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Maryland Sentence Reduction Rule Violates Ex Post Facto Clause

The Maryland Court of Appeals has struck down an administrative regulation amending another regulation to deny previously authorized sentence reduction credits for certain categories of prisoners.

In January of 2002, Quinton Demby, Jesse Baltimore, Kenneth Woodall, Daniel Falcone, and Earl Cox were all serving time in Maryland state prisons. Each was participating in a ?double celling? program (cells with 2 occupants rather than one). Under the former Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), which was in effect when they committed their crimes, they were receiving special sentence reduction credits for participating in the double celling program.

On January 1, 2002, the Secretary of the Maryland Public Safety and Correctional Services (Secretary) enacted COMAR 12.02. 06.04F(1), which prohibited sentence reduction credits for participating in the double celling program to prisoners convicted of certain violent crimes. Since the above prisoners each had prior convictions for one or more of the newly enumerated disqualifying crimes, each was informed that he was no longer eligible for those sentence reduction credits. Maryland trial courts upheld that retrospective application of the amended policy to them, and they all appealed.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the trial courts. It held that the regulatory amendments retrospectively lengthened the prisoners? sentences in violation of both the state and federal ex post facto clauses and reversed the trial courts. The state appealed.

On this appeal, the Court of Appeals of Maryland (the state?s highest court) found that since the COMAR sections at issue were enacted by direction of the legislature through Md. Code, Corr. Serv. sec. 3-707, they were laws for purposes of ex post facto analysis. Further, since the amended section deprived them of the double celling sentence reduction credits available to them when they were sentenced, it lengthened their sentences in violation of both the Maryland state and the federal ex post facto clauses. It therefore affirmed the Court of Special Appeals? reversal of the trial courts. See: Secretary, Dept. of Public Safety & Correctional. Services v. Demby, 390 Md. 580; 890 A.2d 310 (2006).

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Related legal case

Secretary, Dept. of Public Safety & Correctional. Services v. Demby