Sun on Bail Reform Bill: “Clearly The Best Option”

SB 973, the long-awaited proposal to reform Maryland’s bail system in the wake of the Richmond v. DeWolfe case (where defendants were ruled to be entitled to legal representation, even at preliminary bail hearings before a District Court Commissioner), is set for debate on the Senate floor today.

In today’s Baltimore Sun, the editorial board endorses the plan pending on the Senate floor in that bill. From the editorial:

Senate Bill 973, introduced by Sen. Brian Frosh, is clearly the best option. Amended, it comes with a $16 million price tag and skirts the commissioner/public defender requirement by taking the commissioners out of the equation (a move the state attorney general’s office has sanctioned as legal). It would also speed up the release process and help keep poor people arrested for minor crimes out of jail pending trial. On any given day, a couple of dozen people usually languish in Baltimore’s Central Booking facility because they can’t scrape together $100 to pay a bondsman to cover their $1,000 bail. Those released based on the computerized system won’t have to pay any bail, though they will be supervised while they’re out.

Read the full Sun editorial online.

The Washington Post, also writing about the much-debated issue, offered its assessment of the alternatives as well. Reporting on the late introduction of a constitutional amendment to simply overturn the Richmond decision (introduced yesterday as SB 1114), they write:

The Maryland Senate agreed Wednesday to consider amending the state constitution to overturn rulings by its highest court on pretrial confinement rather than pursue a costly overhaul of the state’s current system for setting bail.

But opponents warned that the General Assembly was risking a fullblown showdown involving all three branches of government if lawmakers adopt the amendment or otherwise fail to address the concerns raised by the Court of Appeals about the state’s bail-setting procedures.

Read the Washington Post coverage online.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties