Maryland criminal appeals: Retroactive punishment struck down

On behalf of Jack B. Rubin, PA posted in Criminal Appeals on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.

Criminal appeals are a vital part of the Maryland and American justice systems. Not every person who is accused of a crime has committed the act they are charged with. As some Maryland residents may know from firsthand experience, not even every individual who is convicted of a crime is guilty of what prosecutors allege. In other cases, criminal appeals become necessary because an injustice is done in the form of having a punishment retroactively applied.

This appears to be the case for one man who was convicted as a sex offender for a crime that occurred in the 1980s. The Maryland sex offender registry didn’t kick into effect until 1995, and the man was convicted of a sex offense in 2006 for the 1980s allegation. Authorities required him to register as a sex offender, despite the fact that this meant he was having that portion of his punishment retroactively applied since the registry wouldn’t have existed at the time his crime apparently occurred.

The Maryland Court of Appeals reached a divided ruling that authorities should remove the name of the man-identified in court documents as John Doe-from the sex offender registry. The majority held that having his name in the registry did violate the state’s prohibition against instituting retroactive punishments for crimes. Some are concerned that this could cause many other offenders to appeal to have their names taken off of the registry, but it does appear clear that state law guarantees citizens the right to not have punishments retroactively applied.

Criminal appeals can provide a crucial step for individuals who are accused of a crime; or as, in this case, when they have an unfair punishment enacted against them. Those who feel that they are in a similar situation may wish to research their options for filing a criminal appeal. This may help them obtain the justice that they feel they may have been denied.

Source: Baltimore Sun, “Effect of court decision on sex-offender registry unclear,” Alison Knezevich, March 6, 2013

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