Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Phillip T. Caroon, Judge.
Submitted by: Gary W. Christopher (Office of the Federal Public Defender on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD for Appellant.
Submitted by: Mary Ann Ince (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD for Appellee.
Krauser, C.J. Meredith, Thieme, Raymond G., Jr. (Retired, Specially Assigned) JJ.
[219 Md.App. 342] Krauser, C.J.
In 1999, Orlando Ray Coleman, appellant, pleaded guilty, in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, to possession with intent to distribute cocaine. That court accepted the plea, found Coleman guilty, and sentenced him to a term of five years' imprisonment, with all but ten days suspended, to be followed by a period of five years of supervised probation. Twelve years later, Coleman filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the circuit court. In that petition, he asserted, for the first time, that his 1999 guilty plea was defective because, when he entered the plea, he was not advised of the maximum sentence he was facing or of the nature or elements of possession with intent to distribute. The denial of that petition by the Anne Arundel circuit court prompted this appeal.
1998 - 1999 Proceedings
In February 1998, Coleman was arrested and charged with possession with intent
to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (crack cocaine), possession of a controlled dangerous substance (crack cocaine), and with resisting arrest. That same month, the Commissioner filed a report with the District Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County certifying that, when Coleman appeared for his initial appearance, the Commissioner informed him " of each offense with which he [was] charged and of the allowable penalties, including mandatory penalties, if any."
In April 1998, the case was transferred from the District Court to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. The " Information" filed in the circuit court charged Coleman with the same offenses that were set forth in the Statement of Charges that had been filed in the District Court. This charging document also specifically noted that the penalty for possession with intent to distribute was " 20yr/$25,000."
[219 Md.App. 343] On January 21, 1999, Coleman appeared in the Anne Arundel County circuit court with counsel for a plea hearing. At that hearing, the State informed the court that, pursuant to a plea agreement, Coleman would plead guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and that, upon acceptance of that plea, the State would nol pros the remaining charges. The State further advised the court that it would be recommending a " lengthy sentence, the majority of it being suspended with only a small portion to be served at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center." It then added that, because defense counsel had " done a lot of work in assisting Mr. Coleman in getting into a college on the Eastern Shore, as part of the [sentencing] recommendation" it " would be requesting that as part of the probation he complete the SAT's." Moreover, it would not object if Coleman's probation were " to be transferred to the Eastern Shore" to accommodate his college schedule.
The court elicited from Coleman that he was then 19 years old, a high school graduate, and he was not under the influence of any drugs or medicine which might effect his understanding of the court proceedings that day. The court confirmed that Coleman understood the terms of the plea agreement, as reflected in the following exchange:
THE COURT: All right, sir, my understanding of the agreement that you made with the State as expressed by the State's Attorney was, that you would plead guilty to Count Number 1, which I understand to be possession with intent to distribute and the drug is cocaine. That the State would Nolle Pros, which is the same thing as dismissing any remaining counts in the indictment or information.
That the State is affirmatively recommending that you receive a lengthy jail sentence, mostly suspended and any unsuspended portion will be spent in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center. That you be placed on a [219 Md.App. 344] period of supervised probation and the State requests that I order you to take your SAT Exam. Is that your understanding of the plea agreement, sir?
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THE COURT: Do you understand that the Court is not bound by this recommendation made by the State and that the matters of sentencing and probation are completely up to the Court?
After ensuring that Coleman understood the rights he would be waiving by entering a guilty plea, the circuit court specifically advised him with respect to his appellate rights, that " [t]he only thing that you would be able to do is file a motion for leave to appeal and it will be up to the Appellate Court as to whether they wish to grant you the right of appeal." When asked if he understood that advisement, Coleman indicated that he did and then, when asked if he had any questions about his appellate rights, he responded that he did not.
As the court's examination of Coleman progressed, it asked him whether he had " had time to talk" with his attorney and whether he was " satisfied with the services" rendered by his counsel. Coleman replied: " Yes." Upon completion of its examination, the court concluded that Coleman was entering his plea knowingly and voluntarily.
The State then proffered the following factual summary in support of that plea:
[O]fficers of the Annapolis City Police Department would have been called to testify. The sum and substance of their testimony would have been that on February 19 of 1998, Officers Amoya (phonetic), Lowe (th phonetic) and Bristo (phonetic) were dispatched to 708 New Town Drive in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, in reference to a report of subject in the area involved in controlled dangerous substance activity.
[219 Md.App. 345] When the officers arrived they were in marked vehicle and uniform. Officer Amoya observed three subjects in the area. Officer Amoya got out of his vehicle [and] he began to approach, Defendant Orlando Ray Coleman, ...