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State v. Stachowski

Court of Appeals of Maryland

November 20, 2014


Argued: 7 October 2014

Circuit Court for Somerset County Case No. 19-K-06008089

Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, JJ.


Harrell, J.

We determine finally[1] under what circumstances, if any, Maryland's trial courts may order restitution as a condition of probation in a criminal case for injuries to victims of other crimes committed by the defendant that have no direct relationship to the crime for which the defendant has been convicted and the restitution ordered. The Court of Special Appeals held that imposing restitution under the circumstances of the present case violated Maryland Code (1957, 2008 Repl. Vol.), Criminal Procedure Article, §11-603 ("CP"). We shall reverse.

I. The Circumstances.

In 2003 and 2004, Kenneth Stachowski violated Maryland's home improvement regulations codified in Maryland Code (1957, 2008 Repl. Vol.), Business Regulation Article, §8-101 et. seq. ("BR"). Stachowski entered into three separate home improvement contracts with different Somerset County residents. When he failed to perform the agreed upon work, the aggrieved parties filed complaints with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. The result was that Stachowski was charged criminally in the District Court of Maryland, sitting in Somerset County, with failing to perform home improvement contracts (in violation of BR § 8-605) and acting as a contractor without a license (in violation of BR § 8-601). As there were three contracts, three separate criminal proceedings were docketed as the units of prosecution.

The charges were resolved through a plea agreement. Stachowski pleaded guilty to failing to perform a home improvement contract in two of the cases and acting as a contractor without a license in the third. The State nolle prossed the remaining charge in each case. The District Court imposed a suspended sentence of incarceration, a suspended fine, and supervised probation. As a condition of his probation, the District Court ordered Stachowski to pay restitution to each of the three victims. Stachowski was ordered to pay each victim $250 a month, until they were compensated for their respective losses of $2, 142.85, $4, 140, and $8, 997.

When Stachowski failed to make his restitution payments, the State sought to revoke his probation. The District Court determined, after a hearing, that Stachowski violated his probation in each of the three cases. The Court ordered Stachowski to serve consecutively his suspended sentences of incarceration and pay a fine of $1, 000 in each case, which would be "served off" at a rate of $10 per day of confinement. Stachowski appealed to the Circuit Court for Somerset County.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, Stachowski was charged with obtaining property or services by issuing a bad check, as well as theft. It was asserted that, in June 2005, Stachowski passed a check of $182.86, drawn on a closed account, to Somerset Well Drilling to obtain services from the company. The case was transferred by the District Court to the Circuit Court, upon Stachowski's request for a jury trial.[2]

On 11 October 2006, the bad check / theft case and the three probation violation home improvement cases were called for trial in the Circuit Court. At the beginning of the proceeding, the State informed the judge that the parties had reached plea agreements to resolve the four cases and announced the terms:

THE COURT: Is there anything I need to know about these cases before we proceed?
[THE STATE]: Your Honor, I believe we've worked out a plea agreement although I had not stated that on the record. My understanding of the plea agreement, Your Honor, three of these are an appeal for violation of probation from District Court. I think that we're in agreement and the State would consent to the fact that Judge Hayman had imposed all of the backup time for the cases. And in addition to that he had imposed a thousand dollar fine per case and ordered that the Defendant serve that off at ten dollars a day.
Your Honor, the portion that we're in agreement with is that the thousand dollar fine that he would serve off at ten dollars a day was an illegal sentence. My understanding as part of the plea agreement the Defendant will agree to serve the suspended portion of the sentence which was six months, six months and thirty days. If you need to know for each case it will take me a minute to find that out.
THE COURT: I'll look at it in a minute. Go ahead and finish up and we'll make sure the numbers are right.
[THE STATE]: Your Honor, as well the Defendant has agreed to plead guilty in [the bad check case] to the only count, single count of bad check. Your Honor, the State would recommend an active portion of five months incarceration which would be consecutive to the three other sentences as well. Those would be six months consecutive, consecutive to six months, consecutive to thirty days.
Consecutive to five months. In this case the suspended portion, Your Honor, we would leave up to you, but we would recommend some sort of a split sentence with an active period of incarceration.
As well, Your Honor, restitution has already been paid in this case. His wife provided ...

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