Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Brown v. State

Court of Appeals of Maryland

July 28, 2017

DAMAR BROWN
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

          Argued: March 7, 2017

         Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No.: 615114006

          Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, JJ.

          OPINION

          GETTY, J.

         In this case, we are asked to determine whether a defendant charged with misdemeanors by information, in circuit court, is entitled to a preliminary hearing pursuant to § 4-102 of the Criminal Procedure Article ("CP") of the Maryland Code. For the following reasons, we answer in the negative and hold that CP § 4-102 provides that in a circuit court proceeding a defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing when charged by information with felonies, but not when the defendant is charged by information with misdemeanors.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 3, 2015, two police officers observed Damar Brown walking in a manner that led the police to believe that Mr. Brown was carrying a concealed weapon. The officers approached Mr. Brown and a scuffle ensued-an officer was struck in the face and the officers recovered a loaded .22 caliber revolver from the left front pocket of Mr. Brown's sweatpants. The officers also recovered a black ski mask from Mr. Brown's hooded sweatshirt pouch pocket. As a result, the officers arrested Mr. Brown.

         On April 4, 2015, the State charged Mr. Brown by a statement of charges in the District Court of Maryland sitting in Baltimore City with wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun, second-degree assault, and resisting or interfering with arrest, all of which constitute misdemeanor offenses.[1] On April 24, 2015, the State filed an information in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City charging Mr. Brown with the same offenses. Mr. Brown did not receive a preliminary hearing in district court prior to being charged in circuit court or thereafter.

         In the circuit court, on May 20, 2015, Mr. Brown moved for dismissal of the charges, arguing that the case was improperly before the circuit court because Mr. Brown had been charged with misdemeanors by means of criminal information without a preliminary hearing resulting in a finding of probable cause. Mr. Brown contended that this procedure violated Maryland Code (2001, 2008 Repl. Vol.), CP § 4-102(2) and Maryland Rule 4-201(c)(2)(A). The State responded that Mr. Brown was not entitled to a preliminary hearing because he was only charged with misdemeanors. The circuit court granted Mr. Brown's motion and dismissed the case without prejudice.

         The State appealed the circuit court's dismissal of charges. In the Court of Special Appeals, Mr. Brown again argued that the controlling statute entitled him to a preliminary hearing. In response, the State interpreted CP § 4-102(2) as entitling defendants to preliminary hearings if charged by information with a felony within the jurisdiction of the district court, but not when charged with misdemeanors. Therefore, the State argued that Mr. Brown was not entitled to a preliminary hearing and the circuit court improperly dismissed the charges against Mr. Brown.

         In an unreported opinion filed on September 2, 2016, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court, holding that the circuit court improperly construed CP § 4-102(2) to require preliminary hearings in cases involving misdemeanors charged by information in circuit court. State v. Brown, No. 1094, 2016 WL 4591529, at *8-9 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept. 2, 2016).[2] Mr. Brown then petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari, which we granted on December 2, 2016. Brown v. State, 450 Md. 660 (2016). Mr. Brown presents one question for our review: "Did the Court of Special Appeals err in concluding that when the State charges misdemeanors by criminal information in the circuit court no preliminary hearing is required?"

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The interpretation of a statute is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo. Bellard v. State, 452 Md. 467, 480-81 (2017). Furthermore,

[t]his Court provides judicial deference to the policy decisions enacted into law by the General Assembly. We assume that the legislature's intent is expressed in the statutory language and thus our statutory interpretation focuses primarily on the language of the statute to determine the purpose and intent of the General Assembly.
We begin our analysis by first looking to the normal, plain meaning of the language of the statute, reading the statute as a whole to ensure that no word, clause, sentence or phrase is rendered surplusage, superfluous, meaningless or nugatory. If the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, we need not look beyond the statute's provisions and our analysis ends. Occasionally we see fit to examine extrinsic sources of legislative intent merely as a check of our reading of a statute's plain language. In such instances, we may find useful the context of a statute, the overall statutory scheme, and archival legislative history of relevant enactments.

Phillips v. State, 451 Md. 180, 196-97 (2017) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Douglas v. State, 423 Md. 156, 178 (2011)).

         We view the plain language of a statute in the context of the statutory scheme to which it belongs, with a focus on ascertaining the intent or underlying policy of the General Assembly in the statute's enactment. Mummert v. Alizadeh, 435 Md. 207, 213 (2013).

[T]he meaning of the plainest language is controlled by the context in which it appears. As this Court has stated, because it is part of the context, related statutes or a statutory scheme that fairly bears on the fundamental issue of legislative purpose or goal must also be considered. Thus, not only are we required to interpret the statute as a whole, but, if appropriate, in the context of the entire statutory scheme of which it is a part.

Stickley v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 431 Md. 347, 359 (2013) (quoting Centre Ins. Co. v. J.T.W., 397 Md. 71, 81 (2007)). Therefore, we shall analyze the plain language of CP § 4-102 in the context of the statutory scheme to which it belongs, and determine in which cases defendants are entitled to preliminary hearings when charged by information in circuit court.

         DISCUSSION

         Pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-201(a), an "offense shall be tried only on a charging document." A charging document is defined as "a written accusation alleging that a defendant has committed an offense. It includes a citation, an indictment, an information, and a statement of charges." Md. Rule 4-102(a). An information is defined as "a charging ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.