Md. courts launch program to ensure legal representation to low income defendants on first appearanc

A statewide campaign is underway to make sure Maryland criminal defendants have legal representation during initial appearances before a District Court commissioner.

See also: Bail counsel requirement delayed until June

The Appointed Attorneys Program is expected to start July 1 and will provide $50, mileage and toll compensation to attorneys who contribute time and expertise to help low income Marylanders.

The program is designed to comply with a court opinion that says criminal defendants have a state constitutional right to legal representation when appearing in front of a commissioner, who often sets terms of release or bond amounts.

The program is the first of its kind in the country.

According to a release from the Maryland Judiciary, there are more than 153,000 hearings in the state that will need an attorney present. District Court commissioners operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

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