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Bill Would End Bail Requirement for Some Low-Level Offenses

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Coloradans booked on minor offenses, such as traffic charges or petty crimes, may soon be able to get out of jail without having to pony up for their release.

House Bill 1225, which will be debated today, March 14, in the House Judiciary Committee, would end the monetary bail requirement for certain low-level offenses in Colorado. The bill has bipartisan support, with  Representative Matt Soper, a Republican, and Representative Leslie Herod, a Democrat, as co-sponsors.

Herod believes the measure will help create a fairer criminal justice system, regardless of the arrested individual's socioeconomic status. "Each year, thousands of Coloradans charged with minor offenses are incarcerated pretrial simply because they can't afford to pay their way out of jail," she says in a statement. "It is unacceptable to punish those who have the presumption of innocence simply because they’re poor. Poverty is not a crime."

Colorado courts are currently required to bond out individuals charged with certain minor offenses, such as petty theft or disorderly conduct, barring extenuating circumstances.

If passed, this bill would remove the monetary bond requirement for charges that fall into three categories: petty offense, unclassified offense and Class 3 misdemeanor, the least-serious class of misdemeanor.

The requirement would not be removed under certain circumstances, particularly if a defendant is charged with a traffic offense involving death or bodily injury, eluding a police officer, circumventing an interlock device, or a "municipal offense with substantially similar elements to a state misdemeanor offense."

The bill would still allow a defendant to opt for release based on a pretrial policy with monetary requirements, if the defendant is aware that he would be released without monetary conditions if he waits for a bond hearing. And if a defendant fails to appear at a required court hearing or violates a condition of release, a judge could still issue a warrant with monetary bond conditions.

This proposal is one of a number of criminal justice reform proposals that Herod has worked on this legislative session. In January, she introduced a bill that would ban the box asking about criminal history on job applications. When that measure passed the House Judiciary Committee, Soper provided the lone Republican vote of support.

Herod and Soper will be back before the House Judiciary Committee at 1:30 p.m. today, arguing for both HB 1225 and House Bill 1226, which would reform pretrial bail requirement protocol across the state.

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