Problems With The Criminal Justice System in Salisbury

Below, Salisbury criminal defense attorney Angie Dipietro discusses the issues within the criminal justice system including mandatory minimum sentences and how easy it is for people to be charged for criminal offenses. If you have been charged consult with a criminal lawyer today to discuss your case and begin building a defense.

Issues Within The Maryland Criminal Justice System

One of the biggest problems that I see is imposition of mandatory minimum sentences. The legislature,  in an attempt to appear tough on crime, will legislate a mandatory minimum sentence that must be imposed on a defendant at sentencing. That mandatory minimum sentence will be a non-parolable sentence. This means that the defendant will not be eligible for parole during that mandatory minimum time and will serve a day for day sentence on that mandatory minimum sentence.

The problem with this is that it takes away all of the discretion of the sentencing judge. A judge has many responsibilities when determining what is an appropriate sentence. A judge has to consider what is the appropriate punishment for this person, what sort of sentence will be most likely to deter this person, and what will potentially deter people in the future from committing this crime.

A judge also can use sentencing as an opportunity to rehabilitate a defendant. A judge will take into consideration many factors about a defendant. The judge can consider the following factors:

  • Whether or not it is this person’s first offense
  • The defendant’s age
  • The defendant’s level of education
  • The mental health of the defendant
  • Whether or not the person suffers from a substance abuse issue that needs to be addressed.

All of that information can be relevant in to determining how long a sentence should be or conditions of probation or what might be necessary to rehabilitate this particular defendant.

However, all of those factors disappear and– a judge loses all of her discretion when the legislator has mandated a mandatory minimum sentence. And it completely ties a judge’s hands in being able to craft an individual sentence that will best address that individual defendant. It makes no sense to remove that human factor from sentencing and I think mandatory minimum sentences are some of the most damaging sentences in the criminal justice system.

Other Problems Within the Salisbury Criminal Justice System

Another problem that I see with the court and the criminal justice system is how easy it is for a person to be charged with a crime. In Maryland, anyone can walk in to the district court commissioner’s office and swear out a charging document against a person. It can be based solely on that person’s statement to the commissioner. That can be done with no investigation at all by a law enforcement agency. So, based solely on one person’s statement to a commissioner, an individual can end up being charged with crimes.

The mere fact that someone had been charged can be incredibly damaging to that defendant. I have seen people lose their employment merely because they were charged. I have seen clients have their licenses or certifications that are required for their employment revoked merely based on having been charged.

Charging a person can also lead to their arrest which can mean that they are incarcerated. And if their bond is too high and their family cannot post the bond, then that can mean that the person loses their employment because they are not able to come to work due to the fact that they are incarcerated. I have seen clients lose their residences because they weren’t there to be able to pay the rent.

The mere fact that somebody has been charged can just be incredibly damaging to their life. It would make much more sense to me to require that an investigation take place before any charges would be issued against a person. And it would make much more sense to me to require that law enforcement be involved rather than allowing anyone to just simply walk in to the commissioner’s office and take out charges.