In this case, we are asked to determine whether a defendant charged with misdemeanors by information, in circuit court, is entitled to a preliminary hearing pursuant to § 4-102 of the Criminal Procedure Article ("CP") of the Maryland Code. For the following reasons, we answer in the negative and hold that CP § 4-102 provides that in a circuit court proceeding a defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing when charged by information with felonies, but not when the defendant is charged by information with misdemeanors.
On April 3, 2015, two police officers observed Damar Brown walking in a manner that led the police to believe that Mr. Brown was carrying a concealed weapon. The officers approached Mr. Brown and a
On April 4, 2015, the State charged Mr. Brown by a statement of charges in the District Court of Maryland sitting in Baltimore City with wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun, second-degree assault, and resisting or interfering with arrest, all of which constitute misdemeanor offenses.
In the circuit court, on May 20, 2015, Mr. Brown moved for dismissal of the charges, arguing that the case was improperly before the circuit court because Mr. Brown had been charged with misdemeanors by means of criminal information without a preliminary hearing resulting in a finding of probable cause. Mr. Brown contended that this procedure violated Maryland Code (2001, 2008 Repl. Vol.), CP § 4-102(2) and Maryland Rule 4-201(c)(2)(A). The State responded that Mr. Brown was not entitled to a preliminary hearing because he was only charged with misdemeanors. The circuit court granted Mr. Brown's motion and dismissed the case without prejudice.
The State appealed the circuit court's dismissal of charges. In the Court of Special Appeals, Mr. Brown again argued that the controlling statute entitled him to a preliminary hearing. In response, the State interpreted CP § 4-102(2) as entitling defendants to preliminary hearings if charged by information with a felony within the jurisdiction of the district court, but not when charged with misdemeanors. Therefore, the State argued that Mr. Brown was not entitled to a preliminary hearing and the circuit court improperly dismissed the charges against Mr. Brown.
In an unreported opinion filed on September 2, 2016, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court, holding that the circuit court improperly construed CP § 4-102(2) to require preliminary hearings in cases involving misdemeanors charged by information in circuit court. State v. Brown, No. 1094, 2016 WL 4591529, at *8-9 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept. 2, 2016).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
We view the plain language of a statute in the context of the statutory scheme to which it belongs, with a focus on ascertaining the intent or underlying policy of the General Assembly in the statute's enactment. Mummert v. Alizadeh, 435 Md. 207, 213, 77 A.3d 1049 (2013).
Stickley v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 431 Md. 347, 359, 65 A.3d 141 (2013) (quoting Centre Ins. Co. v. J.T.W., 397 Md. 71, 81, 916 A.2d 235 (2007)). Therefore, we shall analyze the plain language of CP § 4-102 in the context of the statutory scheme to which it belongs, and determine in which cases defendants are entitled to preliminary hearings when charged by information in circuit court.
Pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-201(a), an "offense shall be tried only on a charging document." A charging document is defined as "a written accusation alleging that a defendant has committed an offense. It includes a citation, an indictment, an information, and a statement of charges." Md. Rule 4-102(a). An information is defined as "a charging document filed in a court by a State's Attorney." Md. Rule 4-102(e).
CP § 4-102 establishes when the State may charge by information:
A State's Attorney may charge by information:
The issue in this case is whether the phrase "any other case" of CP § 4-102(2) includes cases involving misdemeanors brought in the circuit court, or whether
The State has discretion to bring certain charges in district or circuit court, depending upon which crimes are charged.
Md. Rule 4-201(c). Therefore, the State was also authorized to charge Mr. Brown with misdemeanors in circuit court by means of criminal information.
This Rule indicates that the State may charge an accused by information with both felonies and misdemeanors in circuit court. Where an accused is charged by information in circuit court, the Rule makes clear that he or she is entitled to a preliminary hearing when charged with felonies. However, the Rule does not indicate that a defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing when charged with a misdemeanor by information in circuit court.
Mr. Brown attempts to argue that Rule 4-201(c) is consistent with his interpretation
A review of the historical purpose of preliminary hearings further supports our conclusion that a defendant is not entitled to a preliminary hearing when charged with misdemeanors by information in circuit court. This Court has held that, absent a constitutional or statutory mandate requiring that a defendant receive a preliminary hearing, a preliminary hearing is not necessary. Kardy v. Shook, 237 Md. 524, 543, 207 A.2d 83 (1965). There is no specific constitutional provision in the federal or Maryland constitutions that affords defendants a right to a preliminary hearing. Id. at 543, 207 A.2d 83; see also Crawford v. State, 282 Md. 210, 220-21, 383 A.2d 1097 (1978) ("While there is no constitutional right to a preliminary hearing, the accused is entitled to such a hearing by statute if, as here, he makes a timely request for it.").
