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Maryland Court of Appeals Rules that Defendants Have a Right to Counsel at Bail Hearings

On January 4, 2012 the Court of Appeals ruled that indigent defendants have a right to counsel at bail hearings. In a decision filed in the case of DeWolfe v. Richmond, the court held that under Maryland's Public Defender Act defendants have a right to counsel at initial bail hearings. The lawsuit was first filed by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in 2006 in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The ruling means that public defenders will need to be made available for indigent defendants before commissioners at bail hearings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The decision was unanimous, with only two justices dissenting on whether to grant the right immediately. The Office of the Public Defender had asked for time to plan for the increased workload the ruling would require. However, the majority decided that the enforcement of the right will begin immediately. The full decision is available from the judiciary website.

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