unavailable. She then said that if we do not take her offer that she will just drop the charges and re-file. I told her to do what she needs to do but that she is setting a dangerous precedent by handling the case this way.
The dirty pool that the prosecutor is doing here is they are dropping the charges solely with the intent to re-file at a later point when the officer is available. They are circumventing the Judge’s authority to deny a postponement by simply dropping the charges such that the Judge has no say in the matter. In any other jurisdiction the prosecutor would ask the Judge for a postponement. If the Judge denies that postponement request then the state is forced to drop their case. The state prosecutor is attempting to work around that by dropping the charges here.
In my opinion and that of many other defense lawyers, this is a very dirty and dangerous practice. It shows a true lack of respect for the process. It also shows that they have no care for those charged with crimes, whether wrongfully or not. Many lawyers have argued multiple times in this jurisdiction to dismiss the charges with prejudice such they cannot be brought back. The Judges in Carroll County unfortunately are condoning this dubious behavior by the State.
The precedent being set is that no matter the reason, if the State cannot make their case they can just drop the charges and get another day in court. This causes people out on bond to possibly post a new bond. It causes the Defendants to have to deal with being served again and to prolong the anticipation of another court date. All because the prosecutor was not prepared. Happily, in the Circuit Court there is case law that forbids this behavior but until the case makes it to the Circuit Court, it is up to the Judges of the District Court to control this poor behavior.