Every defendant arrested in Baltimore City who has a bail set by the District Court Commissioner is entitled to a bail review hearing within 24 hours of being “booked” at The Central Booking and Intake Facility (CBIF). In most cases, this event happens the following day, however individuals arrested late Thursday night through Sunday or on a holiday will have to wait for the next business day when the courts are open. Understandably, many are curious as to what exactly happens during a bail review. Below you will find an overview and timeline of the process.
Defendants are “staged” by CBIF staff at around 10:00 AM. This involves placing them in holding cells outside of the courtroom in the order in which they appear on the court’s docket, or schedule. While in these cells, all defendants watch a video where a Judge explains the bail review process and the rights that are involved in bail review.
When the video is complete, those represented by the Public Defender are interviewed by the Assistant Public Defender or other attorney who will represent them. The attorney will review the charges and maximum penalties each defendant faces, as well as collect all the relevant information they need to represent the defendant at the bail review hearing. This interview is usually focused more on the personal information of the defendant, such as their age, living situation, employment and community activities. While they will discuss the charges, the bail review hearing is about the defendant and whether or not they are a danger to the community or a flight risk and thus the interview will focus on the information that helps make that case.
Bail Review begins at 11:00 AM. when a District Court Judge calls the hearing to order. The Judge will call each defendant one at a time and they stand at their seat. The Judge will read the name, case number and charges for the record. The next step is for a Pre-Trial agent to read off the statement of charges for the record. Following the statement of charges, the agent will then read off the information collected during the defendant’s Pre-Trial interview. The agent will state for the record whether or not the information provided by the defendant was verified, usually by a family member if it was. If a defendant refuses to be interviewed or provide any information, that will be read into the record as well. Following the reading of personal information, the agent will then list to the court the defendant’s history and contact with the criminal justice system. This includes all charges ever brought against the defendant, all convictions, all arrests and any failure to appear (FTA) in Maryland or any other state. The final step for the Pre-Trial agent is to state the recommendation of the Commissioner. There are three recommendations that can be given, lowering the bail, keeping it the same, and raising or revoking the bail.
The next person to speak will be the Assistant State’s Attorney. In some cases, the State’s Attorney will say nothing, having no recommendation for the court. In many instances, the State’s Attorney will seek a higher bail, and will make his case for such an action. While limited to some extent, the State’s Attorney still has a wide latitude to prove that someone may be a danger to the community or a flight risk, based on prior arrests and charges. It is important to note that the State’s Attorney can use as evidence any prior arrest or charge, regardless of whether the case resulted in a conviction or not. In bail review, being arrested or charged for a crime is, more so if there are multiple instances, is treated similarly to being convicted. This applies even the charges were dropped. It is important to keep in mind that the State’s Attorney can use the nature or facts surrounding the charges to make his case as well.
Following the State’s Attorney, the Assistant Public Defender, private attorney or the defendant will be given a chance to make their case for a lower bail. If a defendant is not represented by legal counsel, he is still given a chance to speak to the Judge and place on the record why he or she should have a reduced bail or be released on their own recognizance. One key distinction at this time is that they are advised by the Court not to speak about the charges, only themselves. If represented, the attorney will speak for the defendant, relaying to the Court why they are not a flight risk or a danger to the community, using employment, living situations, children and community activities to make the case for a reduced bail or a release. Even with an attorney present, the defendant is still given a chance to address the Court, though most attorney’s will advise the defendant to remain silent and the Judge will most likely advise the same. At the conclusion of stating the case, the attorney or the defendant will request a reduction in bail or a release. Sometimes this is done in the form of a specific number, based on what can be afforded; the other possibility will be a simple request that the bail be reduced at the Judge’s discretion.
The Judge will make a determination on the record and determine a final bail. This can sometimes be a quick decision, however sometimes the Judge may take their time, or ask for more information. It is also possible that the State’s Attorney will present a rebuttal to the argument and request made by the defense. When the Judge rules, the amount is the final bail required for release, regardless of what was set by the Commissioner previously.
Once a defendant’s bail review is complete, they are then taken out of the courtroom and placed back in CBIF to await release or trial.
If a defendant is charged with a non-violent crime and there is the possibility of new information or facts that might have helped, they can apply for a re-review of bail, usually taking place within a day or two after the new evidence has been verified. This option is not applicable to those charged with any form of violence.