Suspects who do not receive a court hearing within 24 hours of arrest must be released from Baltimore’s state-run booking center, a judge ordered yesterday, reports the Baltimore Sun. The judge warned that public safety officials who don’t comply could be held in contempt. Public defenders who sought the temporary order said it could pave the way for dozens of unlawfully detained suspects to be released each day.
Judge John Glynn’s ruling came after police, prosecutors, judges, and jail officials failed to resolve the contentious issue during months of sometimes acrimonious debate. All sides have blamed the others for letting people arrested on minor charges stay behind bars for hours and days without seeing a court commissioner or even being formally charged. Despite a law requiring that suspects be freed or see a court commissioner within 24 hours of arrest, many suspects have been detained for much longer, some for as long as four days. Public defenders said the number of unlawful detentions has increased in the past year; the facility has been gridlocked since it opened a decade ago. Glynn called his orders a stop-gap solution. “It’s going to have to be fixed by the political forces,” he said. The facility routinely holds nearly 1,200 suspects though it was built for 895.