When a person is arrested in the State of Maryland the police of that jurisdiction are faced with the decision of taking that person into custody or letting them go from the scene with a citation. Committing a misdemeanor criminal offense or driving offense will sometimes give you the wonderful privilege of walking away from the scene of the crime with a nifty little piece of paper that tells you what you are being charged with and either has your court date on it or you must report to a commissioners office within a certain amount of time (also listed on the citation) to receive your rights, rights to council and your court date. However, if you weren’t so lucky and find yourself in handcuffs in the back of a squad car or paddy wagon you can expect your next stop to be either the detention center or the police precinct (depending on the area and county you were arrested in). The police at this time will detain you in an extravagant and plush holding cell adorned with all the finest of trimmings while they prepare their reports, statements of charges, etc. until they are ready to transport you to see the commissioner. In some jurisdictions you may be “processed” before or after seeing the commissioner, meaning you will receive warrant checks and fingerprinting and other wonderful free services offered by the state of Maryland. At this point in your journey you will have been in custody for 1 hour or maybe 16 hours depending on the location, how busy they are and of course the disposition of the police officers that are handling you.
You will be taken next to see a district court commissioner. The commissioners are often located either in the detention centers themselves or in the district courthouse. In Harford County and Baltimore City for example the commissioners office is attached to the jail, so that everything is essentially a “one stop shop”. In other cases however such as Baltimore County and Anne Arundel counties the commissioners offices are attached to the District Courthouses. Baltimore Counties commissioner locations being in Essex, Catonsville, and Towson, whereas Anne Arundel counties commissioners are located in Glen Burnie and Annapolis. For the busier districts (usually the closer to Baltimore City the busier) these commissioners are at work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no holidays off because well…..crime doesn’t stop. Commissioners in more remote locations such as the Eastern Shore of Maryland are often only available “On Call” after peak hours but are nevertheless available. Commissioners are officers of the court and stand in to handle alot of the duties that would normally be delegated to judges when judges aren’t available. One of the many duties of a commissioner is to do the initial hearing of every person that is taken into custody. It is at this point where you begin saying your prayers fervently. the commissioner reads over the charges, statements, and evidence that is submitted to them and then meets with you face to face for a hearing. You will be presented with a bunch of legal documentation including your rights and rights to counsel, and what it is that you are being charged with. The commissioner will ask you many questions about your current living situation, your past and your past record. For your sake I hope you are honest, the commissioners usually know the answers before they ask you the questions. The job of a commissioner when setting a bail is to weigh the seriousness of the crime you committed, the likelihood of you doing it again, the amount of danger that you pose to the community, and the risk of flight that you bear in concern to your court date. (Usually the severity of the crime is in direct proportion to the amount of punishment that one may receive in court which is also in direct proportion to the possibility of the individual to not want to make an appearance in court”. By setting a bail the commissioner is in essence dramatically increasing the likelihood of a person to show up in court on their day of trial.
One of two things may happen at this point, the commissioner may decide to release you on your own personal recognizance (commonly referred to as “ROR”) or they will set a bail proportionate to the factors that were previously mentioned. If you are ROR’ed smile, vow to never sin again and wait patiently for your release, which could be instantly or could take up to a few hours depending on the facility and volume of traffic at that time. However if you were given a bail, you will then be processed into the detention center, or in some places such as AA county and Baltimore County you will be transferred to the detention center to be processed in. At this point you will wait for your your chance to make a phone call and call Freedom Fighters Bail Bonds at 410-638-BAIL(2245)!!
More to come in Part 2 when we discuss the various types of bails and how to post them….