After you are arrested, you will be brought before a judicial officer or judge who will decide whether you can be released on any conditions. Such releases are handled somewhat differently in the jurisdictions where Houlon Berman practices. To understand what happens after you are arrested, it is first important to understand the difference between bail release and pretrial release.
What is bail?
Bail is the cash, asset, or bond that a person pays to the court as assurance that they will appear for their scheduled court hearing. The court holds onto the paid bail until the hearings are complete, at which time the defendant can recover it.
What is pretrial release?
Pretrial release is when you are released from jail prior to your court date. A bond, which could be a cash fee, surety, or promise that you will return on your own will (called a personal recognizance release), is often required. Not everyone is qualified for pretrial release. There are certain pretrial release conditions that must be met, and they vary from state-to-state.
Bail in Maryland
In Maryland, your initial appearance will be before a District Court Commissioner, who will set your initial bail bond or terms and conditions of personal recognizance if he or she feels that’s appropriate.
If a bail amount is set, it can usually be posted in one of three ways:
- You can hire a bail bondsman to whom you must pay a fee (5 to 10% of the amount of the bail bond) who will then post the bail on your behalf.
- You can put up equity in real property or cash in the total amount of the bond which will then be returned to you at the conclusion of the case as long as the accused shows up in court.
- A 10% bond can be allowed which requires paying 10% of the bail bond amount to the Court. Here again, that amount is refundable.
If you are charged with a minor offense and have never been arrested in the past, you may receive personal recognizance release or release under supervision of a pretrial release unit.
If the bail amount is too high, there will be an appearance before a judge on the next available court business day. You have a right to an attorney at that bail review hearing. In our experience, where a high bond is set, the presence of a fully prepared attorney at the bail review often leads to a substantially reduced bail requirement or even release on personal recognizance. Often times, the attorney fee for the bail review hearing is much less than the savings from the reduction in bail!
Bail in Federal / D.C courts
In Federal Court and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, your first court appearance will be before a judge at what is called an Initial Appearance or Arraignment. The judge will go over the charges against you very briefly and then hear from the Government and your Defense attorney as to the appropriate terms and conditions of release.
Bail is used very infrequently in both jurisdictions. Instead, the court relies upon a pretrial supervision unit and sets terms and conditions of release. Additionally, in both jurisdictions, a preventive detention statute can apply which allows the court to deny pretrial release under certain conditions.
It is just as important to have an attorney present in court to fight the pretrial release issue in these courts. The conditions of release imposed may be extremely restrictive and difficult to perform. A curfew or home monitoring can be imposed. An attorney can argue for lesser restrictions or at least make sure the restrictions are reasonable.