It's hard to fight for victim's rights when state and local lawmakers take money from private, anti-bail forces and then try and ram through legislation nobody wants. But when the courts enter the fray and write their own anti-bail laws, the struggle for justice becomes next to impossible. That's what's happening in Missouri. The Missouri supreme court, mistaking itself for a legislative body, has decided to eliminate the bail bonds system in the state and simply release accused criminals based on nothing more than their promise to show up for their court date.
According to new rules, the court drew up on its own arrest warrants will longer be issued for anyone. The only exception being if prosecutors and law enforcement officers can prove that an alleged perpetrator will not show up for their court date. Since that is essentially unprovable, it means everyone from murderers to someone who robs you at gunpoint will receive tickets with their court date stamped on them, rather than being served warrants and arrested.
Also, if someone is arrested at the scene of a crime, those same prosecutors and police officers will need to again prove that the person represents a flight risk. Otherwise, they'll be forced to abide by the recommendation of a computer program which will determine if the person should be held or released. That's right, a computer program.
"But who wrote this computer program?" you ask "And how does it work?" The answers to those extremely important questions are "No one knows" and "No one knows." Missouri citizens just have to trust it does because the people at the Arnold Foundation (who paid for its development) and the members of the Missouri supreme court (who can't read the code used to create it), tell them it does.
The problems created by the Missouri Supreme Court extend far beyond the fact that they're trampling victim's rights with a computer program. By changing the way arrest warrants are issued, the court is also tossing out the century's old, tried and true concept of probable cause. Until now, this bedrock principle of the American legal system was all that was required to obtain an arrest warrant.
But by drawing up their own rules, the Missouri Supreme Court has said probable cause is no longer enough. That even if a prosecutor can demonstrate that a person likely committed a crime, it doesn't matter. Even if that crime is murder. All that matters is whether the person is a flight risk. If the prosecutor can't prove that, then the person gets a ticket and a court date instead of being arrested.
In essence, the Missouri Supreme Court is saying that producing child pornography or robbing someone at gunpoint is the same as driving 65 in a 55 mph zone. The people of Missouri need to make sure these judges are held to account for this travesty. And the people of Jefferson County, Arapahoe County and Denver County Colorado need to make sure that when these same forces try to impose themselves around these parts again that they are also soundly defeated. Again.
As of this writing 2 states - New Jersey and California - have abandoned the age-old bail system in favor of risk assessment software. And the results in both states have not been pretty. In New Jersey incidents of rape, attempted rape, assault, armed robbery, carjacking and more have all increased since making the change. In addition, the number of fugitives has skyrocketed. That's because:
Taxpayers in both New Jersey and California are also facing the grim reality that monitoring everyone released without bail is going to cost counties tens of millions of dollars they don’t have. And so, faced with the growing mountain of evidence that catch and release doesn’t work some states are fighting back.
In 2018 both Florida and Colorado rejected attempts to saddle their citizens with the type of everyone-goes-free no bail systems that are wreaking havoc in New Jersey and California. This year, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds called a halt to the state’s use of pretrial release software due to dismal results and an escalation in crime. Particularly gun crime. And in New Mexico, Governor Susana Martinez has condemned the failure of pretrial risk assessment software and publicly warned citizens of neighboring Utah not to fall for the bail reform illusion.
The privately financed effort to eliminate bail bonding and place untold numbers of dangerous individuals back on the streets of our cities and towns must not prevail. While the Missouri legislature has the authority to override the actions of the court, they should never have been put in such a position to begin with. The Missouri Supreme Court judges who are attempting to do an end run around the state constitution must be held accountable for their actions and removed via the ballot box in 2020. Only then will the ability of victims to obtain justice be restored, and only then will the streets of Missouri cities and towns become safe again.