Maryland law specifies that defendants must see a commissioner for a bail hearing within 24 hours of their arrest. In this bail hearing a District Court commissioner reviews the charges against him, the facts alleged in the charging document, the defendant’s criminal record, and any other available information concerning the defendant. Using this information, the commissioner decides in matter of minutes whether or not the defendant should be held in jail pending trial, released on his own recognizance, or if a monetary bail will need to be paid in order to secure his release.
Maryland Bail Review Hearing Before a Judge
Within 24 hours of the commissioner’s bail hearing, defendants who remain incarcerated are supposed to have a bail review hearing with a Maryland District Court Judge. This 24 hour requirement is routinely extended during weekends and on holidays, however. Bail review hearings in Baltimore and other busy jurisdictions are often held via video link, with the defendants at the detention center and judges in a courtroom on the other side of town. Bail review dockets typically have a few dozen bails for review. On busy days, however, some bail dockets will require the judge to review as many as 70 or 80 bails! Bail hearings and bail reviews are often frustrating for defendants because they do not provide the opportunity for him to put on a defense. Bail hearings and bail reviews usually last only a few minutes. Bail always moves fast. Nonetheless, bail hearings are critical for defendants because they frequently set the tone for the rest of case to come.
Bail Influences Case Outcome!
Based on my experience handling many bails, the defendant who bails out and fights his case from the comfort of home is more likely to win a not guilty verdict or to reach a good plea agreement than the defendant who remains incarcerated while his trial is pending. The reason for this, I believe, is that the defendant who goes to court while in jail is far more likely to give into a bad plea agreement for the purpose of getting out of jail. This is often how defendants end up on lengthy periods of probation with dangerously long suspended sentences as “backup time.” More immediately, being incarcerated pending trial means that the defendant will not be able to earn wages or to meet family obligations. Incarcerated defendants frequently lose their jobs and see school tuition money go to waste.
You Have a Right to a Lawyer at Bail Review
A recent Maryland Court of Appeals case made clear that all defendants have the right to have a lawyer present at bail hearings and bail reviews. If you are arrested, or if someone you care about is arrested, then you need to make sure to have a lawyer’s help for the bail hearing and, if necessary, for the bail review. Having good legal representation when bail is being decided by a commissioner or a judge can mean the difference between freedom or jail for weeks or months, and it may later mean the difference between guilty or not guilty.
Matthew Baum is a Baltimore-based attorney who has handled numerous bail hearings as a part of his criminal defense practice. He is familiar with bail procedures throughout Maryland. He is prepared on short notice to assist clients in domestic and felony bail reviews conducted at Baltimore’s Central Booking and Intake Facility. If you know someone who is in need of assistance at a bail hearing or a bail review call (410) 929-3435.