Every day thousands of people are kept in Colorado jails because they cannot pay bail or post bond. However, two House bills and one Senate bill recently introduced would change the way bail and bond are handled in Colorado. These bills, if passed, could have a significant effect on criminal defense law in the state.
House Bill 1125 would do away with monetary bail for certain low-level crimes. Bail is an amount of money paid by the defendant or by a friend or relation of the defendant that permits them to leave jail while their case is being tried. The purpose of the bill is to keep people of little financial means from suffering significant monetary consequences by having to spend even a short amount of time in jail.
House Bill 1226 would make it mandatory for each judicial district in Colorado to create a new pretrial screening method that would involve the use of a risk-assessment algorithm. The bill would also make it mandatory for all counties in the state to have a pretrial services program that supervises defendants and provides other non-monetary provisions regarding the pretrial process, largely doing away with bail altogether.
Finally, Senate Bill 191 would make it mandatory for courts in Colorado to hold bond-setting hearings within 48 hours of the defendant's arrest. Bond is like bail, but it involves a person or entity other than the defendant's friends or relations paying a certain amount of money to allow the defendant to leave jail. As it currently stands, some defendants must wait as many as five days before a judge sets their bond. People would be permitted to post bond within two hours of it being established and processing fees for bonds would not be allowed to exceed $10.
Of course, as it stands now, these three bills are just that -- bills -- and current laws regarding bail and bond still stand. Some people and organizations support these bills, while others oppose the bills, at least as they currently stand. It is likely that these bills will see changes as they work their way through the legislative process, so those interested in criminal defense law will likely want to keep track of them, so they can keep up with any important changes in the state's bail and bond system.