We determine finally
I. The Circumstances.
In 2003 and 2004, Kenneth Stachowski violated Maryland's home improvement regulations codified in Maryland Code (1992, 2010 Repl. Vol.), Business Regulation Article, § 8-101 et seq. ("BR"). Stachowski entered into three separate home improvement contracts with different Somerset County residents. When he failed to perform the agreed upon work, the aggrieved parties filed complaints with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. The result was that Stachowski was charged criminally in the District Court of Maryland, sitting in Somerset County, with failing to perform home improvement contracts (in violation of BR § 8-605) and acting as a contractor without a license (in violation of BR § 8-601). As there were three contracts, three separate criminal proceedings were docketed as the units of prosecution.
The charges were resolved through a plea agreement. Stachowski pleaded guilty to failing to perform a home improvement contract in two of the cases and
When Stachowski failed to make his restitution payments, the State sought to revoke his probation. The District Court determined, after a hearing, that Stachowski violated his probation in each of the three cases. The Court ordered Stachowski to serve consecutively his suspended sentences of incarceration and pay a fine of $1,000 in each case, which would be "served off" at a rate of $10 per day of confinement. Stachowski appealed to the Circuit Court for Somerset County.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, Stachowski was charged with obtaining property or services by issuing a bad check, as well as theft. It was asserted that, in June 2005, Stachowski passed a check of $182.86, drawn on a closed account, to Somerset Well Drilling to obtain services from the company. The case was transferred by the District Court to the Circuit Court, upon Stachowski's request for a jury trial.
On 11 October 2006, the bad check/ theft case and the three probation violation home improvement cases were called for trial in the Circuit Court. At the beginning of the proceeding, the State informed the judge that the parties had reached plea agreements to resolve the four cases and announced the terms:
Stachowski pleaded guilty to the charge of passing a bad check to Somerset Well Drilling and the State nolle prossed the related theft charge. When the Circuit Court turned to the three violation of probation cases, Stachowski pled guilty again. The judge found expressly that Stachowski's guilty pleas were valid.
For passing the bad check, the Circuit Court sentenced Stachowski to eighteen months of incarceration, with all but five months suspended, and five years of probation contingent on Stachowski making restitution payments to the victims of the three home improvement cases. For violating his probation in the home improvement cases, Stachowski was sentenced to a total of one year and thirty days incarceration. The sentences were to be served consecutively at the Somerset County Detention Center, with the sentence for writing the bad check as the last to expire of all outstanding sentences.
On 22 August 2007, we issued a writ of certiorari as to the home improvement cases to consider the same questions that are before this Court now. We dismissed, however, the writ. Stachowski v. State, 403 Md. 1, 939 A.2d 158 (2008) (Stachowski I). We held that we could not consider the lawfulness of the Circuit Court's order for restitution to the home improvement victims because it was imposed as a condition of probation in the bad check case, not the violation of probation stemming from Stachowski's home improvement charges. Thus, the issue was not before us properly at that time in the context of the home improvement cases.
Stachowski supplemented subsequently his motion for reconsideration in the bad check case that remained pending before the Court of Special Appeals. The motion was granted on 28 May 2008. The intermediate appellate court directed the parties to brief whether the trial judge had authority to require restitution for the injuries arising from the unrelated home improvement cases as a condition for probation in the bad check case.
After Stachowski filed his initial brief with the Court of Special Appeals, this Court issued a writ of certiorari, on its initiative, to consider the question. We dismissed this writ for lack of jurisdiction as well because the intermediate appellate court had not ruled on the merits of the application. Stachowski v. State, 416 Md. 276, 6 A.3d 907 (2010) (Stachowski II). On remand, the Court of Special Appeals decided Stachowski's appeal on the merits in Stachowski v. State, 213 Md.App. 1, 73 A.3d 290 (2013).
The Court of Special Appeals, interpreting the language of Maryland's restitution statute and relevant common law jurisprudence, held that the Circuit Court was without authority to condition probation in the bad check case on the payment of restitution to the victims in the home improvement cases because the latter were unrelated directly to the former, either factually or legally. The Court of Special Appeals struck the restitution requirement of Stachowski's probation, but upheld otherwise the sentence.
II. Third Time a Charm.
A. Maryland's Restitution Scheme.
Restitution may be ordered as part of a sentence, according to CP § 11-603(a), or as condition of probation, according to CP § 2-221. Pete v. State, 384 Md. 47, 55, 862 A.2d 419, 423 (2004). In both instances, restitution is a criminal sanction, not a civil remedy. Grey v. Allstate Ins. Co., 363 Md. 445, 451, 769 A.2d 891, 895 (2001). Although restitution serves to recompense the victim, it aims also to punish and rehabilitate the criminal. Pete, 384 Md. at 55, 862 A.2d at 423.
A trial court may order restitution, in the sound exercise of its discretion, when, "as a direct result of the crime or delinquent act, property of the victim was stolen, damaged, destroyed, converted, or unlawfully obtained, or its value substantially decreased...." CP § 11-603(a)(1) (emphasis added).
