How Bail Bonds Work in Maryland
Explaining the lender systems for posting bail and getting out of jail
on January 11, 2018
Updated on February 9, 2022
Getting arrested and accused of a crime is not only an intensely stressful and scary experience, but a potentially confusing one, too. A lot of procedural information comes in rapid fire succession as someone is processed. And some of it deals with the most pressing concern: How to get out of jail.
In Maryland, arrestees are met by a judicial commissioner. It is their job to determine if the person who was arrested should stay in jail, be let out on a bail, or be let out on their word. These commissioners make this decision by looking at seven factors:
- The seriousness of the crime
- The flight risk of the person
- The accused’s criminal history
- The financial situation of the accused
- Recommendations of the prosecutor and/or defense attorney
- Risk to the community or victim
- Risk of harm coming to the accused
If the defendant in front of the commissioner is accused of a non-violent minor crime, has no history of missing court hearings, has no criminal record, and is employed, they will likely be given a personal recognizance release (or PR bond).
This PR bond is an agreement that the defendant will show up to every hearing and appearance demanded by the court or a warrant will be sworn out for their arrest. Other factors that may influence the commissioner for a PR bond are: owning a home, having a family, and being engaged in public works or the improvement of your community. This is definitely the most advantageous ruling, as the accused will walk out of jail without paying any money—and usually within a few hours of being arrested.
If the defendant is accused of a misdemeanor, may have missed a hearing in the past, has a few minor charges on their record, and is employed in a minimum wage job, the commissioner may choose a cash bond (also called a 10 percent bond). These are issued when the bail amount is set below $2,500. The accused will be released from jail as soon as they pay the bail bondsman a tenth of the amount of set by the commissioner. If the defendant doesn’t have the money on them, they can have any adult (co-signer or indemnitor) over 18 years old pay it on their behalf. The money will be refunded at the sentencing phase or end of the case if the defendant appears on time to all of the court hearings. If the defendant does not show up to all hearings, the entire amount of their bail will be due.
If the defendant is accused of a crime that is a high misdemeanor or a felony, has a couple of failure-to-appears on a rap sheet, and/or has substantial financial reserves, the commissioner may impose a higher bail amount than the accused can afford. There are two options: either a property bond or a commercial cash surety bond.
If the accused has property they can put up as collateral, they may enter into a property bond. This agreement authorizes the court to enforce a lien, foreclose, or collect the property if the defendant doesn’t show up to all hearings of the court. At the conclusion of the case, the lien is released.
Cash Surety Bonds
If the bail amount is not a price the defendant can afford and there is no property to be put up for collateral, speaking with a bail bond agent is an option. The defendant or a co-signor enters into an agreement with these agents to put up money as a surety that the defendant will appear in court. The bail bonds agent charges a non-refundable fee of 10 percent of the bail amount. The accused usually has to pay this up front in cash or property. If the defendant doesn’t show up for a court appearance, the bond agent is required to pay the full bail amount and then will collect the remaining 90 percent from the defendant or co-signor.
If the amount of the bail is set too high to utilize any of the options above, and the defendant doesn’t want to wait in jail for their case to be heard, the only option is to request a court date for a bail hearing. This would require the services of a reputable and experienced criminal defense attorney. They will argue on your behalf to lower the bail amount and provide other legal advice pertinent to your case.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer May Help
Whether pursuing a bail bond or paying your own way out of jail, the first call should be to a criminal defense attorney. They’ll be able to recommend reputable bail bonds agents, at the very least. Unfortunately, there are predatory agents in these situations who may unscrupulously charge too much or not fulfill their side of the bargain while taking your money.
The bonds process allows people to continue their lives while living up to the expectations of the court system. Not showing up will result in an arrest warrant and forfeiture of any bail amount imposed.
Best advice: Show up, be on time, be polite, and be represented in your criminal case.
For more information on this area of law, see our overview of criminal defense.