As a state senator, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh advocated for the presentment of arrested individuals before district court commissioners without undue delay.
Now, as the state’s top lawyer, he has been called on to decide just how much time the Constitution permits for presentment when a city’s police force is trying to quell a riot.
The question arrived at Frosh’s desk amid concerns that Baltimore police officers could not timely file charging documents against people arrested on suspicion of rioting Monday due to the demand that the officers return to the streets quickly.
On Tuesday, Frosh said his initial examination of federal and state court precedents has put the presentment time at 48 hours but added his office is still examining the legal issue.
“They [the police] needed every single person on the street last night,” Frosh said in explaining why charging documents may have been placed on hold.
Frosh, who took office in January, also noted that Baltimore had not faced riots of Monday’s scale since the turmoil of the late 1960s.
“It’s been a long time since this stuff has been an issue,” he added with regard to police not having time to readily fill out the charging documents needed for presentment.
Like the police, Frosh said he is “fully deployed” to provide legal guidance as it arises.
And, like many Marylanders, Frosh said his “primary emotion is sadness” about the recent events in Baltimore.
“We’ve just experienced two major tragedies,” he said, referring to Freddie Gray’s death from injuries suffered while in police custody and the rioting that followed.
In Baltimore, Frosh said he is seeing “a tale of two cities.”
On Monday, stores were looted and police attacked; on Tuesday, city residents cleaned up the debris.
“We’re now internationally famous for the riots last [Monday] night,” Frosh said. “What everyone hopes, I guess, is that it’s the second [day] that will prevail.”