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Maryland Prisoner Challenges State Indecent Exposure Laws

A divided Maryland Supreme Court affirmed in May 2012 the holding of the Circuit Court of Montgomery County in a case wherein a Maryland state prisoner sought to establish that enacted indecent exposure legislation intended for circumstances found in a prison setting preempted existing common law. Daniel Genies in 2008 masturbated in front of a female correctional officer, making eye contact and smiling as she ordered him to stop. He was charged with both common law indecent exposure and violation of §8-803 of the prison specific Correctional Services Act, both punishable by three years imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

Prior to trial, Genies moved to dismiss the common law charge, arguing that §8-803 was preemptive. The circuit court judge denied the motion and Genies was convicted at jury trial for the common law charge, and acquitted of the statutory offense, sentenced to three years. Genies thereafter filed a motion for a new trial, in which he alleged juror intimidation (by another juror) during deliberations. That motion was denied without a hearing.

The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the conviction and Genies petitioned the Maryland Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which they granted to consider a.) whether trial court erred in failing to dismiss the common law charge; and b.) was there error or abuse of discretion to deny the motion for new trial without a hearing.

As to the failure to dismiss the common law charge, Genies maintained it was by definition a “public” issue, and the public is not represented in a prison setting. Genies was relying on the Maryland Senate Bill from which §8-803 was drawn. He did not, however, challenge the evidentiary or legal sufficiency of his conviction, so the court addressed the issue of trial court’s denial of his motion to dismiss, which stood on preemption.

The Maryland Supreme Court held that “the express language of Section 8-803(a) embraces rather than preempts the common law crime of indecent exposure…” And that “a generally accepted rule of law” existed “that statutes are not presumed to repeal the common law further than is expressly declared.” A discussion of preemption clarified the court’s position. Most significant was the fact that the statute was intended to address a narrow class of victim, and that both laws have continued relevance.

As to the abuse of discretion issue, the court noted that trial court correctly exercised its discretion as Genies was unable to substantiate any competent evidence the claims he brought. In addition Rules of court prevented the juror from testifying at a retrial hearing under confidentiality issues.

The dissenting opinion put forth that the statute preempted the common law under the narrow circumstances of a prison setting. See: Genies v. Maryland, 426 Md. 148, 43 A.3d 1007 (Md. 2012).

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Related legal case

Genies v. Maryland