The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that defendants have a right to representation at commissioner hearings. The Court held that Article 24 of the Maryland Constitution’s Declaration of Rights guarantees detainees the right to counsel at bail hearings if they cannot afford to hire one. DeWolfe v. Richmond, ____ Md._____, 2013 WL 5377174 (September 25, 2013).
What does this mean? It means two things. First, the Maryland Courts and legislature now have to supply indigent counsel to people who come before commissioners. There has been a substantial debate about how to fund this representation. Some have suggested that police attempt to detain fewer people by just giving them citations, while others have suggested wiping such rights out of the Maryland Constitution.
Second, this case creates an expansion of rights for all persons at commissioner hearings. Whether you have a hired lawyer or a public defender, all persons now have a right to counsel in these hearings. As a result, we are expanding our services to make sure clients and potential clients can utilize our services for such hearings, day or night.
What happens at the District Court when you go before a commissioner? Well, as said above, you have the right to counsel. If you would like to hire us, we have a right to be there. If you can’t afford an attorney, they have to appoint you counsel. The commissioners are also duty bound to:
- Decide whether or not you should be released prior to trial.
- Decide if bail should be set in your case.
- Inform you of the charges against you and the possible penalties.
UPDATE: It has been 5 years since the courts ruled you have a right to counsel at your commissioner bond hearing in Maryland. One thing that we wanted to update you on is the new bail reform act that has been passed in Maryland. The Seddiq Law Firm has seen many good-hearted people attempt to change our bail laws so that people are not stuck in jail just because they do not have any money. However, it has been our experience that, in some respects, more people are being detained under the new law than before. See our recent blog post on the Maryland bail reform here.
We answer our phones 24 hours a day. You have the ability, as someone incarcerated, or family of someone incarcerated, to reach us immediately. We can take credit card payments over the phone so that we can immediately come to your defense at the bail hearing. Call our office at 301.513.7832.