Published on 8/30/2022, 5:07:00 PM
The STET Docket in Maryland - What is a STET in a Maryland Criminal Case?
According to the oxford dictionary, the verb form of stet translates to "let it stand". In a Maryland criminal case, a STET is an agreed upon indefinite postponement of criminal charges, with the understanding that the case will be dismissed without being prosecuted.
Ordinarily, the purpose of this postponement is to allow a defendant to complete conditions imposed by the court, such as community service hours, anger management classes, counseling courses, and/or payment of restitution.
Usually, once a defendant complies with the conditions of a stet, the state's attorney drops the charges formally in Court. Clearly, the opportunity to have one's criminal charges dropped in exchange for fulfilling certain conditions can be extremely beneficial to a criminal defendant.
This is why a Maryland Stet is often sought by criminal defense attorneys. However, before accepting a stet, it is important to have a good understanding of how stets work in Maryland. In this article, we discuss stets in Maryland criminal cases.
STET General Information
For a criminal defendant to obtain a stet in his or her case, the prosecutor, or State's Attorney, in the case must make a formal written or oral request to the court or judge to enter the stet.
A criminal defendant's Maryland criminal defense attorney may request a stet for his or her client's matter, but the decision of whether to formally request a stet falls to the prosecutor in the case.
Judge's Role in a STET
A judge may then either enter the stet or refuse to do so. When determining whether to enter a stet, the judge in a criminal case considers a variety of factors.
Once a motion or preliminary motion is made to mark a criminal matter stet, the defendant may either refuse or accept the stet. Once the STET is final, after a waiver of the Defendant's right to a speedy trial, the case is viewed to be on the STET docket.
This triggers an inactive period which concludes on an agreed upon date, or when the case is expunged.
What do I need to do for my case to be placed on the STET docket
As noted above, a stet in a Maryland criminal case often comes with conditions that the defendant must agree to comply with if he or she accepts the stet.
If a defendant is offered a stet, his or her criminal defense attorney must advise the defendant of the conditions of the stet so that he or she can make an informed decision regarding the acceptance or denial of the stet.
A Stet is not a guilty plea, and does not trigger any collateral consequences for most Defendants.
Often a case can be placed on the Stet docket without a Defendant being present in Court. The case is then inactive for an agreed upon period.
Reasons for Stets
A stet is a useful tool for Maryland prosecutors and State's Attorneys for several reasons.
Generally, when a prosecutor believes that a criminal conviction is not in the best interests of the State, the defendant in the case may be offered a stet. Some common reasons that a stet may be offered in a Maryland criminal case are:
The state does not believe it has a strong case but would like the defendant to abide by certain conditions;
The witnesses in a criminal case are reluctant to testify, but the state doesn't want to dismiss the case;
A stet offers the opportunity to amicably resolve a case that the state believes is weak;
The victim in a criminal case does not want to proceed, but the state does not want to drop the charges completely; and
The state wants to retain the right to reopen the case against the defendant if the defendant appeals the decision.
What cases can go on the STET docket in Maryland
If a Judge is willing to accept it, any case can go on the STET docket. Cases as serious as sex offenses or possession with intent to distribute can be placed on the STET docket upon the State's request.
STET and the Right to a Speedy Trial
If the state offers a defendant in a Maryland criminal case a stet, the defendant must choose whether to accept or deny it.
If the defendant accepts the stet, then he or she retains all rights commonly available to criminal defendants. However, the defendant is required to waive one right: the right to a speedy trial.
In Maryland, criminal defendants have the right to a speedy trial.
Speedy Trial in Circuit Court
For Circuit court criminal charges, a defendant is required to receive a trial within 180 days.
However, since a stet can extend to up to three years before being expungeable, a defendant's criminal case may be tried past the 180-day mark.
Speedy Trial in District Court
In the District Court, there is no pre-fixed time deadline for the right to a speedy trial; however, speedy trial rights are viewed similarly to Circuit Court.
Therefore, a criminal defendant in Maryland must waive his or her right to a speedy trial to accept a stet offer.
In other words, if a defendant in a Maryland criminal matter accepts a stet, he or she cannot claim at a later date that he or she was not tried in a timely enough fashion.
Reopening a STET
In the state of Maryland, a stet can be reopened. Once the court in a criminal matter enters a stet, the state or defendant in the case may reopen the stet through a written request.
Specifically, the defendant or state may reopen the stet within the first year for any reason, either party can also reopen the stet in the following years after demonstrating good cause to the court.
Expunging a case placed on the Stet docket
In Maryland, a stet may be expunged. In legal parlance, expungement is the process by which the record of a person's criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed. An expungement order directs the court to treat a criminal conviction as if it never happened, essentially removing it from a defendant's criminal record.
Pursuant to Maryland Criminal Procedure 10-105(a)(5), a stet in a criminal matter may be expunged if a defendant in a criminal matter meets certain conditions.
When can I expunge a STET in Maryland?
Specifically, to expunge a stet, a defendant must wait three years from the date the stet was entered, and he or she cannot be a current defendant in another pending criminal matter. So, for example, if a case was marked stet on January 15, 2022, then the case could be expunged on January 15, 2025.
Stet vs. Conviction
A stet is not the same as a conviction since the court does not conduct a finding of fact when a stet is entered and the defendant does not enter a plea to his or her criminal charges in such a situation. Since a stet is not a conviction in the state of Maryland, a criminal defendant can truthfully answer to employers or other inquiries that he or she has not been convicted if the defendant receives a stet in his or her criminal case.
Conditional Stet vs. Unconditional Stet
As noted above, stets are often accompanied by conditions with which criminal defendants must comply. A stet with conditions is commonly referred to as a conditional stet. Examples of conditions that may accompany a stet in a Maryland criminal case include:
The defendant must stay away from a certain location;
The defendant must cease contact with a certain person;
The defendant must complete anger management courses;
The defendant must complete drug or alcohol counseling;
The defendant must complete abuser intervention counseling;
The defendant must complete community service; and
The defendant must make payment to a person as restitution.
A case that is marked stet with no conditions is called an unconditional stet. With an unconditional stet, the state will not prosecute the defendant and he or she is not required to complete any tasks during the time of the stet.
Usually the only way to violate a unconditional STET would be for a Defendant to "fail to obey all laws", or pick up a new charge.
Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges in the state of Maryland, you need you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.
At FrizWoods, we focus solely on the defense of criminal defendants. This means that our sole focus is defending people just like you against criminal charges of all kinds.
Lawyers who get cases placed on STET dockets across Maryland
Attorneys Luke Woods and Max Frizalone are serious advocates for justice, and they both have strong histories of obtaining successful results for their clients. When you come to us for assistance with your Maryland criminal case, attorneys Woods and Frizalone will utilize their vast criminal defense experience and knowledge to provide you with the strongest defense possible.
If you are ready to fight back against your criminal charges, please contact us today to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation.
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