Bill Introduces Plan For New Pretrial Services Unit

In a continued effort to address the issues arising from the Court of Appeals ruling in DeWolfe v. Richmond, legislators have introduced a bill that proposes to streamline Maryland’s bail practices.  As reported in the Washington Post:

“The goal is to incarcerate the people who really need to be incarcerated,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said, as the Senate agreed to suspend procedural rules to introduce the last-minute bill, SB 973, directly into the Judicial Proceedings Committee and begin crafting a solution.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) said a new pretrial services unit — modeled after existing programs in the District of Columbia and Montgomery County – would use professionals in law enforcement and corrections to screen those arrested with the idea of freeing most of them before they needed to appear before a judicial officer.

Frosh, who is a candidate for Maryland attorney general, said the District, Montgomery and other jurisdictions allow most nonviolent and minor offenders to go free pending trial, usually on recognizance bonds. Those jurisdictions have shown that the system is less costly than locking people up but still has a good record of ensuring their appearance in court later, he said.

“What we’re striving for is to make it more efficient, less expensive, fairer to people who are arrested, and ultimately protect public safety while still diverting most folks from having to spend time in jail,” Frosh said. He stressed that only the outlines of a possible solution have emerged, but said state leaders appear to be moving in the direction of a pretrial services unit.

The bill has been cross-filed as HB 1232. For more information read SB 973 or HB 1232. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, February 19, 2014.