Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday vetoed legislation that would have enabled convicts to challenge their convictions for up to three years after they discover or should have known their guilty verdicts would have collateral consequences, such as an enhanced sentence for a subsequent offense or deportation.
The current law’s standard of starting the clock when the convict knew or should have known of the error at trial is appropriate, Hogan wrote in his veto message to legislative leaders.
“The (vetoed) legislation allows a defendant who knows of an error to do nothing until faced with a collateral consequence, unnecessarily delaying a challenge in a manner that can only benefit the defendant,” Hogan wrote in the letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.
“By allowing an offender to file a writ of error coram nobis for up to three years after he knew or should have known he faced a collateral consequence as opposed to when he knew the facts underlying the alleged error, Senate Bill 838/House Bill 891 allows an offender to file a writ of error coram nobis decades after the original conviction,” Hogan added. “As a result of this lengthy delay, witnesses or evidence may have been lost or no longer available, which will mean in some cases that a retrial is difficult, if not impossible, and a guilty defendant’s conviction will be overturned.”
Sen. William C. “Will” Smith Jr., the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, said he was “tremendously disappointed” in the governor’s veto.
“I am really disappointed for the people who are facing unintended consequences of their flawed conviction and will not have this avenue to seek relief,” said Smith, D-Montgomery.
Del. David Moon, the bill’s chief House sponsor, said the veto shows that Hogan “doesn’t care and is going to slam the door shut” on Maryland residents who might face deportation for a flawed conviction, the consequences of which they did not discover until it was too late.
“There were not too many bills that we saw make it through the General Assembly in this four-year term that addressed the issue of the Trump administration ripping families apart” through deportation, added Moon, D-Montgomery.
Hogan, a Republican running for re-election this year, said his veto was requested by the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, which expressed concern that repeat offenders could reduce their enhanced, life sentences by belatedly undoing an earlier conviction. The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center also sought the veto, saying a violent offender’s delayed efforts at undoing an earlier conviction causes “additional trauma” to victims of crime as they must relive its horror.
The General Assembly will not have the opportunity to override Hogan’s veto next session, as vetoes in the final year of a four-year legislative term cannot be overridden.