Finding out that you or loved one have been charged with a domestic violence or sex offense case is daunting enough, but then you have to deal with getting out of jail. Over the last couple of years it has become increasingly difficult to get any type of bail at all for these type of alleged crimes.
The Justice Reinvestment Act
Not long ago the Maryland Legislature rethought the bail review process in the State of Maryland. For decades, most bails were predicated upon a surety bond, i.e., a bondsman would post a promise to pay a set figure to the court if the defendant did not show up for the trial date. Typically, the defendant would pay the bondsman a set fee for posting the surety. Although technically, surety or property bonds still exist, counties like Baltimore, Anne Arundel County, and several others have going to a “number system” to evaluate whether or not a defendant should or should not be released.
The Numbers Mean Everything
The evaluation system to determine if a newly arrested individual should be released is primarily done by an agency named “Pretrial Release” in that specific County. That agency will make a recommendation to the district court judge, after a commissioner hearing regarding the defendant’s eligibility and trustworthiness to stay in the community pending trial. Typically, in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County as well as some or other counties in Maryland, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get any type of bail for a domestic violence or sex offense case. This is particularly true for the Commissioner’s review of bail. The percentages of being released by a district court judge are higher, but not by much.
The bail system now consists of a numbered checklist to make a determination as to whether or not you will be released. If you have any type of conviction in your background at all, even if the domestic violence is a negligible assault, meaning there was no injury or any serious ramifications, your background may prevent you from getting out of jail pending trial.
Rising Stakes in Domestic Violence and Sex Offense Cases
The State of Maryland and most of the county prosecutors are sending a message to the public, stating that the stakes are being raised regarding these two types of cases. Many times, a first-time domestic violence or sex offense offender, will be held with no bail for no logical or apparent reason. Adding to that difficulty is the fact that most judges view and look at these type of cases differently. So, even though the Legislature’s idea of reforming the bail process may have been done with good intentions, it has backfired for the most part. The idea was intended to allow individuals who cannot afford to pay hefty bail prices to get out monetarily, to be on equal footing with others who can afford the cost. Unfortunately, there is still a great disparity and unfairness as to who gets out and who does not.
A Bureaucrat is Making the Decision
Although judges in the District Court make the final decision as to whether or not an individual should be released, they take into consideration other factors such as community risk, the likelihood that the defendant will show up, and finally the primary factor of the recommendation from pretrial services.
It is this writer’s opinion that the additional power given to pretrial services to make these “numbered” decisions is increasingly taking away the ordinary but very important decision-making powers of our judiciary. Increasingly, judges are reluctant to go against pretrial services recommendations even though they would be justified in doing so.
Alternative Methods of Release
It is extremely important that you have a knowledgeable attorney represent you during this stage of the case. What may seem like a very easy decision by Judge could turn into a tragedy where an individual may have to spend a great deal of time in jail awaiting trial. This means that the individual may lose their job, may fall behind on ordinary living expenses, such as car payments and mortgages and possibly be caused such difficulties that the family becomes destitute.
Your lawyer should have the ability to think outside the box and recommend other release mechanisms such as home detention, work release, and other methodologies to ensure that the defendant gets out but is monitored safely. The whole idea is to make the Court feel that the public is protected yet the defendant has the ability to continue on with his or her normal life until the trial date.
If you are in need of such a lawyer, contact our office today.