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Bail Reform Advocates Push Forward Despite Signs to Stop

'Wrong Way' on large, painted red and white road sign with cloudy sky and palm trees in background

There are many interesting things going on in the cash bail industry, particularly from the standpoint of what kind of strategy the reform camp has decided to employ. They’re nothing if not persistent. One thing we can all agree on is pre-trial reform has morphed into something of a cottage industry as “experts” offer advice and marketing campaigns they’re promoting in hopes of finally killing cash bail as we know it. Including pushing zombie bills to do their dirty work.


PRE-TRIAL REFORM AS A COTTAGE INDUSTRY

Make no mistake about it. If you’re a Jefferson County bail bonding professional, your livelihood is in danger as never before. Left-leaning politicians in Colorado and across the country are creating emotion-charged campaigns to whittle-away at the cash bail system by any means necessary. Increased judicial discretion. Risk assessment tools. Lighter sentencing.

And one of their all-time favorites, pre-trial reform – rapidly becoming a cottage industry for the anti-cash bail crowd nationwide.

Arapahoe County bail bonds workers should be familiar with HB21-1280, the state of Colorado’s Pre-trial Detention Reform. Per a summary in the Boulder Weekly, “The bill follows up on 2019 legislation that outlines a roadmap for meeting greenhouse gas emissions, but oversight of the path toward fewer emissions, done by the governor-appointed Air Quality Control Commission, has left environmentalists wanting more stringent guidelines. But not everyone is convinced, as prosecutors and law enforcement are concerned the focus on revamping the role of jails police and will eventually make state residents less safe.”

According to Tom Raynes, head of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council, “The primary goals should be victim-based, crime reduction-based, accountability-based, and balancing that with the safety and concerns of the community. It all has to be balanced, but fundamentally the criminal justice system is about getting the bad guys off the street.”

And it’s not just Colorado. Pre-trial reform is a hot topic in Delaware, Ohio, and Michigan, among other states.

THE ZOMBIE BILL THAT WON’T DIE

The classic Hollywood movie trope of the villain who won’t die rears its ugly head quite often in politics. Even with superhuman efforts on the part of the protagonist and a plucky band of ready-to-die supporting cast (many of whom do die, by the way), the villain often seems to walk, crawl, drive, or fly away to fight another day. In the world of Colorado politics, the push to dismantle the cash bail system has become the zombie bill that won’t die – AKA SB21-273, formerly known simply as SB-62. But it’s a zombie bill gussied-up with make-up, fancy clothes, and alleged political correctness as it tries to change police arrest procedures, lower jail populations, and – drum roll, please – prep unsuspecting voters for an end to cash bail as we know it.

An Englewood bail bondsman is smart enough to know what’s going on here, but what about the rest of the state’s law-abiding citizens? If you read the legislation, even semi-closely, you’ll find it’s slippery in application and intent:

  • It’s very similar to SB-62. Police officers are permitted to arrest some Felony 5 and 6 alleged perpetrators, but the presumptive release language remains.
  • Zombie Senate Bill 21-273 takes another stab at grinding down the criminal justice system in Golden and elsewhere in Colorado by handcuffing judges in setting bail and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.
  • The presumptive free bail mechanism for all but felony 1, 2, and 3 crimes is pretty much unchanged.
  • What’s worse is F-5 and F-5 perps can still be arrested, show up for court, and still be blessed with a promise of a get-out-of-jail free card.

Democrats are leading the charge, using tired arguments of racism and economic inequities as they hammer voters again and again with new-but-same versions of older bills that failed.

PRE-TRIAL IN AMERICA

Denver County cash bail opponents believe fully that time is on their side. They wield an all-powerful cudgel in their quest to reform the judicial system nationwide into something that fits their perception of justice – justice be damned. Forget what taxpayers and registered voters think. Forget what crime victims think. There are clear dividing lines between supporters of cash bail reform and opponents, but much of the debate recently has focused on pre-trial reform. Right now, the American judicial system relies on three mechanisms to make sure a defendant shows up in court – basically our pre-trial failsafe. Here they are in a nutshell:

Money Bail

Jurisdictions have generally used one or multiple forms of money bail, with secured commercial bail the most well-known. This happens when a defendant pays a bail bondsman a portion of the entire bail amount while the bondsman fronts the whole amount to the court. The defendant is liable for the whole bail amount if they don’t show in court as scheduled, and the bail bondsman is then allowed to keep whatever portion the defendant provided. The second type is a secured bond; the third is an unsecured bond.

Release on Recognizance

This happens when a judge releases a defendant who signs an agreement that the accused will appear in court on the required dates.

Are there non-monetary pretrial conditions?

Yes, and of course this is the preferred scenario for many defendants. This type of release is where the defendant is released without monetary bail in Jefferson County or elsewhere but is required to meet certain conditions like travel restrictions, substance abuse testing, or some kind of electronic monitoring. The judicial system has the discretion to combine non-monetary conditions with a money bail amount.

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