As previously reported on Conduit Street, a task force convened in response to a Maryland Court of Appeals decision finding a right to counsel at bail hearings has recommended that the bail system be eliminated in Maryland. A December 2 Washington Post editorial also calls on Maryland to abolish the bail system:
The bail bond system is meant to ensure that defendants appear at trial and court hearings by imposing a financial penalty on them should they not. Critics, including plenty of prosecutors, say it’s an antiquated tool that sometimes allows more affluent or better-connected defendants to avoid pretrial incarceration while poorer people facing the same charges languish in jail.
A handful of states have moved away from money bail, and the District has eliminated it. They reason that bondsmen, motivated by profit, should not play a critical role in determining which defendants pose a danger to society. The District’s success in compelling defendants to appear for court dates suggests that bail may not be necessary.
The editorial goes on to note that an alternative to bail would be to perform a danger and risk of flight assessment, similar to the system Montgomery County has in place. The editorial does note the significant costs to the state – possibly $500 million over a decade according to a prosecutor – to comply with the Court of Appeals decision. MACo notes that county governments will also bear significant costs for increased security, staffing, and capital facilities modifications.