Asked in Criminal Law for Maryland

Q: If a judge's ruling is ambiguous because of sarcasm, how should the defense go about challenging the ruling?

The judge denied a motion to "suppress all evidence relating to a confession made before being Mirandized" but is on record granting the motion for the defense. It seems the judge was being sarcastic when granting it and actually intended to deny it. The defendant was later found guilty. Can the defense challenge the denial on the grounds that the transcript shows the judge granting the motion? Or is the judge's intent what matters?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Michael Wilson McGraw
Michael Wilson McGraw
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Annapolis , MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: You're going to have to provide more information. Also, if the Defendant is entitled to an appeal of the Court's ruling you may be on a tight time schedule.

Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: The judge's sarcasm is irrelevant. You are in the same position as any defendant who objected to admission of evidence at trial, but the judge overruled the objection and allowed it anyway: file a motion for new trial within 10 days, or appeal within 30 days, and argue the judge's ruling was wrong under the law and that error impacted the verdict. If the case law supports the suppression of the confession or incriminating statements, and the error was not "harmless," then your verdict will be reversed. A judge has authority in every case, prior to final judgment, to revisit any prior ruling made in the case, and change the ruling. So, even if the judge had granted the motion to suppress earlier in the case, but then during trial the prosecutor tried again to put the suppressed statements into evidence, the judge was free to allow it by reconsidering the prior grant of the motion and determining the statements should be allowed into evidence.

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