Gargliano v. State

Decision Date01 September 1993
Docket NumberNo. 71,71
Citation334 Md. 428,639 A.2d 675
PartiesLeonard Timothy GARGLIANO v. STATE of Maryland. ,
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Martha Weisheit, Asst. Public Defender, Stephen E. Harris, Public Defender, on brief, Baltimore, for petitioner.

Annabelle Lisic, Asst. Atty. Gen., J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., on brief, Baltimore, for respondent.

Argued before MURPHY, C.J., RODOWSKY, CHASANOW, KARWACKI, BELL and RAKER, JJ., and CHARLES E. ORTH Jr., * Judge of the Court of Appeals (retired, Specially Assigned).

RAKER, Judge.

In this appeal we are again called upon to construe a criminal statute which requires the imposition of an enhanced penalty on certain repeat offenders. Maryland Code (1957, 1992 Repl.Vol.) Article 27, § 286(c) of the controlled dangerous substances laws provides that a defendant who "previously has been convicted" of a similar offense is subject to a sentence of not less than ten years imprisonment. We are asked here to determine whether the enhanced penalty mandated by § 286(c) 1 is triggered when a defendant is convicted of a prior offense after the commission of, but before sentencing on, the principal offense upon which the enhanced penalty is sought. We hold that the mandatory sentence prescribed by § 286(c) may be imposed only where the conviction for a prior offense precedes the commission of the principal offense and, therefore, we reverse.

I.

A trooper with the Maryland State Police purchased cocaine from Petitioner Leonard Timothy Gargliano at the Royal Exchange Pub in Salisbury in December 1989 and again in January 1990. Gargliano was not arrested after either of these transactions. When the trooper purchased cocaine from Gargliano a third time on December 21, 1990, however, Gargliano was arrested and was at that time charged with not only the latest sale but also with the two earlier sales. Gargliano was first brought to trial on charges arising out of the December 1989 and January 1990 sales and was convicted of two counts of distribution of cocaine on April 4, 1991.

On June 21, 1991, prior to trial on the December 1990 offense, the State served Gargliano with a notice of intent to seek enhanced punishment on the December 1990 offense based upon the two convictions for the earlier sales. On September 27, 1991, upon a not guilty agreed statement of facts, Gargliano was convicted of one count of distribution of cocaine 2 in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County as a result of the December 1990 sale. At sentencing, Gargliano argued that the enhanced penalty mandated by § 286(c) should not apply to a defendant who had neither been charged with nor convicted of a prior offense at the time the principal offense was committed. As is obvious from the above chronology of events, Gargliano committed the December 1990 offense before he was convicted--indeed, before he was even arrested--for either of the two prior sales. The trial judge rejected Gargliano's argument and ruled that § 286(c) is applicable whenever a prior conviction exists at the time of sentencing on the principal offense. Consequently, Gargliano was sentenced to the mandatory penalty of ten years, without parole, to be served concurrent with the sentences he was already serving on his prior convictions.

Gargliano appealed the imposition of the mandatory penalty and the applicability of § 286(c). The Court of Special Appeals held that § 286(c) unambiguously provides for an enhanced penalty if a prior conviction exists at the time of sentencing on the principal offense, even if the prior conviction is obtained after the commission of the principal offense. Gargliano v. State, 95 Md.App. 593, 602, 622 A.2d 767, 774 (1993). The mandatory penalty of § 286(c) was therefore held to have been properly imposed upon Gargliano. Id. at 602, 622 A.2d at 774.

We granted Gargliano's petition for a writ of certiorari to consider whether, under § 286(c), the prior conviction which serves as the enhancing act must have been entered before the principal offense was committed. Reduced to its essentials, the question before us can be stated as follows: where the statute provides for an enhanced penalty if the defendant "previously has been convicted" of a similar offense, has a defendant "previously been convicted" where the conviction for the prior offense is entered after the defendant has committed the crime for which he is presently being sentenced?

II.

Article 27, § 286, the statute here at issue, provides in relevant part:

(c)(1) A person who is convicted under subsection (b)(1) 3 or subsection (b)(2) 4 of this section, or of conspiracy to violate subsection (b)(1) or (b)(2) of this section shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than ten years if the person previously has been convicted:

(i) Under subsection (b)(1) or subsection (b)(2) of this section;

(ii) Of conspiracy to violate subsection (b)(1) or subsection (b)(2) of this section; or

(iii) Of an offense under the laws of another state, the District of Columbia, or the United States that would be a violation of subsection (b)(1) or subsection (b)(2) if committed in this State.

