And So it Begins: Attorney Representation at Bail Hearings

Tuesday marked the start of a new chapter for Maryland’s bail hearings. As reported in The Daily Record:

By order of Maryland’s highest court, District Court commissioners at 8 a.m. Tuesday began telling people awaiting their initial bail hearing that they have the right to an attorney and if they could not afford a lawyer, one would be appointed for them.

“We have appointed attorneys at every location,” more than 40 across the state, Chief District Court Judge John P. Morrissey said. Morrissey monitored implementation of the first day of the Court of Appeals’ order at one location, the Prince George’s County Jail in Upper Marlboro. “We’ve had very few glitches today.”

The glitches involved brief delays as appointed attorneys and the commissioners acclimate themselves to the additional level of representation the high court found necessary in its landmark decision last year in DeWolfe v. Richmond, Morrissey said.

While things were reported to have generally move smoothly the first day, many unknowns remain still remain such as how many people are invoking the right versus waiving. While it is too soon to tell, initial feedback varied. For instance, as reported in The Baltimore Sun, the only issue faced by the attorneys posted in Towson was “drumming up enough clients:”

Gina Jun, one of two lawyers working the first shift at the Towson courthouse, spent the morning waiting to get her first client. By lunchtime, no one had taken a commissioner up on the opportunity to speak with her, but in the afternoon things picked up, Jun said, and she did her first hearing.

However, the article points out Baltimore’s Central Booking and Intake Center as a location where people were notably invoking their right to counsel.

In smaller jurisdictions, such as Carroll County, having enough clients is less of an issue than having enough space and time for those clients.  As reported in The Carroll County Times:

In Carroll County, lawyers who have volunteered for the District Court of Maryland Appointed Attorneys Program will be made available seven days a week between 8 a.m. and noon to all defendants whose income qualifies them for a public defender.

That means if someone is arrested in the afternoon and asserts their right to an attorney, they may have to wait in jail overnight until one is available the next morning.

“Everyone recognizes that we’re going to have to be flexible and try to respond quickly to issues,” said Warden George Hardinger.

More populous counties with more arrests will have defense attorneys on call from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 24 hours per day, according to Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Allan Culver, because initial appearance hearings are conducted around the clock.

It remains a goal in Carroll County to present an arrestee to a commissioner as quickly as possible, however with only four holding cells with a capacity of four to five people each, space will become an issue if a lot of people request an attorney outside of the hours the attorneys are on call.

For more information, read previous coverage on Conduit Street and the full articles in The Daily Record, The Baltimore Sun, and The Carroll County Times.

This topic will also be covered in MACo’s 2014 Summer Conference during a session entitled, “Fixing Bail Without Breaking Jail.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2014 Summer Conference:

Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White with questions about Summer Conference.