Maryland Court Says Bail is Not a Reason to Keep Poor Offenders in Jail
It’s a fairly basic principle in our U.S. Constitution that a person’s punishment should be reasonably proportionate to the crime. The Eighth Amendment says that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed.”
What this really means is poverty cannot be the sole grounds for incarceration. In 2017, the Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed this sentiment, explaining that a person’s inability to pay bail should not be the sole grounds for keeping the person in jail. If you or someone you know gets arrested and held on bail, you have options and you should not be kept in jail for minor offenses just because of a lack of money. Here’s what you need to know about Maryland bail provisions.
What is Bail?
Bail is a process by which the court attempts to create a financial incentive for a defendant to show up for court. By posting money, if you miss your appearances or you do not appear for trial, you will forfeit your money. This may seem to be an oversimplification, but it really is just that straightforward.
How is Bail Established?
Once arrested, an accused offender is taken into custody. Within 24 hours of arrest, the suspected offender must be brought before a court commissioner for an initial appearance. At this appearance, a brief hearing is performed in order handle a number of procedural issues, such as:
- Tell the defendant about the right to counsel
- Explain the offenses being charged
- Explain potential max penalties for the offenses
- Discuss availability of a public defender
- Determine whether bail is appropriate or whether the defendant should be released on his or her own recognizance without the need for cash bail being paid (basically, can the defendant be trusted to show up for trial?)
What Happens if the Commissioner Determines that Bail is Required?
For certain petty offenses, a person with strong ties to the community may not need to post bail. But in most cases, the court will require some assurance that the defendant will appear as ordered. This is usually accomplished through bail. This can be done in several ways:
- Cash bail. Defendant pays cash to the clerk.
- Posting property as collateral. Post the collateral of your home or some other asset as security.
- Bail Bonds. Pay a bondsman, for which the bondsman will pay the full value of the cash bail required. This operates sort of like insurance. The bondsman becomes responsible for you appearing and being available for trial.
When is Bail Not Allowed?
There are times when a crime is so serious that bail would not be appropriate. Some criminal statutes require that the defendant be held without bail, such as domestic abuse and certain types of repeat offenses or where the defendant already failed to appear for one crime when arrested for yet another.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
Sadly, many defendants think that they can handle a lot of the “minor” stuff and just use a lawyer to handle the final trial. This is a mistake. The sooner a lawyer is involved, the sooner you might be able to secure a release. It is much harder to rebuild your life and keep your job if you are sitting in jail waiting for trial. Many innocent people have lost good jobs, lost their homes, and had their lives destroyed by a false arrest, even despite beating their charges.
Do not sit in jail when you could be at home with family working, earning money, and fighting your charges. Call the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. in Maryland to learn more about your rights today.