House Pretrial Bill Removes “Quick Action” After Hours

The Maryland House of Delegates has amended and passed HB 494, a bill that as originally introduced proposed reforms to the pretrial system intended to reduce the burdens and increase efficiency. However amendments to the bill may undermine some of the bill’s benefits, and actually force longer stays in local jails for many arrestees.

MACo originally supported the bill with amendments in the House, suggesting that the approach could become a productive resolution to the troubling issues with pretrial initial appearances. However, the House’s removal of both Commissioners and Judges from a rapid response to determine bail/release eligibility would mean many after-hours arrestees could be detained much longer in local jails.

As amended, HB 494 could increase the number of individuals processed into the pretrial system and increase the amount of time spent waiting for an initial appearance. Much of the bill’s impact on local detention centers is dependent upon whether its provisions generate a release rate that exceeds the current rate and does so in a timely fashion. The amendments raise concern as they remove provisions that would require courts to be open additional days for initial appearances and for individuals not released to see a judge within 24 hours.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on April 1, and the revised version will be heard before MACo’s Legislative Committee for a potential new position.