Every person who is arrested in Maryland is entitled to appear before a judge or commissioner within 24 hours of arrest for an initial appearance. The judge's or commissioner's duty at this hearing depend on whether the defendant was arrested on a warrant, or by a state or local police officer without a warrant. If a person is arrested by a police officer, without a warrant, one of the main functions of the first appearance judge is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a crime. A Maryland criminal lawyer may appear at the first bail review hearing and argue that there was no probable cause to make the arrest. A defendant who is arrested without probable cause will be released on his or her own recognizance, and with no conditions of supervision. If a person is arrested on a warrant the judge is not required to make a probable cause determination, but must inform the defendant of the charges that he or she is facing, as well as the maximum penalties that each of the charged crimes carries under state law. The judge must also provide the defendant with a copy of the charging document if one is available. If a district court judge conducts the first appearance hearing on a felony, the judge will inform the defendant that he or she has a right to a preliminary hearing in circuit court within 10 days. The judge will then determine if the defendant is eligible for pretrial release.
Maryland is one of the strictest states in the country when it comes to pretrial release. Defendants in most other states are entitled to release on non-capital offenses, and it is often the state's burden to prove the defendant should not be released. Unfortunately this is not the way it works in Maryland, and many District Court judges are simply too apprehensive about releasing defendants from incarceration. This is especially true for allegations involving firearms or domestic violence, but many defendants across the state have been denied bail in non-violent drug cases such as possession with intent to distribute narcotics. Do not risk going to bail review without an experienced bail review attorney. Benjamin Herbst specializes in Maryland bail reviews and is standing by to fight for your release. There are detailed laws about which defendants will be eligible for pretrial release, and most counties have their own system of calculating risk assessment scores, that will be presented to the judge at the bail review. A bail bond lawyer can appear at the first appearance and argue that the judge should grant pretrial release regardless of the risk assessment score. Pretrial release is available to most defendants, but the likelihood of release depends largely on the jurisdictions where the case is being heard and the judge presiding. Judges do not have to follow the recommendations of the pretrial agent, and in places like Baltimore City they often don't. Defendants that are charged with more serious crimes such as violent felonies, drug kingpin crimes, and crimes involving firearms, weapons, and handguns will likely not receive a recommendation for release from the pretrial agent, but this does not mean there is no hope. The judge will look at the defendant's prior criminal record and the specific allegations in the statement of probable cause. The extent of the supervision level for a defendant placed on pretrial release also depends on the nature of the crime, and whether there is an alleged victim in the crime. The judge may order certain conditions such as home detention and or GPS monitoring, and in crimes where there is an alleged victim the judge will issue a no contact order. A defendant who is placed on pretrial release should treat his or her supervision as being placed on probation, because a pretrial release violation will typically result in arrest, and being held in custody until the case is resolved. An experienced lawyer may still be able to reinstate pretrial release at a hearing in front of a judge, depending on the nature of the pretrial release violation.
If the defendant is eligible for pretrial release the judge may also order the defendant to post a bond to assure presence at future court dates. There used to be a standard amount of bail that was scheduled for each crime, but the legislature did away with this several years ago when the Judicial Reinvestment Act or JRA was passed. High cash bails have been all but eliminated in favor of a system that instructs judges to find the least restrictive means to assure the safety of the community and the defendant's return to court. Cash bails are still used in situations where the defendant poses an realistic flight risk, such as cases involving out of state defendants. The judge will take into account such factors as the defendant's ties to the community, prior criminal record, recommendations of the prosecutor, and arguments presented by the criminal defense lawyer. If you or someone you know has been arrested, or has a warrant out for his or her arrest, contact a defense lawyer immediately. The Herbst Firm can appear at the first hearing and argue for pretrial release. We can also schedule a hearing with the judge that will be presiding over the criminal case, and argue for a an unsecured bond and less strict pretrial release conditions.