Argued December 10, 2013
Certiorari to the Circuit Court for Charles County. Case No. 08-K-12-000806, Amy J. Bragunier, JUDGE.
ARGUED BY Brian M. Saccenti, Assistant Public Defender (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender of Maryland, of Baltimore, MD) on brief FOR PETITIONER.
ARGUED BY Benjamin A. Harris Assistant Attorney General (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland, of Baltimore, MD) on brief FOR RESPONDENT.
ARGUED BEFORE: Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, and Watts, JJ.
[437 Md. 403] Barbera, C.J.
This case calls upon us, once again, to consider the prohibitions against double jeopardy granted by the federal Constitution and Maryland's common law. We encounter here, in particular, two protections afforded by double jeopardy law: the plea of autrefois acquit, which protects against the second prosecution of a defendant for the same offense after acquittal; and the doctrine of collateral estoppel, which protects against the relitigation of an issue of ultimate fact that has been decided in a defendant's favor.
Petitioner Dwayne Scriber was charged with various traffic offenses in the District Court of Maryland, sitting in Charles County. At the conclusion of the State's case, the District Court granted Petitioner's motion for judgment of acquittal as to the charge of disobeying a lawful order or direction of a police officer but ultimately convicted Petitioner of four counts of fleeing and eluding police, in addition to other offenses. Petitioner filed notice of a de novo appeal to the Circuit Court for
Charles County and, prior to trial, moved to dismiss the fleeing and eluding counts. He argued that, in light of his acquittal of disobeying a lawful order, prosecution [437 Md. 404] of the fleeing and eluding charges in the Circuit Court would violate federal constitutional and Maryland common-law protections against double jeopardy. The Circuit Court denied the motion. Petitioner then sought, and this Court granted, a writ of certiorari to review the ruling of the Circuit Court.
For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the State is not barred by the prohibitions against double jeopardy fro pursuing the fleeing and eluding charges in the Circuit Court. We therefore affirm the denial of Petitioner's motion to dismiss.
On the night of August 19, 2011, Officer Jonathan Kelly of the Charles County Sheriff's Office was on patrol in a residential neighborhood in La Plata, wearing his uniform and driving a marked car. Observing a Toyota Camry operating without headlights illuminated, Officer Kelly decided to initiate a traffic stop. He pulled in front of that vehicle and activated his emergency lights. The vehicle " initially stopped for a brief moment," but then drove around Officer Kelly's patrol car and continued down the street. Officer Kelly pursued the vehicle for approximately one half-mile until it came to a stop outside an apartment complex, at which point the driver and passenger exited the vehicle and ran into a wooded area behind the complex. Officer Kelly did not follow, instead awaiting the arrival of other officers on the scene.
After speaking with the owner of the Camry, Tarra Goldring, Officer Kelly suspected that Petitioner, Goldring's boyfriend at the time, may have been the driver of the vehicle during the attempted traffic stop. Officer Kelly viewed a photograph of Petitioner in a computer database confirming that it was Petitioner he had seen driving; he then filed an Application for Statement of Charges the following day. Petitioner was charged in the District Court with various traffic [437 Md. 405] offenses and, relevant to this appeal, disobeying a lawful order or direction of a police officer and four counts of fleeing and eluding police.
The District Court Trial
Petitioner was tried before the District Court of Maryland, sitting in Charles County. Officer Kelly was the only witness for the State, and, at the conclusion of the State's case, Petitioner's counsel made a motion for judgment of acquittal as to all charges. Pertinent here, the District Court granted the motion as to the disobeying a lawful order charge, reasoning that Officer Kelly had not given an order or direction by mere activation of his patrol car's emergency lights: " I just don't get the nexus between turning on the lights being an order or direction of a police officer. Obviously, there was an implication with that, but again, I think that's covered with the failure to stop." At
the conclusion of trial, the court found Petitioner guilty of four counts of fleeing and eluding police, along with other traffic offenses. Petitioner filed a notice of de novo appeal to the Circuit Court.
The Circuit Court Motions Hearing
Prior to trial in the Circuit Court, Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the fleeing and eluding charges. In the motion, Petitioner argued that the District Court's judgment of acquittal as to the charge of disobeying a lawful order barred trial in the Circuit Court for the offense of fleeing and eluding. Petitioner asserted that disobeying a lawful order or direction of a police officer is the lesser-included offense of fleeing and [437 Md. 406] eluding police, rendering both offenses the " same" for double jeopardy purposes.
On November 7, 2012, the Circuit Court held a hearing on the motion. The State, characterizing Petitioner's argument as an allegation that the District Court had erred in rendering its verdicts, claimed that Petitioner could not make such an argument upon de novo appeal, as " the trial [in District Court] has been washed away." As to the substance of Petitioner's claim, the State argued that, by operation of the " same elements" test set forth in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 304, 52 S.Ct. 180, 76 L.Ed. 306 (1932), the crimes of disobeying a lawful order and fleeing and eluding are not the same offense for double jeopardy purposes: Under the fleeing and eluding statute, drivers must stop their vehicles regardless of whether the police officer's signal to stop is lawful, whereas under the disobeying a lawful order statute, the police officer's order or direction must be lawful for the offense to lie, thereby making each offense distinct from the other. The Circuit Court, without elaboration, denied the motion to dismiss the four counts of fleeing and eluding.
Petitioner filed a " Notice of Appeal," seeking review in this Court of the Circuit Court's denial of his motion to dismiss the de novo appeal in that court. Ordinarily, appellate courts review only final judgments. Md. Code (1973, 2013 Repl. Vol.), § 12-301 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article (hereinafter CJ § 12-301). Under the " collateral order" doctrine, however, in a limited class of cases we allow appellate review prior to the entry of a final judgment and, for purposes of such review, treat those interlocutory orders as " final judgments," under CJ § 12-301, " 'without regard to the posture of the case.'" Fuller v. State, 397 Md. 372, 383, 918 A.2d 453 (2007) (quoting Jackson v. State, 357 Md. 259, 266-67, 747 A.2d 1199 (2000)). Denials of motions to dismiss on the ground of double jeopardy compose a category warranting immediate review. Stephens v. State, 420 Md. 495, 505-06, 24 [437 Md. 407] A.3d 105 (2011) (citing Parrott v. State, 301 Md. 411, 424-25, 483 A.2d 68 (1984)).
We treated Petitioner's notice of appeal as a petition for writ of certiorari and granted that petition to answer the following question, as ...