Determining whether an injury is a "direct result" of the criminal conduct is central traditionally to mapping the outer limits of a trial court's discretion in ordering restitution in most cases. Our cases are clear that restitution may be compelled only where the injury results from the actions that made the defendant's conduct criminal. See Goff v. State, 387 Md. 327, 344, 875 A.2d 132, 142 (2005) (finding that the defendant's conduct was a direct result of the injury for which restitution was ordered because the property damage was caused "during and because of" the crime, without any intervening cause); Pete, 384 Md. at 60-61, 862 A.2d at 426-27 (rejecting proximate causation, mere nexus, or single charging document theories of defining the direct result of the crime and, instead, requiring "a direct result between the qualifying crime committed and the damages inflicted" in order for restitution to authorized). Further, as we announced in Walczak v. State, restitution may be compelled ordinarily only for the criminal conduct for which the defendant was convicted. 302 Md. 422, 429, 488 A.2d 949, 952 (1985).
We acknowledged a narrow exception to these principles in Lee v. State, 307 Md. 74, 512 A.2d 372 (1986).
Lee failed to pay the restitution as required. The State filed a petition to revoke his probation. At the probation revocation hearing, Lee argued that the court lacked authority to order restitution for theft because he had not been convicted of that charge. The Circuit Court reviewed the terms of the plea agreement, noting that Lee had agreed expressly to make restitution to the victims of the nolle prossed theft charge, and revoked the probation. Id., 307 Md. at 76-77, 512 A.2d at 373. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, in a reported opinion, the judgment of the Circuit Court. Lee v. State, 65 Md.App. 149, 499 A.2d 969 (1985).
On certiorari, we held that a trial court has the authority, under these circumstances, to order restitution for charged crimes for which no conviction ensued, if it is ordered as the result of a plea agreement as to the crime for which a conviction was entered. See id., 307 Md. at 81, 512 A.2d at 376. Like the Court of Special Appeals, we found that this exception was contemplated by Walczak. Id. (citing Walczak, 302 Md. at 426 n. 1, 488 A.2d 949).
In Silver v. State, we clarified that, for the exception in Lee to apply, the defendant must agree expressly to pay restitution as part of the plea bargain.
We vacated the judgment that ordered the defendants to pay restitution for the rehabilitation of the surviving horses. Id., 420 Md. at 437, 23 A.3d at 880. The
B. The Circuit Court Was Authorized to Condition Stachowski's Probation in the Bad Check Conviction on the Payment of Restitution to the Victims in the Home Improvement Cases.
In the instant case, Stachowski agreed voluntarily and expressly to pay restitution to the victims in his home improvement fraud cases as a condition of probation entered on his bad check conviction.
The Court of Special Appeals, in reaching the opposite conclusion, focused on dicta in Silver that it construed as suggesting that the Lee exception applies only when the other charges or crimes for which restitution is ordered are related to the crime for which the defendant was convicted and probation entered. The relevant language of Silver states: "[a]s Walzcak [Walczak] and Lee have long since established, the State may request, in plea negotiations, that a criminal defendant agree to pay restitution for related, though uncharged, crimes." 420 Md. at 432, 23 A.3d at 876-77 (emphasis added). Although, as a matter of formal logic, this statement does not frustrate the State from requesting restitution for unrelated crimes, oftentimes, in typical usage, the express mention of one thing is the exclusion of the other. Thus, the intermediate appellate court's view is not without basis.
We make clear here, therefore, that the Lee exception is not limited only to related charges or crimes. Our analysis in Walczak and Lee did not turn on whether the crimes were related and neither case mentioned relatedness when discussing the authority of a trial judge to order restitution for crimes for which the defendant was not convicted, but agreed nonetheless to make restitution. The allowance of restitution
512 F.Supp. 907, 912 (D.Md.1981) (quoted in Lee, 307 Md. at 80-81, 512 A.2d at 375). Plea agreements are useful equally to realize the punitive, rehabilitative, and compensatory goals of Maryland's restitution statute in the context of unrelated crimes. Enforcing the reasonable expectations of the parties to plea agreements benefits defendants, the State, and victims. The Maryland General Assembly did not aim to limit the State's use of plea agreements to resolve efficiently cases involving multiple, unrelated charged crimes pursuant to CP § 11-603(a), or its statutory predecessor that was at issue in Lee.
