https://www.silvermanthompson.com/lawyer-attorney-1300820.htmlBaltimore Maryland Criminal Attorneys have witnessed a troubling trend in Baltimore City pretrial bail rulings for criminal defendants over the past year or two. Both District Court and Circuit Judges have seemingly been locked in a competition with one another to out “tough” one another on bail rulings and the result has been a many fold increase in the bail amounts that has put the city way out of the mainstream on this issue. I’m not just referring to defendants who are charged with murder or rape or defendants with long and violent criminal records. I’m talking about first offenders in misdemeanor cases or garden variety felony cases such as burglary or parental discipline type physical child abuse cases (this was known as a spanking when I was a kid) being held without bail or on bails set so high that they are the functional equivalent of no bail.
Every day in Baltimore City courts, defendants who would be released on their own recognizance or on five or ten thousand dollar bails in any other jurisdiction in the State are held on six figure bails or on my personal favorite, “cash only by defendant only” bails that no virtually no defendant can make. It is clear to many of us in the legal community that the judges who set these particular bails are not anywhere near as interested in fulfilling the stated purposes of the bail statute which is to “ensure that the defendant will not flee or pose a danger to another person or the community” as they are in punishing the hated bail bond industry.
I actually had a conversation with a District Court judge about this issue recently in a bail review hearing in which I tried to point out to the judge that if the person actually were able to make the cash only bail, was released and then failed to appear in court, that there would be no one with an incentive to go out and find him and bring him in. In other words the cash only bail defeats the very purpose of the statute. The judge responded with a dismissive wave of her hand and stated that she “didn’t care about that”. I was literally speechless.
These bail rulings routinely cause defendants whom everyone knows will never be convicted or even if they are convicted will never serve a day in jail on the conviction, to remain incarcerated for weeks or months waiting for the opportunity to exonerate themselves at trial or plead guilty for probation. I may be old fashioned but I still believe that except in extreme cases the government ought not deprive a citizen of his liberty without first proving that he has violated the law.
But perhaps the most insidious consequence of these bail rulings is that defendants very often choose to plead guilty to crimes that they did not commit because the State’s Attorney or the Judge will offer them a sentence of the time they have already served and probation to do so. Defendants in Baltimore City routinely accept these offers because they know that the Circuit Court Docket is so backlogged that it will take 6 months or even a year before they will be able have their day in court. Most people in this situation would plead guilty to the Lindberg baby kidnapping rather than sit in the city jail for another year.
I had a case that amounted to a particularly vivid example of this common occurrence in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City just this week. Here are the facts:
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