Md. court rules no-show inmates cannot 'escape'


If you weren't in the jail, you didn't escape from it.

Criminals sentenced to serve weekends who fail to arrive at the appointed hour on Friday cannot be convicted of escape because they were not in custody and state law does not address intermittent sentences, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

The decision reverses the escape conviction and six-month sentence last year of Floyd Dale Farris, who was a no-show at the Allegany County Detention Center on June 21, 1996. He was to serve 15 weekends for violating probation on a drug-possession conviction but completed about half the time.

"If they don't come back, to me that is an escape," said Capt. John A. Bone, administrator of the Detention Center, which generally has no more than four weekends-only inmates at a time.

Farris' argument -- that because he was not in custody he did not escape -- did not fly with Allegany County Circuit Judge Gary G. Leasure. The judge took a few days to review the cases and law because "whatever I decide I'm going to be stuck with until one of you get the geniuses in Annapolis to change it," he told the prosecutor and public defender, according to a transcript of the case.

The Court of Special Appeals, the intermediate appellate court, called Farris' reasoning "creative" in a November opinion, and upheld Leasure's ruling.

But the Court of Appeals concluded otherwise. "If the General Assembly intended to include an Allegany County weekend prisoner's failure to return to the detention center as an escape [under state law] that body certainly knew how to do it," Judge Irma S. Raker wrote for the court in a 15-page opinion.

She enumerated several sections of state law that make skipping out on home detention, work release and rehabilitation programs in specific counties -- such as Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard -- an escape.

Michael R. Burkey, district public defender for Allegany and Garrett counties who represented Farris, predicted: "It won't be long before this perceived loophole is plugged."

Pub Date: 8/27/98

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