As you’re all aware of by now, bail bond controversies continue to accelerate nationwide. God forbid, they’re as hot as the biblical heatwave plaguing much of the United States. Pre-trial services are grabbing headlines in Colorado thanks to comments from a chief judge. If you’re a bail bond agent in Illinois, that state’s sweeping criminal justice reform is now fully in effect and it’s not good news. Finally, voters, police officials, and state lawmakers in New York are getting antsy.
As a bail bond agent anywhere in Colorado, you know all about bail bond types, but what about your potential clients? Let’s do a quick review of the different bail bond types in Colorado, and you could go here when someone from Lakewood asks for more information. According to the most recent legislative session, the court will decide, after considering all the evidence, what kind of bond is right for the pretrial release of someone in custody.
The Colorado Judicial Branch defines a bond as a “formal written agreement where a person agrees to do something (such as appear in court) or stop doing something (such as committing a crime). If the person doesn't comply with the agreement, he/she (or a "surety", also called a "bondsman") then forfeits the money paid for the Bond. The purpose of a Bond is to motivate the person to comply with the written agreement and to provide consequences if he/she doesn't. In most cases, a surety (bondsman) is involved, and the Bond makes the surety responsible for the consequences of the person's behavior.”
Depending on a lot of factors – the alleged infraction, a defendant’s personal and criminal history, physical and mental health, and others – a personal recognizance (PR) bond can be dangerous to use. For some, it’s like playing a board game and receiving a virtual “get out of jail free” card. And when some do get out for free, bad things can happen.
Here in Colorado, PR bonds have become the source of considerable debate. At least two former district attorneys believe the use of such bonds has gotten out of hand and resulted in the Denver County area not being as safe as it should be.
Per a recent new post, “Since Jan. 1, 3,690 accused criminals who were facing nearly 8,000 felony charges were granted PR bonds, according to records obtained and analyzed by Denver7 Investigates. Some of those charges that resulted in PR bonds in court include aggravated sex offenses, habitual offenders of domestic violence and pimping.”
Because of criminal activity after pre-trial release, former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey described the system as “failing.” George Brauchler, a former district attorney in Arapahoe County, was even more blunt: “It's reckless," Brauchler said. "I don't understand it. The numbers you are talking about are significant."
Why the sudden bad vibes about PR bonds in Jefferson County, Golden, and elsewhere? The news report goes on to say that “more than 100 criminals with prior felonies who were arrested for new crimes caught possessing weapons,” two were later arrested on murder charges, and 32 percent of felony cases “resulted in the defendant failing to appear for a future court appearance. Those 1,189 alleged criminals are facing 2,638 felony charges.”
This is all part-in-parcel of the greater discussion surrounding cash bail reform and why the movement may not be such a good thing.
Violent crimes nationwide have shot up by 30 percent in the past year, and residents in Jefferson County and communities like Englewood and Golden should take note. What happens somewhere else can happen here. There’s no consensus as to why.
As CNN reported, "Experts, politicians and pundits have provided different theories as to why, after decades of a downward trend in overall crime, certain violent crimes are on the rise in cities across the country. While many point to the pandemic and the economic collapse that followed, some have focused on more specific aspects of the criminal justice system, and in particular, some recent efforts to reform it.
“Bail reforms -- which generally focus on removing or limiting the use of cash bail against defendants who are accused of misdemeanors or nonviolent offenses -- aim at making sure most defendants are not held in jail while awaiting trial solely because they cannot afford cash bail.”
If you work for an Arapahoe County bail bonding company, you know this is part of the nationwide push to end cash bail as it’s existed for more than 100 years. In Colorado, some officials are trying to take a more thoughtful, measured approach. Some are even pushing for the enactment of new pretrial services designed to give supervision to those released on bond, reduce financial inequities in the judicial system and ensure defendants accused of crimes appear as scheduled.
Colorado has a new, improved risk assessment tool – the Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool-Revised (CPAT-R) -- ready for use, but do you know the history of this sometimes-controversial method of helping a judge decide if a defendant can be released without bail?
The whole concept of risk assessment within the judicial system began more than 100 years ago, when judges and law enforcement began relying on their professional judgment to determine if a defendant was a flight risk or potential danger to society.
Later, actuarial prediction became a thing with “static factors,” followed by dynamic factors and assessing needs, and finally, integration with case management. It’s the latest iteration of risk assessment tools, those driven by computer-based algorithms, that has garnered the most attention and controversy. Some jurisdictions across the country, like Colorado, rely on these tools to assign a number value to determine if a defendant should be released or not and, if not, use that to decide on bail.
Generally speaking, these are called risk assessment instruments. “A decision-making framework translates these risk scores into release-condition recommendations, with higher risk scores corresponding to stricter release conditions. Judges can disregard these recommendations if they seem too strict or too lax. Other RAIs influence a wide variety of judicial decisions, including sentencing decisions and probation and parole requirements.”
According to researchers at the University of Northern Colorado, the CPAT-R “is more accurate in terms of its predictive performance compared to the CPAT, and it’s on par with other validated pretrial risk assessment tools being used in different areas of the country.”
Cash bail opponents – the loudest voices at the forefront of the “kill cash bail” movement nationwide love these kinds of tools. But if you’re a bondsman in Arapahoe County, Jefferson County, or Denver County, be wary of their use.
As far as Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, is concerned, the issue of reforming the criminal justice system nationwide boils down to two things: a defendant who affords bail can get out, and a poor defendant who can’t afford bail sits in a jail cell. If you’re a bondsman in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County, Denver County, or elsewhere in the state, pay close attention. Lee’s Senate Bill 21-062 – which only has the support of Democrats, by the way – could earn Colorado status as the fourth state in America which severely limits or outright eliminates the use of cash bail.
Lee deftly wove strings of racism and economic inequality into the fabric of his argument, using Denver resident Michael Marshall as his poster child of why the system needs to be changed. SB-21 has passed a key Colorado Senate Committee. But not everyone is lining up with support.
The Colorado Springs Gazette wrote a nifty editorial, “Don’t increase crime by ending cash bail,” by noting that greater “than 90% of Americans lead their lives without getting locked up for a moment.” It’s worth reading if you work in this industry. The paper’s editorial board ended with this nugget: “Crime hurts innocent people. The jail cell — and the cost of getting out — mitigate harm. Though badly flawed, it is the world’s best system. In the interest of justice and peace, don’t reduce the cost of causing harm.”
Okay, so the Colorado Springs Gazette pointed out that that vast majority of Americans – 90 percent – never spend a second in jail. The bail bonds system’s flawed and can be improved but starting with a clean slate may not be the best way to go.
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Tayler Made Bail Bonding is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.(303) 623-0399