Argued: April 5, 2019
Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 204299006
Barbera, C.J. [*] Greene, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
Getty, Battaglia, Lynne A., (Senior Judge, Specially
the imposition of sentence, a criminal defendant has the
right to seek modification of that sentence under Maryland
Rule 4-345(e). In order to obtain review of his or her
sentence, a defendant may file a motion seeking modification
"within 90 days after imposition of a sentence."
Md. Rule 4-345(e)(1). After a timely motion is filed,
generally the trial court has revisory power over a
defendant's sentence for five years "from the date
the sentence originally was imposed[.]" Md. Rule
proceedings introduce an added complexity to the tenets of
Maryland Rule 4-345(e). This Court has previously decided
that when a defendant receives ineffective assistance of
counsel and, consequently, loses his or her right to file a
motion for modification of sentence, the defendant may be
afforded the right to file a belated motion. State v.
Flansburg, 345 Md. 694, 705, 694 A.2d 462, 468 (1997).
This Court has not had occasion to decide how or whether such
postconviction relief impacts a circuit court's revisory
power over a defendant's sentence. The matter now before
this Court concerns precisely that question. As such, we
undertake to review the extent of a circuit court's
revisory power over a sentence, where a defendant has been
granted postconviction relief to file a belated motion for
modification of sentence.
& PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2005, Respondent John Schlick ("Mr. Schlick")
pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City to a
narcotics offense. On September 20, 2005, he was sentenced to
16 years in prison, 14 years and six months of which were
suspended, and he was to be placed on five years of probation
upon his release. Mr. Schlick did not request that his
sentence be modified or otherwise reviewed.
his release on probation, Mr. Schlick was convicted of
another crime. As a result, he was charged with violating the
terms of his probation. On September 15, 2008, Mr. Schlick
appeared before the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for a
violation of probation hearing. At the violation of probation
hearing, the court revoked Mr. Schlick's probation and
sentenced him to 14 years and six months incarceration,
thereby reimposing the suspended portion of Mr. Schlick's
2005 sentence for the narcotics offense. No motion was filed
on Mr. Schlick's behalf to modify or otherwise review his
August 31, 2012, with the assistance of counsel, Mr. Schlick
filed a petition for postconviction relief, and on November
30, 2012 he supplemented the petition. Mr. Schlick argued
that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because he
had directed his lawyer from the 2008 violation of probation
hearing to file a motion for reduction of sentence, but his
lawyer failed to do so. Mr. Schlick's counsel from the
2008 hearing swore under oath in an affidavit that she failed
to file the motion for modification as requested by Mr.
Schlick. The postconviction court held a hearing on Mr.
Schlick's petition on February 20, 2013. On March 20,
2013, the court ruled on the petition in Mr. Schlick's
favor. The court concluded that Mr. Schlick received
ineffective assistance of counsel and permitted Mr. Schlick
to "file a belated [m]otion for [m]odification of
[s]entence within ninety (90) days of the date of [its]
Schlick, with the assistance of counsel, filed a motion for
modification in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on May
24, 2013, which was within 90 days of the postconviction
court's order. Six days later, on May 30, 2013, Mr.
Schlick, acting without the assistance of counsel, filed a
motion asking the court to hold his motion "in abeyance
until a later date." In July 2013, Mr. Schlick sent a
letter to the circuit court pro se, articulating
some of the reasons he believed the court should reduce his
sentence. On January 6, 2014, the court scheduled Mr.
Schlick's motion for a hearing to be held on February 12,
2014. On January 30, 2014, Mr. Schlick filed a motion to
postpone the hearing. The court granted Mr. Schlick's
motion on January 31, 2014 and ordered that "[Mr.
Schlick]'s [m]otion for [m]odification of [s]entence . .
. continue to be held sub curia by the [c]ourt,
until such time as [Mr. Schlick] requests a hearing."
24, 2014, Mr. Schlick's counsel requested a hearing on
his motion for modification. On January 15, 2015, the trial
court granted Mr. Schlick's request and again set the
matter for a hearing, which was to be held on March 6, 2015.
The March 6, 2015 hearing was not held. On October 15,
2015, Mr. Schlick's counsel again requested a hearing. On
July 16, 2016, the court ordered that the matter be set for a
hearing on October 17, 2016. On October 11, 2016, Mr.
Schlick's counsel filed a motion requesting a
continuance, with the State's consent, because Mr.
