Bail Reviews in Maryland. Part 3: What can bond be lowered to?

The most typical bond setup involves the following: judge or commissioner sets a nominal bond, defendant or family can pay the court the full amount or post property as collateral. A lot of defendants use a bail bondsmen–the bondsmen in Prince George’s County typically allow someone to post 10% of the total sum of the bond and they will cover the rest. However, even if the defendant never skips out on his bail and does everything right, that 10% is still gone. For example, someone has a bond set by a judge of $35,000. A bondsmen will allow them to pay $3,500 and they will bond out the defendant, but that is $3,500 that the defendant will not ever get back.

Instead of paying a bail bondsmen that type of money, it may be advantageous to hire an attorney for a bail review hearing. Here are some of the things that an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to obtain for you at a bail review hearing:

1. Release on own Recognizance

I recently had a client in Prince George’s County who was facing a First Degree Assault charge and a $25,000 bond. I immediately requested a bail review hearing and argued to the judge that my client was not a danger to society and was not a flight risk. The judge agreed and ordered that my client be released on his own recognizance–that is, my client did not have to pay a bond amount but instead just had to sign a promise that he would appear to all his future court dates. He was released that same day.

2. Lower Bond Amount
Plain and simple as that. If your bond is set at $35,000, an attorney can always ask the judge to lower that amount. Let’s say the judge lowers it to $10,000. Now the defendant or his family can pay a bondsmen $1,000 to get out, which a lot of times can make the difference between being able to get out and being stuck in jail until trial.

3. Pretrial Release Conditions

Instead of posting a sum of money to be released prior to trial, the judge can make a client eligible to be released “on pretrial.” In some ways this is similar to being on probation before trial. The defendant is released from jail but there are conditions to that release. The conditions may include periodically checking in with a probation officer, being subject to drug tests, being placed on a GPS monitor, having a curfew, or being on house arrest. In some instances, the time spent on pretrial release can count towards time served in jail, even though the defendant is not in the physical jail at the time.

4. Lower Percentage of Bond Payable to the Court
This is an option that I have had frequent success with in Prince George’s County. What this means is that instead of having a bond 100% payable to the court (meaning if your bond is $35k, you have got to pay it all to the court) the court will agree to accept a sum under the full amount. Assuming the defendant’s bond is never revoked, whoever posted the bond to the court will receive the amount they posted at the end of the case.

For example, I had a client in Prince George’s County facing an Attempted Robbery who had a posted bond of $75k. At a bail review hearing the judge agreed to not only lower the bond to $35k, but to make that amount “10% payable to the court.” Now, the client’s family could pay $3,500 directly to the court in order for my client to be released instead of paying $3,500 to a bondsmen. The big difference is that paying the bondsmen would have resulted in that $3,500 being gone forever. But in this case, my client’s family paid $3,500 to the court, and they received the full $3,500 back at the end of the case.

A lot of times defendants have to ask friends and family for money to post a bond, and this is a great option to have as it is much more likely that folks will be willing to lend money when they know that they will get the money back at the end of the case, instead of knowing that the money will be gone for good in the hands of a bondsmen.

There are certainly other options available, and it is always smart to talk to a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling bail review hearings in the county that the defendant’s case is in. The courts can have different quirks in what they will or will not agree to do with a bond amount. If you have a loved one or a family member who is being held on bail in Maryland, do not hesitate to contact my office anytime at 301-875-3472 for a free consultation.

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