Colorado: Bail Reform Legislation Goes Up in Smoke in the Mile High City

Colorado becomes the latest State this spring to reject the no-money bail system, bail reform, and the idea of releasing more defendants on a simple “promise to appear.”

April 17 2018

Yesterday, the Colorado Senate killed House Bill 1089, which would have largely prohibited judges from using judicial discretion in imposing monetary bail in most misdemeanors.

Pushed by Representative Adrienne Benavidez of Denver, the bill would have completely eliminated bail in misdemeanor cases, petty offenses, and all municipal code violations.  Further, the legislation seemingly attempted to create a “right to an affordable bail” in Colorado by inserting the language from the New Jersey and federal statute by requiring consideration of detention of a defendant “solely due to his or her inability to pay a monetary condition of bond.”

In addition, the legislation would have required the use of a risk assessment algorithms in reviewing a defendants’ bail.  Continuing calls for regulation of such algorithms, the potential for bias in the operation of such algorithms, and the lack of transparency of such algorithms was apparently lost in the conversation.

The legislation ultimately faced stiff opposition from a wide variety of groups, who feared that further weakening criminal accountability by handing out get-out-of-jail-free cards was bad public policy and threatened public safety.  The most vociferous opposition came from the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council (CDAC), which strongly urged Senators to kill the legislation.

Nationally, activist groups point to the reforms Colorado made in 2013 as some sort of a gold standard and move to the no-money bail system.  Of course, that was as much spin then as it is now.  Colorado has not moved away from the money bail system.  It has gotten a lot smarter about individual consideration and due process, which is one area where there is still room for improvement.

Despite the alleged groundswell of support to end the no-money bail system in Colorado (which according to bail reformers in other states occurred in 2013 in Colorado), the Colorado State Senate squarely rejected House Bill 1089.

Colorado becomes the latest State to put the brakes on the no-money bail reform movement advocated by the Pretrial Justice Institute, the Center for Legal and Evidence-Based Practices, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Florida the Latest State to Reject Bail Reform and the No-Money Bail System

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