Schlick was incarcerated outside of Maryland, and the
Department of Corrections could not transport him in time for
the hearing. The circuit court granted the postponement and
reset the hearing for January 10, 2017.
December 2016, the circuit court issued an order to show
cause. Therein, the court explained that Mr. Schlick had been
originally sentenced for purposes of Rule 4-345(e) when his
probation was revoked on September 15, 2008. Thus, on
September 15, 2013, five years had passed from the date of
his sentence. The court directed the parties to address
whether Mr. Schlick's motion should be dismissed on the
grounds that, under Maryland Rule 4-345(e), the
"five[-]year expiration date for w[hen] the [c]ourt can
revise [Mr. Schlick]'s sentence" had expired. At the
hearing on January 10, 2017, the court heard arguments from
the State's attorney and Mr. Schlick's counsel with
regard to its revisory authority over Mr. Schlick's
sentence and on the merits of his motion for modification.
August 8, 2017, the circuit court dismissed Mr. Schlick's
motion without ruling on the merits. The court reasoned that
Mr. Schlick's sentence was originally imposed on
September 15, 2008, and its revisory power lapsed on
September 15, 2013. Accordingly, the court concluded that it
"no longer ha[d] revisory power over [Mr. Schlick]'s
sentence." In addition, the court pointed out that Mr.
Schlick was granted postconviction relief and filed his
belated motion in compliance with the postconviction
court's order, but he did not obtain a hearing or ruling
on the motion before September 15, 2013. Therefore, the court
concluded that Mr. Schlick's "inability to receive a
sentence modification" was attributable to his own
actions, not any "fault or error of the [c]ourt, nor
ineffective assistance of counsel[.]"
Schlick noted a timely appeal to the Court of Special
Appeals. Schlick v. State, 238 Md.App. 681, 194 A.3d
49 (2018). Our intermediate appellate court concluded that,
despite the five-year limitation set forth in Rule 4-345(e),
"the trial court retained fundamental jurisdiction to
rule on the belated [m]otion for [m]odification of
[s]entence." Id. at 690, 194 A.3d at 54. The
court explained that "[t]here are any number of reasons
it may be impossible or impractical for a judge to act
promptly upon a motion for reduction of sentence filed with
the court before the expiration of the five-year
period[.]" Id. at 692, 194 A.3d at 55. For
instance, a defendant may be granted permission to file a
belated motion "toward the end of the original period of
court emphasized that, in Mr. Schlick's case, the trial
court did not set Mr. Schlick's motion for a hearing
"until after the expiration of five years from the
imposition of the original sentence." Id. at
693, 194 A.3d at 55-56. The Court of Special Appeals
explained that "[i]n a perfect world, a court should set
the hearing within the five-year period," but it also
recognized that "courts are busy." Id. at
693, 194 A.3d at 56. If a circuit court fails to set a
hearing to consider the merits of a motion for modification
within the five-year window, according to our intermediate
appellate court, "the consequence should not be held
against the defendant." Id. The Court of
Special Appeals pointed out that after a defendant files a
motion there is also an onus on the defendant and counsel
"to make the best efforts" to have a hearing in a
timely manner. Id. In summation, the court explained
that "the court has [fundamental] jurisdiction over the
motion, but it is within the discretion of the trial court to
consider the totality of the circumstances and determine
whether to hear the motion on its merits." Id.
Therefore, the Court of Special Appeals vacated the judgment
of the circuit court and remanded the case to the circuit
"court to consider whether to entertain the [motion] and
to consider the merits of the motion." Id. at
693, 194 A.3d at 56.
January 7, 2019, this Court granted the State's Petition
for a Writ of Certiorari. We granted certiorari to
answer the following question:
Does a court lose revisory power over a criminal sentence
"after the expiration of five years from the date the
sentence originally was imposed," as Maryland Rule
4-345(e) states, or does the court instead indefinitely
retain "fundamental jurisdiction" to revise a
sentence, which it is an abuse of discretion not to consider
exercising, as the Court of Special Appeals held below?
State v. Schlick, 462 Md. 261, 199 A.3d 693 (2019).
present case, we are tasked with interpreting Maryland Rule
4-345(e). It is well settled that an interpretation of
Maryland Rule 4-345 is a question of law that is subject to
de novo review. See State v. Crawley, 455
Md. 52, 66, 166 A.3d 132, 140 (2017).