Argued: September 6, 2019
Circuit Court for Baltimore County Case No. 03-C-17-006383
Barbera, C.J. McDonald Watts Hotten Getty Booth Battaglia,
Lynne A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
of habeas corpus-meaning "that you have the body"
in Law Latin-is "employed to bring a person before a
court, most frequently to ensure that the person's
imprisonment or detention is not illegal[.]" Habeas
Corpus, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). This
Court has observed that "the great object" of a
writ of habeas corpus "is the liberation of parties who
may be imprisoned or detained without sufficient cause."
Olewiler v. Brady, 185 Md. 341, 345, 44 A.2d 807,
809 (1945) (cleaned up). The common law writ of habeas corpus
was codified in a Maryland statute in 1809, and later
encompassed by the protections of the Maryland Constitution
of 1867. See id. at 346, 44 A.2d at 809.
Specifically, the Maryland Constitution provides that
"[t]he General Assembly shall pass no Law suspending the
privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus." Md. Const.,
Art. III, § 55.
Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. (1974, 2013 Repl. Vol.,
2015 Supp.) ("CJ") § 3-702(a) generally
governs who may petition for a writ of habeas corpus,
A person committed, detained, confined, or restrained from
his [or her] lawful liberty within the State for any alleged
offense or under any color or pretense or any person in his
[or her] behalf, may petition for the writ of habeas corpus
to the end that the cause of the commitment, detainer,
confinement, or restraint may be inquired into.
receipt of a properly filed petition for a writ of habeas
corpus, among other things, "the judge shall grant the
writ unless the judge finds . . . that the individual
confined or restrained is not entitled to any relief[.]"
Md. R. 15-303(e)(3)(A).
In this case, we must determine whether a person who was
placed on unsupervised probation by a Maryland trial court
and subsequently moved to another State was committed,
detained, confined, or restrained within Maryland. Following
a bench trial in the District Court of Maryland, sitting in
Baltimore County, Joshua Sabisch, Petitioner, was found
guilty of fourth-degree sex offense. The District Court
stayed the entry of judgment and offered Sabisch probation
before judgment ("PBJ") with conditions, which he
accepted. Five months later, Sabisch appeared before the
District Court for a violation of probation hearing, and the
District Court found that Sabisch had violated his probation.
The District Court modified the conditions of probation to be
"unsupervised" to accommodate Sabisch's desire
to move from Maryland to Michigan. Sabisch subsequently filed
in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus, alleging that the terms of his
probation constituted an unlawful restraint on his liberty
and raising various grounds for relief related to the
proceedings in the District Court. At a hearing on the
petition, the circuit court denied the petition. Sabisch
appealed, and, in an unreported opinion, the Court of Special
Appeals granted Respondents' motion to dismiss, holding
that, at the time that Sabisch filed the petition for a writ
of habeas corpus, he was neither physically restrained nor
within the State. Thereafter, Sabisch filed in this Court a
petition for a writ of certiorari, which we granted.
this backdrop, we must decide whether the Court of Special
Appeals erred in holding that, to be entitled to habeas
corpus relief pursuant to CJ § 3-702(a), a person must
be physically restrained within Maryland, and that Sabisch
was not entitled to habeas corpus relief because he was not
physically restrained within the State. We hold that, under
the plain language of CJ § 3-702(a), to be eligible to
petition for a writ of habeas corpus, a person must be
"committed, detained, confined, or restrained from his
[or her] lawful liberty within the State[, ]" nothing
more and nothing less. The plain language of CJ §
3-702(a) does not limit eligibility for habeas corpus relief
to those in physical restraint. Under the plain language of
CJ § 3-702(a), a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is
not foreclosed where a person is placed on probation with
conditions that significantly restrict or restrain the
person's liberty within the State. We hold that people
who are committed, detained, or confined within the State or
persons on probation with conditions that significantly
restrain the person's lawful liberty within the State are
entitled to seek habeas corpus relief. In short, under CJ
§ 3-702(a), to be eligible to seek habeas corpus relief,
a person must be committed, detained, confined, or restrained
in the State, which may involve physical custody or
significant restrictions of a person's liberty within the
State. Here, when the petition for a writ of habeas corpus
was filed, Sabisch, who was on unsupervised probation and
living in Michigan, was not committed, detained, confined, or
restrained in Maryland, as required by CJ § 3-702(a).
