Pretrial Bill Killed Quickly in Senate Committee

In a move surprising many observers, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has defeated legislation seeking to change the charging and pretrial systems in Maryland, in part responding to the lingering effects of the recent Richmond court decisions. MACo joined many stakeholders in opposing the House-amended version of the bill, but new narrowing amendments and a vigorous conversation during the Senate hearing had implied deeper attention may be forthcoming.

As reported earlier this week on Conduit Street, Senate President Miller heightened the focus on this issue, as he appeared during the House Bill’s hearing in the Senate Committee to urge the Committee to work aggressively on the issue.

Based on comments from the Senate President on the floor Thursday, the Senate may appoint a special “select committee” to target the issue during the upcoming interim months, to seek a resolution that avoids the complicated costs and processes currently burdening both state and county budgets to comply with the court ruling.

Another bill, SB 942, was introduced in the Senate to simply alter the state constitution to restore the longstanding process of District Court Commissioners rendering initial judgments on bail/release/detention without triggering the requirement of defense counsel. The prospects for that late-filed bill are unclear, but that stand-alone notion has been rejected previously.

See our coverage from earlier this week: Pretrial Debate Heats Up

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties