Q: What does it mean when the state’s attorney offers to place the defendant’s case on the stet docket in Maryland?
A: The stet docket is the court’s inactive docket. When the state offers to stet a defendant’s case, the state is indicating its willingness to postpone the case indefinitely by placing it on the court’s inactive docket.
Q: If a stet is really a postponement, then when is the next court date?
A: In most cases where a stet is entered there is no future court date. The stet functions as an indefinite postponement. The defendant need not sign a summons for a future date before leaving court.
Q: How can a Maryland stet case be reopened?
A: Either side may reopen a stet case for any reason with a simple filing during the first year after the stet is entered. During years two and three, either side may ask the court to reopen a stet case by showing good cause for it to be reopened. Absent a showing of good cause, the stet cannot be reopened after the first year.
Q: Why would anyone reopen a stet case?
A: There are many reasons why either party to a criminal case may wish to reopen a case that was placed on the stet docket. Sometimes a defendant will reopen a stet because he becomes better able to fully defend his case in court. Sometimes the state will reopen a stet case when the defendant is arrested on a new charge. This happens most often when the case that was placed on the stet docket and the new case involve similar charges.
Q: Why do I have to “accept” a stet on the record?
A: Prior to entering a stet, a Maryland court will need to make certain that the defendant understands his right to a speedy trial and is willing to give up that right in order to receive a stet. Typically either the defense attorney or the judge will advise the defendant that by accepting a stet he gives up his right to a speedy trial but retains all of his other rights and defenses.
Q: Is a Maryland stet a conviction?
A: A stet is not a conviction and not an acquittal. It is an indefinite postponement for a period of up to three years.
Q: Can a Maryland stet be expunged?
A: A stet can be expunged after three years if (1) the case is not reopened and (2) the defendant is not convicted of a crime during that time period. If you have a stet that you’d like to have expunged then you should contact a lawyer for assistance.
Q: Is a stet a good outcome?
A: It depends. In some cases a stet is a very good outcome for the defendant. In some cases it is not. Whether or not it’s a good outcome depends on the facts of the case, the likelihood of an acquittal, and the unique needs of the defendant.
Q: Will a stet show up on a background check or a government security clearance investigation?
A: Until a stet has been expunged it will show up on background checks of all types. It will be visible on Maryland Judiciary Case Search and will be revealed by other background check data services. Whether or not a stet will prevent you from getting a certain job or a certain clearance is a difficult question to answer. You should consult with an attorney before accepting a stet if you are concerned that it will carry negative consequences.
Q: What is a Maryland nolle prosequi and how does it relate to a stet?
A: A nolle prosequi, sometimes called a nol pros for short, is an outright dismissal of the state’s case against the defendant. When the state enters a nolle prosequi, the defendant has the right to immediately file a petition for expungement. In general, a nolle prosequi is a better outcome for a criminal defendant than a stet.
Q: What is a conditional stet?
A: A conditional stet is, as it sounds, a stet that comes with conditions. Typically seen conditions require that the defendant make restitution, participate in drug treatment, receive anger management counseling, or perform community service. The conditions can either be required in order to allow the defendant to keep the stet, or can be set up as a part of a deal in which, upon completion of the conditions, the state will ultimately enter a nolle prosequi in the defendant’s case.
Q: Can I get a stet in my case?
A: Whether or not you can get a stet in Maryland depends on many factors, including but not limited to the facts of your case, your record, the readiness of the state’s attorney to put on the case against you, the ability of your lawyer to negotiate for a stet, the court’s willingness to allow the stet, and many others. I see stets used most often in relatively minor cases where the state is not prepared to go to trial but does not want to simply dismiss the case. These posts by attorney Matthew Baum may also be of interest:
Matthew Baum is an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer with offices in Baltimore, Catonsville and in Columbia, Maryland. As a part of his criminal defense practice, he defends clients in throughout the Baltimore-Washington metro area. If you have a question concerning a pending case or if you have concerns about a case in which a stet has already been entered, you are invited to call Baum Law Offices at (410) 929-3435. Initial consultations and case evaluations are free of charge and involve no obligation.