Articles Posted in Bail

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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:
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Judge Alfred Nance of the Baltimore City Circuit Court has ruled that defendants in Maryland criminal cases are entitled to be represented by an attorney at their initial appearance before a court commissioner.

Appellate Courts in Maryland have previously ruled that appearances before a court commissioner were not “critical stages in a criminal proceeding.” Although I have not read his opinion, Judge Nance wisely stayed his seemingly maverick ruling due to the likelihood the matter is far from settled and will be taken up on appeal.

It has been longstanding practice in Maryland that when a criminal defendant is arrested, they are brought before a court commissioner within twenty-four hours of the arrest. Most jurisdictions outside Baltimore City move much faster. At the brief hearing, the commissioner will set an initial bail. These hearings occur at all hours of the day. The bail is subject to review by a Maryland District Court Judge the next day.

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As a Baltimore Maryalnd Criminal Attorney I am often hired to try to secure a defendants’ release on bail. Generally speaking, when a person is arrested by the police and charged with a criminal offense in Maryland, the law requires that the person be brought before a court commissioner within 24 hours. The commissioner will conduct a hearing in which he or she will explain to the person what they are charged with, what the maximum penalties are and their right to an attorney. The commissioner will then set the conditions of the person’s pre-trial release to include bail.

Many people make the mistake of not hiring counsel at this point to advise them as to how the bail can be posted at this point or whether the person should wait to see a Judge at a bail review hearing. These hearings are required to take place on the the next day in which the courts are open so very often it is only a matter of hours until this hearing. The reason I say it is a mistake not have the advice of an experienced criminal attorney at this point is that the commissioners, who are not attorneys much less judges and generally speaking have little or no legal training, very often set bails that are much higher or much lower than the amount at which a judge is likely to set in the case. Many people are unaware that in Maryland a judge may not only lower the defendant’s bail at the bail review hearing but can also raise it. An experienced and aggressive attorney may even be able to determine which judge will be handling the bail review and know what that judge’s tendencies are. Sometimes the advice may be to bail the person out before the hearing. In other circumstances it may be to wait for the hearing if the attorney knows who the judge is and is confident that the bail will be lowered if the person is properly represented at the hearing.
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As a Maryland Criminal Attorney I am often required to deal with issues involving bail. In fact I spoke with a women first thing this morning whose daughter was locked up on a $25,000 bail and charged with Armed Robbery and Assault. The poor women was completely without a clue as to what bail was or how to post it. The defendant was due to be in court for a bail review just a few hours later so she had very little time to get educated and decide what to do.

I told her that her first decision was to decide whether to let her daughter attend the bail review or to bail the her out prior to the bail review. I explained, to her great surprise, that a judge at a bail review can not only lower the bail as set by the court commission, but can also raise the bail. In many instances I advise the family members or friends who contact me about a defendant who is in jail awaiting bail to go ahead and bail the defendant out prior to the bail review because it is my opinion that in that case the bail is more likely to be raised than it is to be lowered. This is exactly what I told this women this morning as by Baltimore City bail standards, $25,000 is low for an Armed Robbery charge. If all cases where a defendant decides that he wants to (or must) attend the bail review he would be foolish not to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent him at this critical stage of the process.
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