This Court has previously framed the purpose of preliminary hearings in several ways. Crawford, 282 Md. at 220-21, 383 A.2d 1097. First, we have indicated that the purpose of preliminary hearings is to determine "whether the accused should be held for action of the Grand Jury or charged by the State's Attorney on information." Id. at 220, 383 A.2d 1097 (citing Arrington v. Warden, 232 Md. 672, 195 A.2d 38 (1963); Kochel v. State, 10 Md.App. 11, 267 A.2d 755 (1970)). In addition, we have noted that preliminary hearings are "primarily for the benefit of the accused, insuring him against being committed to jail or being required to furnish bail pending grand jury action, unless the State establishes that there is probable cause for maintaining  criminal proceedings against him." Kardy, 237 Md. at 543, 207 A.2d 83 (citing Lester B. Orfield, Criminal Procedure from Arrest to Appeal 49, et seq (1947)). The Court of Special Appeals has echoed this sentiment, stating, "Prior to the expansion of the State's information authority, the primary purpose of the preliminary hearing was to protect the accused from a unilateral decision to arrest with the accompanying likelihood of incarceration while awaiting grand jury action." Perkins v. State, 26 Md.App. 526, 530-31, 339 A.2d 360 (1975). In short, the requirement of a preliminary hearing is aimed at preventing defendants from being incarcerated without a determination of probable cause while grand jury action is pending.
The Court of Special Appeals has also previously considered a defendant's right to a preliminary hearing when charged by information and held that, "[w]hen charging a prospective defendant with a felony, other than a felony within the jurisdiction of the District Court, the State may proceed by way of criminal information, subject
The legislative history of CP § 4-102 and CP § 4-103 also supports our conclusion that a defendant is not entitled to a preliminary hearing when charged with misdemeanors by information in circuit court. In 2001, the General Assembly enacted CP § 4-102, which recodified the former Art. 27 § 592. Originally enacted in 1933, § 592 abrogated a defendant's common law right to indictment. 1933 Md. Laws, ch. 562; see also Moaney v. State, 28 Md.App. 408, 415, 346 A.2d 466 (1975). The statute allowed a State's Attorney to charge a felony by information under specified conditions rather than by indictment, which the common law right required. Moaney, 28 Md.App. at 415-16, 346 A.2d 466. Subsequently, § 592 was repealed by 1963 Md. Laws, ch. 558 § 1. The statute was readopted in 1973 in a revised format. 1973 Md. Laws, 1st Spec. Sess., ch. 2 § 7A. In this iteration, the statute stated that an accused may be charged by information
The General Assembly enacted the current version of the statute, CP § 4-102, in 2001 when it adopted the Criminal Procedure Article of the Maryland Code during Code Revision. The revisor's note for CP § 4-102 indicates that the statute is derived from Art. 27 § 592(a) without substantive change, while the revisor's note for CP § 4-103 indicates that it is derived from Art. 27 § 592(b), also without substantive change. Further, the revisor's note to CP § 4-102 indicates that, "[i]n item (2) of this section, the former phrase `other than a felony' is deleted as implicit in the phrase a `felony within the jurisdiction of the District Court.'"
Subsection (a) of the prior version of the statute makes clear that a defendant is only entitled to a preliminary hearing in cases involving felonies, whether or not they fall outside the jurisdiction of the district court. The format of this version of the statute indicates that the entirety of subsection (a) refers only to situations involving felonies. There is an implication regarding the latter part of subsection (a), which is present day CP § 4-102(2), because the first part of the subsection (a), present day CP § 4-102(1), is specifically concerned with felonies outside the jurisdiction of the district court. The implication is that the two parts of the statute are intended to apply exclusively to felonies. Put simply, CP § 4-102(1) is intended to encompass situations where a defendant is charged with felonies outside the jurisdiction of the district court; whereas, CP § 4-102(2) controls in situations in which a defendant is charged with felonies within the jurisdiction of the district court. The phrase "in all cases" in Art. 27 § 592(a) referred specifically to felonies that are within the jurisdiction of the district court. This language is equivalent to the phrase "in any other case" of CP § 4-102(2). Both phrases are specifically limited to situations that do not fall under CP § 4-102(1) — situations where a defendant is charged with a felony within the jurisdiction of the district court.
