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O'Malley Says He Will Look To Overhaul Bail System In Maryland

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You have the right to legal counsel in Maryland, but that will come at a cost to Maryland counties.
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You have the right to legal counsel in Maryland, but that will come at a cost to Maryland counties.

While the Maryland General Assembly did pass many measures during it's yearly session that ended this week, lawmakers did not approve anything to respond to a court ruling which could end up being very costly to the state and local governments.

A court ruling (pdf) mandated that all defendants receive legal representation at bail hearings in Maryland. That will cost the state and local governments millions of dollars to ensure that public defenders are at all of those hearings for those who can't afford their own lawyer.

Both the Senate and House had bills this session that would have offered a solution to the problem, but both chambers failed to agree in the end. The so-called "Moneyball" approach pushed by Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County) would have created a computer system to determine whether each individual defendant needed a bail hearing — as many non-violent offenders may not. It was also the preference of Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"Whenever there's change there's resistance. Change has its enemies," O'Malley said. "And the bail bonds industry is certainly one of those, who's become very accustomed to the way we've always done it, however ineffective that way might be."

O'Malley says it's likely that he will soon issue an executive order that will allow counties to come up with their own solutions instead of waiting for the state, since the ruling will cost local governments more money.

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