Jury Trial Waiver In Montgomery County Circuit court and Impeachment through use of Conviction of Resisting Arrest.

Banks v. State

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that, should a defendant decide to waive his Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury, the trial court must announce this decision on the record in open court, acknowledging the defendant’s knowing and voluntary waiver of this constitutional right.  If this procedural requirement, as set out in the Maryland Rules, is not followed, any resulting convictions will be vacated.  See Md. Rule 4-246(b).  In this case, Appellant was found guilty by a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge and convicted of child sexual abuse and two counts of fourth degree sexual offense.  Appellant’s assertion that the trial court did not substantially comply with Maryland Rule 4-246(b) was upheld.  A variance from the procedural requirement, which results in the announcement not being made on the record and in open court, will not meet the strict requirements of this Rule.[1]

The Court also held that the crime of resisting arrest[2] cannot be used to impeach a witness’s credibility, upholding the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s decision to sustain the objection in response to Appellant’s attempt to impeach the State’s witness using this conviction.  In Maryland, impeachment by evidence of criminal convictions must either fall under the category of an “infamous crime” or be relevant to the finder of fact on the issue of a witness’s credibility. See Md. Rule 5-609(a).  When analyzing the crime of resisting arrest (or other crimes that do not fall under the purview of the latter category) the Maryland Court held that the elements should identify behavior that would tend to show the witness is “unworthy of belief.” See State v. Westpoint, 404 Md. 455, 484 (2008).  Based on this analysis, the Court determined that the elements of resisting arrest do not require proof of conduct regarding an accused’s trustworthiness and, therefore, may not be used in a subsequent proceeding to impeach a witness’s credibility. 

This ruling acts as a safeguard of sorts, preventing the proponent of irrelevant potential impeachment evidence from injecting doubt on aspects of a witness’s character that have nothing to do with his or her honesty. Furthermore, the Court’s prohibition of impeachment by means of a conviction for resisting arrest will prevent confusion of the issues by the jury.

[1] See Valonis and Tyler v. State, 431 Md. 551, 563 (analyzing Rule 4-246(b) the Court wrote, “In other words, the judge is required to announce his or her finding as to the knowing and voluntary waiver on the record”).

[2] See Md. Code, Criminal Law § 9-408 (2012). 

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