Under the circumstances of this case, when Sabisch filed his
habeas corpus petition, he was not significantly restrained
in Maryland, and thus was not eligible to seek habeas corpus
relief in Maryland pursuant to CJ § 3-702(a).
the issues in this case do not involve resolution of the
merits of the claims that Sabisch raised in the petition for
a writ of habeas corpus, for context, we set forth the
circumstances that gave rise to the imposition of probation
and conditions of probation.
Proceedings in the District Court
2016, the District Court tried Sabisch on the sole count of
fourth-degree sex offense. It was alleged that Sabisch had
sexual intercourse with a fourteen-year-old girl and that he
was at least four years older than she was. See Md.
Code Ann., Crim. Law (2002, 2012 Repl. Vol., 2015 Supp.)
§ 3-308(b)(3) ("A person may not engage in . . .
vaginal intercourse with another if the victim is 14 or 15
years old, and the person performing the act is at least 4
years older than the victim.").
October 26, 2016, Sabisch appeared, without counsel, in the
District Court for the first time, seeking a postponement of
the trial date. When Sabisch's case was called, the
prosecutor explained that the State was not opposed to a
postponement. The District Court asked Sabisch whether he had
heard the court "explain the importance of having an
attorney to the other" defendants who preceded him on
the court's docket, and Sabisch responded
"[y]es." The District Court asked Sabisch:
"What are you going to do about getting an
attorney?" Sabisch responded that he had not
"thought about it[, ]" and the following exchange
THE COURT: All right. Well, you need to think about it. You
need to either hire private counsel, pay them and have them
enter their appearance on your behalf. Or make application to
the Office of the Public Defender if you cannot afford
private counsel. That's their information, sir. You need
to see them at that location in person that's listed
there in Towson immediately. Don't wait. This week or
next week. You would not want to come back without an
attorney and attempt to represent yourself. It would not be
in your interest; do you understand that, sir?
Proceedings in the District Court and Probation Before
December 8, 2016, Sabisch appeared, without counsel, in the
District Court for trial. The prosecutor advised the District
Court that it was his "understanding [that] Sabi[s]ch
[was] entering a guilty plea to his sole charge[, ]" and
Sabisch agreed that that was correct. At that time, the
District Court gave Sabisch the following advisements:
THE COURT: Sir, the maximum possible penalty of this charge
is one year in jail. The State is deferring to me. That
means they're saying, Judge, it's up to you. I want
you to understand I could still impose that maximum sentence.
Do you understand that?
 SABI[S]CH: Yes.
THE COURT: Now, I want you to understand that you certainly
don't have to plead guilty. You are entitled to either a
judge or a jury trial. In either instance, what would happen
is, the State would call in witnesses that they had. They
would testify in the witness chair like this one to my left.
You could question any witnesses that are called against you.
You could call witnesses on your own behalf. You could call
yourself as a witness. Or you could say, you choose a judge
trial, which you didn't want to testify. If you did that,
I would not draw any inference from your silence. If this
case was called for a jury trial and a jury was provided, you
could tell the judge presiding at that jury trial that you
did not want to testify. And the judge would tell those
jurors they could draw no inference from your silence.
Now, for a trial like that, a judge or a jury, it would be up
to the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt respectively
to the fact finder, be that a judge or a jury, that you were
guilty of the charge. Now, if it was a jury trial, the
jury's verdict would have to be unanimous. That means all
12 jurors would have to agree. By proceeding like this,
pleading guilty, you're waiving your right to have a
judge and a jury trial. Do you understand that?
 SABI[S]CH: Yes.
THE COURT: Sir, if you were on parole or probation to anybody
on August the 20th when this event allegedly occurred, the
plea that you're entering here in all likelihood would
violate that parole or probation. Do you understand that?
 SABI[S]CH: Yes.
