As a Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney, I often represent people in Bail Review Hearings both in the District and in the Circuit Court. Very often when someone gets arrested, friends or family members fail to act quickly enough to get an experienced criminal defense attorney involved in the case prior to the initial bail review in the District Court which typically takes place on the next business day.
It is understandable given how quickly these events transpire that attorneys are often not contacted until after the person’s bail review has occurred. It is also often a very big mistake. In many cases the absence of effective representation at the bail review can be the difference between the defendant going home or remaining incarcerated. The District Court Judge often sets the bail much higher than he or she otherwise would have had the person had an advocate there on their behalf. This is the point when many people pick up the phone to call an attorney for the first time. I had two cases where the events unfolded in this manner this past week in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Here is what happened:
Both clients were arrested on Friday of the preceding week. One was charged with Second Degree Burglary for allegedly breaking into storage units. While this is certainly not the crime of the century, he was nonetheless ordered by the Court Commissioner to be held without bail because he has a pending charge of a similar nature. The second case involved an allegation of Domestic Assault. This individual was also ordered by the Commissioner to be held without bail as he was also pending another charge, in his case another assault with the same alleged victim.
Both clients had bail reviews in front of District Court Judges without attorneys. One hearing was held in Baltimore County and the other was held in Anne Arundel County because that is where the client turned himself in. (In most cases they will not transport defendant’s back to the jurisdiction where the case was charged for the initial hearing in front of the Court Commissioner or the District Court bail review. This is because both Court Commissioners and District Court Judges have jurisdiction to conduct these hearings for cases charged in any District Court in the State.)
Both of these clients were ordered by the District Court Judge to be held without bail. Had they hired an experienced criminal defense attorney I sincerely doubt that would have been the result for either of them for the simple reason that they would have had someone there with the skill and knowledge to explain the circumstances both of the defendant’s life and of the case in more favorable terms than the judge heard from the representative from Pre-Trial Release.
As I said, I represented both of these individuals in the Circuit Court last week. Luckily for these clients, it is relatively easy to get a Habeas Corpus within a few business days in Baltimore County Circuit Court. This is not true in many other jurisdictions, in particular Baltimore City, where it can takes several weeks to get a hearing. The hearings took place on Thursday so each of them spent 6 days in jail prior to the hearing. The details of my arguments are unimportant. The important fact is that I was there to make them. An experienced criminal attorney can nearly always come up with a decent argument for a reduction in bail and these cases were no different.
In each case the Judge reduced the bail from a no bail status to bail of $25,000 and each defendant was bailed out with a few hours. The only downside for them (other than still being defendant’s in a criminal case) was the 6 days they spent in jail before I was able to get them in front of a Circuit Court Judge. In all candor, Circuit Court Judges are usually easier to persuade to reduce bails than are their District Court colleagues but if past performance is a good predictor of future results, it is highly likely that had I or another experienced criminal defense attorney been present at the District Court Bail Review, a reasonable bail would have been set and the client would not have unnecessarily spent 6 days in jail.