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Another Crack at Eliminating Cash Bail?

Animation of man in suit holding cash and yelling 'NO!' into his cell phone during cash bail reform negotiation

Things are definitely heating up on the cash bail front in Colorado. All throughout Jefferson County, Arapahoe County, Denver County, and greater Denver, bail bonding professionals are talking about what Democratic Governor Jared Polis has up his sleeve for the new legislative session.

Big news items to be aware of include a boost in homicides last year in Denver, perhaps driven by violent defendants being released due to Covid-19 precautions, and the governor taking another crack at banishing cash bail.

Homicides Up in Denver

Sadly, homicide rates for Denver soared last year to their highest levels since 1981. Of cities with a population greater than 250,000, the city registered 63 homicides, earning it the number 38 ranking nationwide. We should all be concerned about these numbers, whether you’re a bondsman or not.

But what’s the cause? Many factors contribute to the rise. In Aurora, which recorded 43 homicides last year, Deputy Chief of Police Darin Parker offered his take on the sad state of affairs. He blamed the increases in Aurora on limits on jail admissions and alterations to bail practices meant to lessen the risk of COVID-19 in jails, which has resulted in many people detained on property-crime allegations not being booked. It’s unknown if the police department was following how the jailing and bail changes may affect crimes.

But Parker added, “If someone knows they’re not going to be physically taken to jail they’re probably less deterred to commit that crime.”

Law enforcement in Colorado share the same worries when it comes to letting people out on cash bail: Balancing jailing people who may be a threat to society and reducing the chances of introducing Covid-19 to their facilities. Police also noted that some defendants have accumulated more than a dozen failure to appear warrants for failure to show in court after getting criminal “summonses in lieu of being jailed.”

Stay tuned for more controversial news.

Another Crack at Eliminating Cash Bail?

The relentless march to end cash bail in Colorado continues, and bail bonds professionals across the state should take notice. The thought among cash bail opponents – lawmakers and activists – may be that because Illinois became the first state to eliminate it, Colorado can follow that lead. Be careful what you wish for, because lawmakers, law enforcement, and voters in New York and Alaska – where bail reforms have been rolled back – had buyer’s remorse.

Democratic Governor Jared Polis seems determined to eliminate cash bail, or the money a defendant has to come up with to get out of jail following an arrest. The governor’s power, of course, lies in emotions and perceived public sentiment, with cash bail opponents saying the system “is discriminatory for both low-income and people of color. Defendants who can't afford bail often sit in jail for months awaiting trial.”

A similar bill failed to make the grade last year, but instead of saying that voters weren’t convinced of its merits – and harbor strong doubts about letting potentially violent defendants out for free – cash bail opponents blamed the failure on “different legislative priorities tied to the pandemic.”

One of the reasons that lawmakers feel they’re ready to eliminate cash bail could be due to alleged improvements in the Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT). Two University of Northern Colorado faculty members received grants to analyze and improve the CPAT and, lo and behold, said they’ve done just that. So Colorado legislators determined to end cash bail can now point to the new and improved Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool-Revised (CPAT-R) as evidence they’re on the right track with alternatives to cash bail.

CPAT scores are controversial but still play a big role in deciding which defendants are released without cash bail. A new system could make that decision easier.

How Much Bail Can I Expect to Pay in Colorado?

If you’re an Arapahoe County resident and you’ve been arrested, here’s what you need to know about the cost of bail in Colorado. The amount of bail depends on many factors, but the bail and its conditions should be enough to reasonably make sure the defendant appears in court, while also protecting the safety of the community.

The judge could use a bond schedule, which offers guidelines for the amount of bail based on criminal offenses. Just remember, the bond arranged for any defendant can be higher or lower regardless of bond schedule amount. Ultimately, you may or may not be granted bail, or could be released on your own recognizance without having to post bail.

Here’s the criteria the court could look at when deciding the amount of your bail:

  • The job status and history of the defendant in custody;
  • The extent and nature of family relationships of the defendant in custody;
  • Past and former residences of the defendant in custody;
  • The reputation and character of the defendant in custody;
  • Identity of people who agree to help the defendant in custody in attending court at the agreed time;
  • The probable sentencing, considering the description and the offense as charged;
  • The past criminal history, if any, of the defendant in custody and any previous failures to show in court;
  • Any proof showing the possibility of breaches of the law if the defendant in custody gets released absent specific conditions of release;
  • Anything which shows that the person is expected to harass or intimidate possible witnesses; and
  • Any other facts which would indicate that the defendant in custody has solid ties to the community and is not predisposed to leave the jurisdiction. This is based on C.R.S. 16-4-103(5).

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