Last year, in the case of DeWolfe v. Richmond, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that indigent defendants are entitled to a lawyer at their initial bail hearings in front of a Commissioner. After many months of working out the procedure, the Maryland Public Defenders Office started representation in these hearings in July, 2014.
An article in The Daily Record, Maryland’s legal and business journal, dated August 11, 2014, by Bryan P. Sears, reports that many defendants are waiving their right to a Public Defender or attorney at their bail hearings.
Here is what you need to know if you ever have a bail hearing in front of a commissioner.
When a Maryland Commissioner sets a bail in a criminal or serious traffic case, the amount is supposed to be based on a number of factors.
- The seriousness of the charges against you
- Your Prior record of appearing in court- did you miss prior court dates in other cases
- Your Prior criminal or serious traffic record
- Danger to community, another person or yourself
- Ties to the community such as family, employment, length of residing and property in Maryland.
When someone is released on their own recognizance, this means that the Commissioner is confident that defendant will show up to court, the charges against that person are usually not serious & the defendant is not a danger to anyone.
So, if the State wants to provide you with a free lawyer to speak on your behalf, you should not turn it down. There is an old saying that “A defendant who represents himself, has a fool for a lawyer.”
Particularly, if you are new to this country or this state, have family or property outside Maryland or the United States, or do not speak fluent English, do not be that fool! And, if you can afford an attorney to represent you, you should hire a private attorney to help get you out of jail. It could be the difference between being free to keep your job and home and spending weeks or months in jail or paying thousands of dollars for bail.