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What Is The Pretrial Release Process?

The best case scenario when under criminal arrest without a warrant is for the judicial officer to find a lack of probable cause and release you. Pre-trial release must follow Maryland Rules Pre-trial Procedures, and you typically come before the district court commissioner within a matter of hours and no later than 24 hours after your arrest. The commissioner reviews any record of past convictions and may ask you questions, but you can request to have a lawyer present with you while speaking with the commissioner.

For offenses that carry the death penalty, life imprisonment or other serious felonies, you come before a district court judge instead of a commissioner. Felonies require a grand jury for indictment. Even so, the conditions for release are basically the same. Whether a commissioner or a judge is considering release, the official weighs factors that include:

  • Nature of the offense
  • Prior record
  • Family ties
  • Employment
  • Reputation
  • Mental condition
  • Investigating agency’s recommendations
  • State’s Attorney’s recommendation
  • Evidence presented by the defendant’s counsel
  • Any danger to others, self or the community

In considering all of these factors and deciding whether to release a defendant, the commissioner’s or judge’s main concerns are whether the defendant will appear before the court as required or whether the safety of the alleged victim, another person or the community is in danger.

Having an attorney represent you during the pretrial release is a wise decision because you can avoid making unwitting comments that are self-incriminating before a commissioner or judge. Yet, not answering questions can sometimes influence an official to increase your bail amount. By relying on an experienced criminal law attorney who can finesse the situation, you protect your rights.

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