THE COURT: Sir, the offense you're pleading guilty to is
that you engaged in intercourse with a person 14-years-old,
you being at least four years old[er] than the victim. Are
you admitting that in fact that your defenses to that
offense, it is correct that you did that?
 SABI[S]CH: Yes.
District Court asked whether it was Sabisch's "final
decision to plead guilty[, ]" and Sabisch responded that
he would "like to have the witness come forward."
The following exchange occurred:
THE COURT: All right. So do you want to plead guilty or do
you want to have a trial?
 SABI[S]CH: What happens if I -- I don't quite
understand if I have a trial.
THE COURT: So if you had a trial, what's going to happen
is, as I explained to you, witnesses will testify. And you
question those witnesses, you could call witnesses on your
own behalf. You could testify yourself if you want to or you
can remain silent, as I explained to you. It will be up to
the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you're
guilty of the charge. You have the right to have your case
tried. You also certainly have the right to accept the plea.
In either instance, you're going to be able to address me
in terms of the case. If you plead guilty, however,
you're not going to be able, effectively, to stand up and
say[:] well, I want to tell you this didn't happen. If
you want to give me what's called mitigation through
yourself or through someone else in terms of an explanation
as to why this happened, you can do that. But again, you have
the right to have a trial. Nobody's trying to talk you
out of that. Most importantly, I'm not trying to talk you
out of that.
So you are in a situation right now where you have the right
to either have a trial before me and a trial before a jury or
proceed by way of a guilty plea the State told me that you
guys agreed to. Do you understand the three options you have?
 SABI[S]CH: I want a trial.
THE COURT: Do you want to have your case tried before me or
do you want to have it tried before a jury?
 SABI[S]CH: Before you.
Sabisch advised the District Court that he wanted to proceed
by way of a bench trial, Sabisch also continued to tell the
District Court that he wanted to plead guilty. At that time,
the District Court indicated that Sabisch apparently did not
understand the legal consequence of a guilty plea, and the
following exchange ensued:
THE COURT: Okay. Now, I'm not going to continue to go
back and forth. Not because I don't want to, but
effectively unless someone is entering what's called a
knowing and voluntary guilty plea, I'm just going to
enter a not guilty plea on your behalf and call the case for
a trial. If you enter a guilty plea, all that's going to
happen is, the State's Attorney is going to tell me what
happened here. After I've heard that, you're going to
have the opportunity to address me and tell me why it
happened and anything else you want to tell me. As I told
you, if you plead guilty, the one thing you can't do is,
you can't then stand up and say, Judge, it didn't
happen. Because you're admitting if you plead guilty.
If you want to plead not guilty, there's going to be live
testimony. The State's going to call witnesses.
 SABI[S]CH: I plead not guilty.
THE COURT: You want to plead guilty?
 SABI[S]CH: Not guilty.
THE COURT: Not guilty.
District Court took a brief recess, and asked Sabisch for his
"final decision[.]" Sabisch advised that he was
asking for a postponement "[t]o get a Public
Defender." The District Court asked Sabisch what he had
done to obtain a lawyer since October-when he was advised of
his right to a Public Defender-and Sabisch responded:
I've been trying to get, because I'm on [Supplemental
Security Income], and I've been trying to get the money
to save out, but I've also, because I've been
homeless, trying to get an apartment and transportation,
it's very hard for me. But I'm aware of these charges
and I will work even harder if you give me a postponement to
get an attorney. I can even go down today to fill out and get
a Public Defender.
District Court denied the request for a postponement, and the
following exchange occurred:
THE COURT: I'm going to have to deny your postponement
request, Mr. Sabi[s]ch, under the circumstances. Now, you
have the right to have your case tried before a jury or a
judge. A few minutes ago you indicated to me you wanted to
have your case tried before a judge and you're waiving
your right to a jury trial, is that correct?
 SABI[S]CH: I honestly don't understand, but I'd
like to plead guilty. I mean, I don't understand any of
this, because I've never really done this before.
