Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh Questions Legality of Bail Defendants Can’t Afford

Maryland’s top legal officer has concluded that the state’s system of holding defendants in jail because they can’t afford to pay cash bail likely would be found unconstitutional.

In a letter sent Tuesday to five House of Delegates members who sought his opinion, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh told them that judges and court commissioners must take into account the accused’s ability to pay before setting bail. He said that if bail is out of reach for a defendant, the courts would find that unlawful.

“You can’t imprison someone for poverty,” Frosh said in an interview. “For one guy, $1,000 bail is no big deal. For somebody else, they might not have 100 bucks, much less $1,000.”