The surrounding statutory framework and corresponding Maryland Rules further support this interpretation of CP § 4-102. To determine the meaning of a statutory phrase, we must view the statute's plain language within the context of the related and surrounding statutes. See Mummert, 435 Md. at 213, 77 A.3d 1049. To further clarify the phrase "any other case" of CP § 4-102(2), we look to the statutes and Rules concerning a defendant's right to a preliminary hearing.
CP § 4-103, entitled "Preliminary hearing," provides as follows:
(Emphasis added.) In short, CP § 4-103(c) affords a defendant an absolute right to a preliminary hearing if he or she is charged by information with a felony outside the jurisdiction of the district court. "In any other case," a trial judge has the discretion to grant a defendant a preliminary hearing on motion by either party. Moreover, there is no indication from this statute that an individual charged with misdemeanors by information in circuit court is entitled to a preliminary hearing. The statute makes clear that a preliminary hearing is required only when a defendant is charged with a felony outside the jurisdiction of the district court.
Mr. Brown argues that CP § 4-103 is consistent with his interpretation of CP § 4-102(2). He argues that the only reason the State would move for a preliminary hearing pursuant to CP § 4-103(c)(3) is to satisfy the preliminary hearing requirement of CP § 4-102(2). In other words, he argues that CP § 4-103(c)(3) provides an avenue through which the State may obtain a preliminary hearing in order to satisfy the requirement of CP § 4-102(2). We disagree. The interaction between the two statutes does not imply that CP § 4-102(2) involves cases in which a defendant is charged with misdemeanors by information in circuit court. Instead, CP § 4-103(c)(3) simply allows the State to obtain a preliminary hearing in situations where a defendant is charged with a felony within the jurisdiction of the district court.
Other relevant Rules governing preliminary hearings indicate only that a defendant may request a preliminary hearing in situations where he or she is charged with a felony outside the jurisdiction of the district court. See Md. Rule 4-221(a) ("A defendant charged with a felony that is not within the jurisdiction of the District Court may request a preliminary hearing at or within ten days after an initial appearance pursuant to Rule 4-213(a)."). Similarly, a defendant must be advised of his or her right to a preliminary hearing when he or she is "charged with a felony that is not within the jurisdiction of the District Court and has not been indicted. . . ." Md. Rule 4-213(a)(4). Furthermore, Maryland Rule 4-102(c)(2) indicates that an accused is entitled to a preliminary hearing when
Finally, Mr. Brown makes the additional argument that the Court of Special Appeals' decision in this case stands in opposition to public policy, because it may subject indigent defendants to increased periods of incarceration. Mr. Brown argues that, in the district court, defendants usually have a trial date set within 60 days. Whereas, in circuit court, "the date for trial . . . shall be set within 30 days after the earlier of the appearance of counsel or the first appearance of the defendant before the circuit court pursuant to Rule 4-213, and shall be not later than 180 days after the earlier of those events." Md. Rule 4-271(a)(1). Furthermore, Mr. Brown alleges that the State often first charges defendants with misdemeanor firearms offenses in the district court by a statement of charges, then refiles the same charges in circuit court by criminal information. As a result, Mr. Brown argues that the State intentionally adheres to this procedure to subject defendants who are unable to post bail to increased periods of incarceration.
This argument is unpersuasive for several reasons. First, Mr. Brown's argument implies that he was unable to post bail and therefore subjected to an increased period of incarceration while awaiting trial on his misdemeanor charges in circuit court. However, at the time the State filed charges against Mr. Brown in circuit court, he was being held on a violation of probation for a 2008 shoplifting case in Anne Arundel County, in which bail was not permitted. Therefore, Mr. Brown was ineligible for bail at the time of his arraignment hearing in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on May 20, 2015.
In addition, this Court recently adopted changes to the Maryland Rules concerning bail procedure, some of which serve to alleviate the concerns raised by Mr. Brown. The new Rules were adopted on February 16, 2017, and became effective on July 1, 2017. See Md. Rule 4-216; Md. Rule 4-216.1. The revised version of Rule 4-216.1 indicates that the revisions are intended
Thus, the new Rules are aimed at addressing Mr. Brown's concerns of indigent defendants being subjected to increased periods of pretrial incarceration by encouraging the release of defendants on their own recognizance in appropriate circumstances. Moreover, we conclude that these concerns are insufficient to refute the interpretation of CP § 4-102(2) that we have discerned from the legislative history, surrounding statutory framework, and related Maryland Rules governing preliminary hearings.
The plain meaning of the phrase "any other case" in CP § 4-102(2) does not