What is bail?
Bail is money paid to the court to ensure that an arrested person who is released from jail will show up at all required court appearances.
Who can post bail for me?
You may post bail for yourself, have someone over 18 years old post it on your behalf or use a bondsman. Whoever posts bail for you assumes full responsibility for your appearance in court. If you fail to appear as required, a warrant will be issued for your immediate arrest and the bail will be forfeited.
How can I post bail?
Bail may be posted in the following manner:
Only a clerk of the court may accept intangible assets; a commissioner may not. Present the required documents to a clerk at the court location where the case is pending.
Credit and Debit Cards
Bail may be charged on certain credit and debit cards. Although a commissioner or clerk accepts the card, an independent company processes the charge. The charge includes the amount of the bail and a service fee. (These charges will appear on your next credit or debit card statement.) The card and personal identification must be produced in person at the time of posting bail. (Contact a District Court commissioner or clerk for information on cards accepted and the fees charged.)
Professional Bail Bondsman
A bail bondsman charges a non refundable fee to post bail. In addition to the fee, the bondsman may require collateral security or property to secure your release. Collateral will be returned to the person who posted it after disposition of the charges. The service fee and collateral received must be displayed on the bail bond form. Make certain that the information is correct on the form, that you receive a receipt and that you understand the action the bondsman may take if you fail to meet your obligations.
For the telephone number of a bondsman consult the Yellow Pages under the “Bail Bonds.”
Do I need a lawyer?
You are not required to have a lawyer. However, a lawyer will offer you legal advice, help defend you and protect your interests before the court.
How do I get a lawyer?
If you wish to hire a lawyer but do not know one, or if you wish to defend yourself but want to consult with a lawyer, the Lawyer Referral Service of the local Bar Association can help. Check the Yellow Pages under Lawyer Referral Service.
If the offense is one that is punishable by imprisonment and you want to hire a lawyer but cannot afford one, the state may supply you with a lawyer free of charge, if you meet eligibility requirements. Contact the Office of the Public Defender at 877-430-5187.
If you do not meet eligibility requirements for a public defender, many organizations and law firms provide free or low cost legal services. Contact the Maryland State Bar Association or a local bar association for assistance.
When should I contact a lawyer?
Immediately! Your lawyer will need time to prepare your case for trial. If you have not hired your own lawyer or contacted the public defender by the time of your trial, the judge can make you go to trial without a lawyer. The public defender may refuse your case if you apply with less than 10 working days before trial.
What happens after I’m arrested?
After you are arrested, you will be taken before a District Court commissioner
who determines if probable cause exists to charge you. The commissioner
You should provide the commissioner with any information requested.
What court will hear my case?
The District Court hears most cases involving motor vehicle violations, criminal misdemeanors and certain felonies. The circuit court hears cases involving serious felony crimes.
Will I be tried by a jury?
A judge hears District Court cases and many circuit court cases. However, you may request a jury trial, if you face a charge punishable by imprisonment for more than 90 days. A written request for a jury trial should be filed fifteen (15) days before the scheduled trial date. If your case is set for trial in the circuit court, you will be asked whether you want a jury trial when you are arraigned in the court.
What is a preliminary hearing?
A preliminary hearing is a proceeding held in the District Court to determine if probable cause exists to charge you with a crime. You are not allowed to testify or to offer evidence at the hearing, but you have the right to hear the evidence against you and to cross examine the state’s witness.
If the court finds no probable cause, charges may be dismissed. (However, the state’s attorney may refile charges later.)
If you are charged with a felony or crime which must be tried in circuit court and you have not been indicted by the grand jury, you have a right to a preliminary hearing. You must request one within ten (10) days of your first appearance before the commissioner. If you waive your preliminary hearing, or if it is held and the court finds there is sufficient probable cause, the state’s attorney must file within thirty (30) days a charging document in the circuit court, enter a nol pros (unwilling to proceed) or stet (a stay of proceedings) in the District Court, or amend the charges so that they can be tried in the District Court.
Annotated Code of Maryland (ACM) 10-101 et seq. Subtitle 3: Bail Bondsmen
Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 31.03.05
Maryland Rules, Criminal Causes Rule 4-217
“Bail bondsman” means a surety agent who is appointed by an insurer to solicit, procure, negotiate, and effectuate bail bonds on behalf of that insurer. [COMAR 31.03.05.02]
Bail agents in Maryland must comply with the following for licensure:
Under certain conditions the examination or experience requirement can be waived by the Commissioner.
