What Is a Magistrate?

As your bail bondsman in Maryland will advise you, a magistrate and a judge are not the same occupation. A magistrate is more of an administrative position and is occupied by a state official.

A magistrate and a judge both make determinations about bail bonds. However, unlike judges, magistrates do not oversee trials. Instead, magistrates handle administrative processes relating to criminal conduct. For example, a magistrate might issue surety bonds. Surety bonds are bonds in which a defendant is released after offering commercial surety. If a magistrate orders this kind of secured bond, it is usually because a defendant poses a flight risk. The magistrate will supply the defendant with a list of surety companies so he or she can select a licensed bail bondsman. A bondsman collects a small fee. In exchange, the bail bonds agent fronts the defendant the rest of the bond amount to pay the court, and the defendant promises to appear for all court dates. In addition to bonds, magistrates also issue warrants, summonses, search warrants, and subpoenas. A magistrate generally only sets bail for minor crimes or nonviolent offenses.