Argued: March 7, 2017
Court for Baltimore City Case No.: 615114006
Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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). 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
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
Phillips v. State, 451 Md. 180, 196-97 (2017)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Douglas v.
State, 423 Md. 156, 178 (2011)).
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.
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 ...