The Commissioner shall require continuing education for agents to renew the certificate of qualification, but may not require them to receive more than 16 hours of continuing education per renewal period for those who have had a certificate for less than 25 consecutive years, or not more than 8 hours for those having the certificate for 25 or more consecutive years.
The regulatory body is the Maryland Insurance Administration.
Notice of Forfeiture
If a defendant fails to appear as required, the court shall order forfeiture of the bail bond and issuance of a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. The clerk shall promptly notify any surety on the defendant’s bond, and the State’s Attorney, of the forfeiture of the bond and the issuance of the warrant. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(i)]
Forfeiture to Judgment
If an order of forfeiture has not been stricken or satisfied within 90 days after the defendant’s failure to appear, or within 180 days if the time has been extended, the clerk shall forthwith:
Enforcement of the judgment shall be by the State’s Attorney in accordance with those provisions of the rules relating to the enforcement of judgments. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(i)4]
Defenses to Forfeiture
If the defendant or surety can show reasonable grounds for the defendant’s failure to appear. the court shall (A) strike out the forfeiture in whole or in part; and (B) set aside any judgment entered thereon. and (C) order the remission in whole or in part of the penalty sum paid pursuant to subsection (3) of this section. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(i)2]
Within 90 days from the date the defendant fails to appear, which time the court may extend to 180 days upon good cause shown, a surety shall satisfy any order of forfeiture, either by producing the defendant in court or by paying the penalty sum of the bond.
If the defendant is produced within such time by the State, the court shall require the surety to pay the expenses of the State in producing the defendant and shall treat the order of forfeiture satisfied with respect to the remainder of the penalty sum.
When the defendant is produced in court after the 90 or 180-day period (if extended), the surety may apply for the refund of any penalty sum paid in satisfaction of the forfeiture less any expenses permitted by law. If the penalty sum has not been paid, the court, on application of the surety and payment of any expenses permitted by law, shall strike the judgment against the surety entered as a result of the forfeiture.
If, within the 90 or 180-day period (if extended), the surety produces evidence and the court finds that the defendant is incarcerated in a penal institution outside this State and that the State’s Attorney is unwilling to issue a detainer and subsequently extradite the defendant, the court shall strike out the forfeiture and shall return the bond or collateral security to the surety.
If, after the expiration of the 90 or 180-day period (if extended), but within 10 years from the date the bond or collateral was posted, the surety produces evidence and the court finds that the defendant is incarcerated in a penal institution outside this State and that the State’s Attorney is unwilling to issue a detainer and subsequently extradite the defendant, the court shall (i) strike out the forfeiture; (ii) set aside any judgment thereon; and (iii) order the return of the forfeited bond or collateral or the remission of any penalty sum paid. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(i)3]
Bail Agent’s Arrest Authority
A surety on a bail bond who has custody of a defendant may procure the discharge of the bail bond at any time before forfeiture by:
Unless released on a new bond, the defendant shall be taken forthwith before a judge of the court in which the charges are pending.
Noteworthy Appellate Decisions
Pantazes v. State , 834 A.2d 975 ( Md. App., 2003).
The defendant was convicted of child abuse but failed to appear at his sentencing. At that time, the trial court “revoked” the defendant’s bail, but did not formally declare it forfeited. 264 days later, the court became aware that the bail was never officially forfeited and an administrative judge took corrective action and forfeited the bond, issuing formal notice to the bonding company. The bonding company moved to strike the forfeiture. The Court of Special Appeals declared that the delay did not prejudice the bondsman and he was still obligated to produce the defendant.
Wiegand v. State , 363 Md. 186 (2001).
Defendant was charged with possession of marijuana and released on a bond issued by the bond company. At the time of the undertaking, the defendant was required to stay in the state of Maryland . However, the court later modified the release conditions and allowed the defendant to return to California without notifying the bondsman. The defendant failed to appear in court and the court moved to forfeit the bond. The bondsman filed a petition to strike the bond forfeiture. The Circuit Court denied the petition. The bondsman appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which held that the bail bondsman was not entitled to be discharged from obligation of the bail bond when the court amended the pre-trial release conditions.