Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 12, 2013

A.G. rethinking handgun ruling

Law gave five years to defendant with prior felony drug conviction

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s attorney general is weighing whether to ask the state’s highest court to reconsider a ruling overturning the mandatory five-year minimum sentence of a defendant with a prior felony drug conviction for carrying a handgun, a spokesman said Friday.

Alan Brody, the spokesman, said the ruling is still being reviewed, but he added the attorney general’s office has serious concerns about its implications.

The court ruled last month that the state has two statutes punishing the same conduct, but imposing different penalties.

The court found the defendant, Kevin Alston, received the more severe penalty of a five-year mandatory minimum sentence when it is unclear how the two laws operate together.

“As we have seen, there are two statutes, each prescribing a different penalty, pursuant to which a defendant with a prior felony drug conviction could have been charged and sentenced,” wrote Judge Robert Bell, who retired earlier this month. “That the prosecution may have proceeded on the authority of one of them does not mean that the penalty associated with that statute is the one necessarily intended by the Legislature.”

As a result, the court found Alston must be sentenced under the statute with the more lenient penalty.

The General Assembly could address the issue in next year’s legislative session.

Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, said he planned to submit legislation to clarify the law. “We’re already working on it,” Smigiel said.

Alston had been convicted of distributing drugs. In 2003, he was sentenced by a Baltimore jury for possession of a firearm by a felon, and he was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of five years in prison without parole.

But Alston appealed the case, noting the other law on the books. The Court of Appeals heard the case in 2005.

The ruling comes at a time when Baltimore is experiencing a spike in violent crime. The city has had 50 shootings and 21 homicides since June 21.

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