Maryland's highest court ruled on Wednesday that poor defendants are entitled to have an attorney present at bail hearings.
The 4-3 ruling marked the second time the Maryland Court of Appeals decided that defendants are entitled to state-furnished counsel at those initial hearings before a district court commissioner, because the defendant's liberty is at stake. The judges in the majority noted that suspects, unless released on their own recognizance, will remain incarcerated until a bail review hearing before a judge. That can take days in some cases.
"As numerous briefs to this court pointed out, the failure of a commissioner to consider all the facts relevant to a bail determination can have devastating effects on the arrested individuals," the judges wrote in the majority decision.