Maryland’s Bail System Meets Constitutional Standard, According to New Report

Mar 30, 2017

ROCKVILLE, MD (March 30, 2017) — Maryland’s money bail policy is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence and does not violate constitutional protections for the accused, according to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute. The report adds new insights to the hotly-contested debate over Maryland’s bail system and whether it balances the interests of both public safety and defendants’ rights. The full report can be viewed at

“Bail has been a mainstay of America’s criminal justice system since the country’s founding,” said Christopher B. Summers, president and chief executive officer of the Institute. “Despite fierce rhetoric on both sides of this issue, our report highlights the risks of asking unelected judges to rewrite policy that has served Maryland well for generations. Maryland’s elected representatives have a critical role to play on this issue and they should have their voices heard during the 2017 legislative session.” 

Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, in January adopted a landmark rule to end the practice of holding criminal defendants in jail before their trial if they cannot afford bail. The Maryland General Assembly is now considering Senate Bill 983, which would overturn that rule and require judges to consider several factors when setting pretrial bail, including the accused’s financial capacity, but it does not prohibit judges from setting “unaffordable” bail. The Institute’s report concludes that the rules under Senate Bill 983 do not violate the U.S. Constitution’s due process or Eighth Amendment protections.

The Institute’s report also finds that abolishing the money bail system as proposed under the pending Court of Appeals’ rules change may actually increase the disparities critics charge are endemic to the present system.

The report is authored by Sean Kennedy, a visiting fellow at the Institute.

About the Maryland Public Policy Institute: Founded in 2001, the Maryland Public Policy Institute is a nonpartisan public policy research and education organization that focuses on state policy issues. The Institute’s mission is to formulate and promote public policies at all levels of government based on principles of free enterprise, limited government, and civil society.  Learn more at