The recent rioting in Baltimore related to the Freddie Gray tragedy taxed not only the police but the court system as well. Hundreds of people were arrested, which made it impossible to process them all in a timely manner. This situation raised constitutional issues, as reported in the Daily Record and elsewhere, that were dealt with this week by the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.
Under Maryland law, a person who is arrested has the right to be presented before a judicial officer promptly after the arrest. Specifically, a detainee must be brought before a District Court Commissioner “without unnecessary delay and in no event less than 24 hours after the arrest” unless the right is waived. When presented before the Judicial officer, the arrestee must be advised of the charges, given a copy of the charging document if there is one, have a determination made as to bail, and in cases where there is a right to a preliminary hearing must be advised of that right and the deadlines to request the hearing.
Given the number of persons arrested in Baltimore, many of them were not brought before Commissioner within 24 hours, but did get a hearing within 48 hours. Governor Hogan had issued an order declaring a state of emergency in the City, and extended the 24 hour period for presentment to 47 hours. The Maryland Public Defender’s office, which represented most of those arrested, claimed that the governor had no authority to extend the rule, and that the constitutional rights of those arrested had been violated.
Circuit Court Judge Charles J. Peters issued a ruling that this situation did not violate the constitutional rights of detainees. He relied upon precedent from the Supreme Court holding that the U.S. Constitution requires that persons arrested appear before a judicial officer within 48 hours of their arrest. Given the emergency situation, the trial judge found that the extension of the Maryland time frame was excusable. It remains to be seen whether persons who end up being convicted for offense during the rights appeal to challenge whether even the turmoil or rioting excuses the right of presentment under Maryland’s rules.