Md. case could lead to lawyers at bail hearings

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Associated Press

Posted on March 2, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 2 at 1:36 PM

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — In Maryland each year, thousands of defendants appear before court commissioners — not judges — who set their bail without an attorney present.

The system in Maryland has drawn criticism from legislators, judges and advocates for poor, nonviolent offenders. They say every defendant has the right to an attorney, even at the earliest stages of their case. Lawmakers are considering an overhaul of the system, and the state's highest court is set to hear arguments on the issue next month.

Legal experts say the Maryland case could provide a blueprint on how to litigate for change in other states where legal counsel is not guaranteed during bail hearings.

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