(emphasis added). Maryland, like every other state and the federal government, 5 has enacted various statutes which mandate enhanced penalties for certain repeat criminal offenders. 6 Although Article 27 contains numerous enhanced penalty statutes, 7 only a few identify the sequence in which the enhancing act and the principal offense must occur. 8 Section 286(c) does not identify whether the prior conviction must be previous to the principal offense or merely previous to the sentencing for the enhanced penalty to apply.

III.

The lodestar of statutory construction is to ascertain and effectuate legislative intent. See, e.g., Mustafa v. State, 323 Md. 65, 73, 591 A.2d 481, 485 (1991); Jones v. State, 311 Md. 398, 405, 535 A.2d 471, 474 (1988); Hawkins v. State, 302 Md. 143, 147, 486 A.2d 179, 181 (1985). We consider the goals or purpose to be served by the statute and the evils or mischief the General Assembly sought to remedy, and construe the statute in accordance with its general purposes and policies--"to remedy some evil, to advance some interest, to attain some end." Kaczorowski v. City of Baltimore, 309 Md. 505, 513, 525 A.2d 628, 632 (1987).

When called upon to construe a particular statute, we begin our analysis with the statutory language itself, as the words of the statute, given their ordinary and popularly understood meaning, are the primary source of legislative intent. See, e.g., Dickerson v. State, 324 Md. 163, 170-71, 596 A.2d 648, 651 (1991); State v. Bricker, 321 Md. 86, 92, 581 A.2d 9, 12 (1990); Jones v. State, 304 Md. 216, 220, 498 A.2d 622, 624 (1985). If the language of the statute is plain and clear and expresses a meaning consistent with the statute's apparent purpose, no further analysis is ordinarily required. See, e.g., Kaczorowski v. City of Baltimore, 309 Md. at 515, 525 A.2d at 633; Hawkins v. State, 302 Md. at 147, 486 A.2d at 181. If the statute is clouded by ambiguity or obscurity, however, we must consider "not only the literal or usual meaning of the words, but their meaning and effect in light of the setting, the objectives and purpose of the enactment," in our attempt to discern the construction that will best further the legislative objectives or goals. Tucker v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 308 Md. 69, 75, 517 A.2d 730, 732 (1986); see also State v. Bricker, 321 Md. at 93, 581 A.2d at 12; Wynn v. State, 313 Md. 533, 539, 546 A.2d 465, 468 (1988). In doing so, the words of the statute must be "read in light of the full context in which they appear, and in light of external manifestations of intent or general purpose available through other evidence." Cunningham v. State, 318 Md. 182, 185, 567 A.2d 126, 127 (1989).

To interpret the language of a statute in full context, we consider the statute's "general history and [the] prevailing mood of the legislative body with respect to the type of criminal conduct involved." Randall Book Corp. v. State, 316 Md. 315, 327, 558 A.2d 715, 721 (1989); see also Cunningham v. State, 318 Md. at 185, 567 A.2d at 127. Interpretation of the language of this statute in full context further requires that § 286(c) be read in conjunction with the other subsections of § 286 so that we may give effect to the whole statute and harmonize all of its provisions. See Williams v. State, 329 Md. 1, 15-16, 616 A.2d 1275, 1282 (1992) (Court must discern "legislative intent from the entire statutory scheme, as opposed to scrutinizing parts of a statute in isolation."); see also Jones v. State, 311 Md. at 405, 535 A.2d at 474; Blandon v. State, 304 Md. 316, 319-22, 498 A.2d 1195, 1197-98 (1985). Additionally, § 286(c) must be construed in light of the construction we have previously given to similarly worded enhanced penalty statutes, as "statutes that deal with the same subject matter, share a common purpose, and form part of the same system are in pari materia and must be construed harmoniously in order to give full effect to each enactment." State v. Loscomb, 291 Md. 424, 432, 435 A.2d 764, 768 (1981). As we stated in State v. Bricker, "[i]t is presumed that the General Assembly acted with full knowledge of prior legislation and intended statutes that affect the same subject matter to blend into a consistent and harmonious body of law." 321 Md. at 93, 581 A.2d at 12 (citations omitted).

Finally, as a highly penal statute, § 286(c) must be "strictly construed so that only punishment contemplated by the language of the statute is meted out." Dickerson v. State, 324 Md. at 172, 596 A.2d at 652 (citations omitted); see also Rewis v. United States, 401 U.S. 808, 812, 91 S.Ct. 1056, 1059, 28 L.Ed.2d 493, 497 (1971) ("[R]ule of lenity" requires court to construe any "ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes ... in favor of lenity."); Jones v. State, 324 Md. 32, 38, 595 A.2d 463, 466 (1991)...

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