The Maryland Rules of Criminal Procedure require that a person who is arrested
be brought before a judicial officer for an initial hearing soon after
the arrest. The initial hearing is an important step in the criminal justice system.
Typically, the hearing is before a commissioner, and historically few people
have an attorney present at these hearings, according to the Maryland
Court of Appeals. At the hearing several issues are to be dealt with,
including decisions concerning possible continued detention and bail if
probable cause is found to support the arrest.
When people think of
criminal charges and jail time, it may be common for some to think about the loss of liberty
that may follow a conviction--if a person is sentenced to time behind
bars. But, in the real world, many people are held in jail while awaiting
trial. The initial hearing is where a commissioner may first set bail
(which may be modified in a review at a later time). In September, the
Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that because liberty is at stake in an
initial hearing, a defendant has the right to be represented by an attorney.
State attorneys asked the high court to hold off on the ruling to allow
the state time to find money to provide lawyers to defendants who are
unable to hire a lawyer. Earlier this month, the high court rejected the
Constitutional rights are important and vital parts of the integrity of
our system of justice. The right to have a criminal defense lawyer for
representation is among the vital rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
Source: CBS Baltimore, "Md. High Court Upholds Ruling: Poor Defendants Entitled To Lawyer At Bail Hearing," Nov. 7, 2013