What is Sentence Modification? - A Chance to Alter, Change, or Reduce Sentences

Punishments for Maryland's criminal convictions take time away from family, jobs, and life in general. You can request to modify the imposed sentence and get time back. Here's what to know about changing a criminal penalty:

  • Sentence modification, a post-conviction second look at the sentence imposed;
  • Requesting sentence modification – When can you file?; And
  • Modifying sentences – There are requirements needed for consideration.

A Post-Conviction Second Look at a Sentence

In Maryland, those convicted of a crime have an opportunity to modify their sentence. Defendants have a chance to alter the penalty if they are not satisfied with it, authorities improperly examined or did not consider evidence or testimony, and new evidence comes up post-trial.

There are several types of modifications done to sentences. These include:

  • Reducing prison time;
  • Granting earlier parole;
  • Lowering fines;
  • Adjusting the type of sentence to allow for possible expungement later; and
  • Easing the restrictions placed during parole or probation.

 However, some crimes have mandatory sentences – like federal child pornography charges – and a judge cannot change them, but other orders leave room for modification.

There is little to no risk in filing the request for sentences eligible for modification. At worst, a judge rejects the motion, and the sentence sticks. A Maryland judge cannot legally raise the punishment.

Maryland courts have the power to fix illegal sentences and revise sentences in the case of fraud, mistake, or irregularity. As the age-old saying goes, "It never hurts to ask." Who knows, a second look at the sentence might be the first step in getting a fresh start or second chance in life.

So that begs the question, when do you request to modify a sentence?

Timing is Everything in Requesting a Sentence Modification

After a judge hands down the sentence, there is a 90-day window to file a Motion for Reconsideration of Modification of Sentence.

They are known as Sub Curia or under consideration by the court in legal terms. A ruling on the motion does not usually happen right away. Instead, the court holds the motion. It is affording the defendant a second look at the imposed sentence on a later date.

The court has a time limit when it must make a ruling on the motion. A judge has up to 5 years to make the ruling, but it must be done in that time.

If the motion does not happen in the 90 days after sentencing, a defendant cannot change their sentence. So, timing is crucial to guaranteeing a chance at modifying.

Once filed, the court considers the motion, but there must be a reason. Just asking for it won't get it.

Remember, the judge must rule on the motion within five years, so there is time to build a modification case. Having a criminal defense attorney handling filing the motion and building the case makes sure everything is done before the window of opportunity closes.

It is not necessary to have an attorney file for a motion to modify a sentence. We recommend retaining an attorney for the simple fact that an excellent argument is needed to get a modification.

There are limited legal grounds, but arguments are open to debate the original sentence handed down.

Grounds for Sentence Modification

We briefly mentioned the legal grounds used to argue for sentence modification at the beginning of this article; illegal sentences, fraud, mistake, or irregularity. Limited options for sure, but they are open to interpretation, too.

Law is constantly changing and evolving, so what once was a legal sentence may not be today. If that law changed within five years, a judge must make a ruling on the motion; since a change in the law is a valid ground to change the sentence.

And, mistakes happen all the time. We are only human—clerical errors, such as incorrectly entering the sentence length. A 12-month sentence accidentally entered as a 21-month sentence.

Even judges make mistakes. For instance, a judge could rule against allowing particular testimony or evidence at trial, but it was admissible.

Fraud in and of itself is a crime. A person convicted and sentenced when an act of fraud, such as perjury, occurs has a legitimate argument for modification. Our justice system's design is just and fair, but fraud unbalances the scale.

Finally, irregularities or unusual circumstances occur during or after the trial. For instance, a person diagnosed with a terminal illness after sentencing could argue for sentence modification merely because they are dying and not a threat to the public.

Another irregularity a judge considers in sentence modification is cooperation in solving another crime. By the defendant aiding law enforcement, a deal to change their serving sentence is possible.

You see it all the time on TV; a former cellmate has information that proves someone's guilt and to give up that information they want a shorter sentence. A quid pro quo situation. You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.

An experienced criminal defense attorney knows the legal loopholes and nuances that build successful sentence modification cases. Contact JC Law today and find out what can be done to modify your sentence.

What seems impossible is possible when you have a dedicated team of attorneys as your legal champion. Don't delay. The clock is ticking. Schedule your free initial consultation to discover how JC Law can help you.

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