Wait, what? Maryland court rules defendants can’t be held in jail because they can’t afford bail?

Wait, what? Maryland court rules defendants can’t be held in jail because they can’t afford bail?

If any one theme ran through the presidency of Barack Obama, it was that the U.S. is a nation of haves and have-nots where the haves are forever putting the screws to the have-nots. Prison populations are disproportionately comprised of minorities? Then the problem must be the prison system, not the felons.

The State of Maryland, a microcosm of Obama’s America, “adopted a landmark rule Tuesday aimed at ending the practice of holding criminal defendants in jail before trial when they cannot afford bail,” according to The Baltimore Sun.

Huh?! Isn’t the whole idea of bail to hold criminal defendants who might otherwise vanish?

It turns out the decision was the lesser of two evils:

The seven-member Court of Appeals unanimously agreed on a compromise that does not abolish money bail, as some advocates have urged, but instructs judges and court commissioners to look first to other ways to ensure a defendant appears for trial.

Like what, for example? A bench warrant, like the kind that are sometimes given to traffic offenders who are stopped by police? In this arrangement, the offender is cited but free to go so long as he promises to appear for his court date. Guess how many recipients of these pieces of paper show up.

I get the have/have-not dichotomy in the Maryland bail law. A defendant who is wealthy or has connections will have an easier time making bail than a poor defendant. But the judicial system already has remedies in place for that problem. The amount of bail can be increased or lowered at the judge’s discretion — or revoked altogether.

I also get the Left’s lust for “social justice.” But there are cases where leveling the playing field ends up having a paradoxical effect. Allowing criminal defendants who can’t afford bail to go free is one of them.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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