Other jurisdictions with restitution regulatory regimes similar to Maryland's do not require the other criminal conduct, for which restitution is ordered, to be related to the conviction associated with the probation in order for trial courts to impose restitution, provided the defendant consents to it through a valid plea agreement. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 3663 (authorizing in federal courts restitution to persons other than the victim of an offense, if agreed to by the parties in a plea agreement); Ex parte Killough, 434 So.2d 852, 853 (Ala. 1983); Kimbrell v. State, 666 P.2d 454, 455 (Alaska Ct.App.1983); People v. Quinonez, 735 P.2d 159, 164 (Colo.1987); Barnes v. State, 489 So.2d 1182, 1183 (Fla.Dist.Ct. App.1986); State v. Dorsey, 126 Idaho 659, 889 P.2d 93, 96 (Ct.App.1995) (discussing an Idaho statute authorizing restitution for crimes not before the court, if with consent of the parties); People v. McClard, 359 Ill.App.3d 914, 296 Ill.Dec. 179, 834 N.E.2d 984, 985 (2005) (discussing Illinois statute authorizing restitution for losses arising from dismissed charges, if agreed to as part of a plea agreement); Kinkead v. State, 791 N.E.2d 243, 246 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003); State v. Hymer, 271 Kan. 716, 26 P.3d 63, 68 (2001) (implying restitution that was ordered in a case decided previously could have been imposed as a condition of probation, if part of a plea agreement); Commonwealth v. Morseman, 379 S.W.3d 144, 152 (Ky.2012) (considering Maryland's restitution regime as persuasive authority in its holding); State v. Stephenson, 706 So.2d 604, 608-09 (La.Ct. App.1998); State v. LaCasce, 512 A.2d 312, 316 (Me.1986); State v. Kennedy, 327 N.W.2d 3, 4-5 (Minn.1982); Sims v. State, 134 So.3d 300, 303-04 (Miss.2014); State v. Blanchard, 270 Mont. 11, 889 P.2d 1180, 1183 (1995); State v. McMann, 4 Neb.App. 243, 541 N.W.2d 418, 422 (1995) (discussing the Nebraska statute authorizing restitution for uncharged crimes and crimes dismissed, with the parties' consent, pursuant to a plea agreement); Erickson v. State, 107 Nev. 864, 821 P.2d 1042, 1042-43 (1991); State v. Steinolfson, 483 N.W.2d 182,
Our reference to "related cases" in Silver does not erode the plea agreement exception described in Walczak and Lee, which mirrors, as noted above, the rule in many of our sister states and the Federal courts. Rather, Silver recognized merely that, as was the case in Lee, plea agreements including restitution for uncharged crimes or convictions will often involve related charges.
C. We Decline to Abrogate Lee.
In the end, Stachowski asks us to revisit Lee, pointing to alternative interpretations of CP § 11-603(a) and invoking the noted ambiguous dicta from Silver. He points particularly to the statutory requirement that restitution ordered be the "direct result" of the crime. Before engaging Stachowski's arguments, we pause to reflect on the implications of the doctrine of stare decisis.
The crux of the doctrine of stare decisis is that courts should reaffirm, follow, and apply ordinarily the published decisional holdings of our appellate courts even though, if afforded a blank slate, the court might decide the matter differently. Coleman v. Soccer Ass'n of Columbia, 432 Md. 679, 689, 69 A.3d 1149, 1154-55 (2013). The doctrine of stare decisis encourages the consistent development of legal principles, public reliance on our judicial decisions, and the perceived integrity of the courts. Livesay v. Baltimore Cnty., 384 Md. 1, 14, 862 A.2d 33, 40 (2004).
Our devotion to stare decisis, however, is not absolute. We may decline to follow the doctrine when persuaded the prior decision is clearly wrong, Townsend v. Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard, 186 Md. 406, 417, 47 A.2d 365, 370 (1946), or when the precedent has been rendered archaic and inapplicable to modern society through the passage of time and evolving events, Harrison v. Montgomery Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 295 Md. 442, 459-60, 456 A.2d 894, 903 (1983). Neither of these "outs" release us from honoring Lee in the present case.
As noted above, allowing a defendant to consent to pay restitution for his or her other crimes in addition to the crime for which he or she stands convicted, as the result of a plea agreement, is consistent with the goals and purposes of Maryland's restitution statute. The General Assembly contemplated restitution to serve compensatory, rehabilitative, and punitive goals. Pete, 384 Md. at 55, 862 A.2d at 423. If courts could not order a defendant who admits freely to wrongdoing and accepts
The Lee approach is accepted widely, as noted supra at 517-19, 103 A.3d at 625-27. Thus, Lee is not an aberration or an outlier from a bygone era inapplicable to modern society
We stand by our decision in Lee.
Under Walczak, Lee, and Silver, the Circuit Court for Somerset County had authority to condition Stachowski's probation on the bad check conviction on his payment of restitution to the victims of his home improvement fraud. Stachowski agreed voluntarily and expressly to pay restitution to the victims of his home improvement fraud in exchange for the State's agreement to: (1) refrain from prosecuting the theft count in the bad check case; (2) recommend that Stachowski be allowed work release; and (3) encourage the court to impose a sentence of incarceration less than the maximum allowable. It was clear on this record that the ordered restitution was attributed properly to Stachowski in the proper amount.
Maryland Code (1957, 1982 Rep. Vol., 1986 Cum. Supp.), Article 27, § 640(b)(1). The statute authorized directing payment of restitution to the victims of crime, government entity that suffered loss, and third party payors (including insurers). See Art. 27, § 640(b)(2). The prior iteration of Maryland's restitution statute, the version at issue in Walczak v. State, was also essentially the same. Lee v. State, 307 Md. 74, 78, 512 A.2d 372, 374 (1986).