THE COURT: All right. I've explained to you a couple of
times about the difference between a guilty plea and a not
guilty plea. And I'm candidly not convinced that you
understand what a guilty plea is. And I can only accept the
guilty plea if I'm convinced that it's a knowing
and a voluntary plea, and it's an intelligent plea. And
it's that third element that I'm struggling with and
I'm not convinced you understand what it is. Because you
told me you have a witness here.
thereafter, a short bench trial occurred. As the sole witness
for the State, the victim, who was fourteen years old at the
time of trial, testified that she met Sabisch on the
internet. The victim testified that, while she was fourteen
years old, she had vaginal intercourse with Sabisch, who was
twenty years old. Sabisch called the victim's mother as a
witness. On cross-examination, the victim's mother
acknowledged that, "[f]rom what [she had been]
told," the victim and Sabisch had vaginal intercourse.
District Court asked Sabisch whether he would like to testify
or remain silent, and Sabisch responded: "I want a jury
trial." The District Court explained that a jury trial
was no longer an option, and again asked Sabisch whether he
wanted to testify or remain silent. After briefly conferring
with an assistant public defender who happened to be in the
courtroom, Sabisch advised that he would "like to remain
District Court found Sabisch guilty of fourth-degree sexual
offense, but stayed the entry of judgment and offered him
PBJ. The District Court explained that probation would be
supervised for twelve months, and would require Sabisch to
comply with probation conditions, including no contact with
the victim, a substance abuse evaluation,
"regist[ration] with law enforcement[, ]" and
waiver of the right to appeal. Sabisch told the District
Court that he did not understand PBJ, and the following
THE COURT: So there's a guilty finding that I made, but I
struck it in favor of probation before judgment. Now, if you
want to accept it, you are waiving your right to an appeal,
because there's no guilty finding to appeal to. If you
violate my probation, there's 12 months incarceration
that is hanging over your head, if you will. And if you
violate my probation, I will put you in jail. But hopefully
that will not come to pass.
Having said all of this, do you now understand what probation
before judgment is?
 SABI[S]CH: Yes, I do.
THE COURT: Do you want to accept it and waive your right to
 SABI[S]CH: I do.
bench trial concluded shortly thereafter.
Proceedings in the District Court
later, on December 15, 2016, Sabisch-now represented by
counsel-filed a motion for modification or reduction of his
sentence under Maryland Rule 4-345(e). Sabisch requested that
the District Court strike the requirement that he register as
a sex offender, arguing that registration was within a trial
court's discretion when imposing PBJ and, in his view,
requiring him to register was contrary to the "ultimate
sentence of probation before judgment." Sabisch also
offered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The District
Court held the motion sub curia.
eight weeks later, on February 8, 2017, Sabisch pled not
guilty to charges that he violated his probation by having
contact with the victim. Sabisch also indicated that he was
"not competent to stand trial[.]" The District
Court ordered a competency evaluation, and a forensic
psychologist found that Sabisch was competent because he
demonstrated an understanding of "the nature and object
of the proceedings and [an ability to] assist in his
defense." On his own initiative, on March 3, 2017,
Sabisch submitted to another psychological evaluation. The
results of that evaluation revealed that Sabisch presented
symptoms of bipolar disorder, borderline personality
disorder, and unspecified intellectual disability, and that
Sabisch had a low-functioning cognitive ability and an IQ of
3, 2017, the District Court conducted a violation of
probation hearing; Sabisch was represented by counsel. The
District Court found that Sabisch had violated probation by
contacting the victim. Sabisch asked the District Court to
modify his sentence to allow him to move back to Michigan,
where he lived before he met the victim and where his family
lived. The District Court left the PBJ finding intact and
agreed to modify the conditions of probation to accommodate
Sabisch's desire to move out of Maryland. The District
Court imposed a sentence of eighteen-months
"unsupervised" probation that permitted Sabisch to
leave Maryland, but, as conditions of probation, required him
to among other things, have no unsupervised contact with
minors, report to his probation agent by telephone every
thirty days or as otherwise determined appropriate by the
probation agent, provide his current address, and register as
a Tier I Sex Offender.
returning to Michigan, Sabisch learned that, under Michigan
law, he would be designated as a Tier III sex offender and