BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland’s judiciary is proposing that court commissioners should set bail for criminal defendants only on weekends and holidays.
The Daily Record reports the proposals were made Monday to help save money and comply with a Court of Appeals ruling that found detainees have a constitutional right to counsel at initial bail hearings.
Defendants would be entitled to one bail hearing before a Maryland District Court judge during the work week. The hearing would be within 24 hours of being taken into custody. Commissioners would continue to conduct initial bail hearings on weekends and holidays. The commissioners now conduct all initial bail hearings.
The proposal to move to a single bail hearing during the week would end the inefficient and expensive system that “provides for two duplicative hearings, often within 12 hours of one another, for more than 80,000 defendants a year, to resolve the same issue — pretrial confinement or release — in accordance with the same legal criteria and often on the same evidence,” Chief Maryland District Court Judge Ben Clyburn told the Task Force to Study the Laws and Policies Relating to Representation of Indigent Criminal Defendants by the Office of the Public Defender.
“Is that prudent use of our resources? On its face the answer is `no,”‘ Clyburn said.
At the initial hearings, commissioners set bail or decide to release defendants on their own recognizance. If bail is set but cannot be paid, the defendant is sent to jail, where he or she is held until a bail review hearing is held, usually within 24 hours.
Under the due-process provision of the Maryland Constitution, the Court of Appeals ruled that defendants have a right to counsel in any proceeding that may result in the defendant’s incarceration, including an initial bail hearing.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)