Bills rarely attract a stronger group of supporters. Representatives from throughout the criminal justice world have lined up behind Senate Bill 11-186, the alternative bonding bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. John Morse and Republican Rep. Mark Waller, both of Colorado Springs.
Crafted from recommendations made in 2008 by the well-respected Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, the legislation would establish an alternative bonding option, known as a deposit bond, in Colorado. It would be similar to bonds that exist in 28 other states, as well as in Washington, D.C. and the federal system.
In it, a judge sets bail. The defendant then pays a percentage of that bail, up to 15 percent, to the court. If the defendant shows for trial, he'll receive up to half of it back. (If convicted, he'll receive whatever is left over after fines, fees and restitution costs have been paid.) The rest of the money will wind up going to a county pretrial service agency, which works closely with the courts.
The bill is scheduled to be brought up in the Senate Appropriations Committee today. (It was scheduled to be heard April 15, but Morse was a no-show.) And what happens should highlight the strength of the bail bonds lobby in Colorado.
Bondsmen have been putting up a fight to defend their monopoly on a large, and profitable, industry. And the last time the state Legislature attempted to pass a similar bill, in 2008, it was withdrawn.
The second function of pretrial services is to provide monitoring that can become a condition of a defendant's release on bond. This could mean a weekly urinalysis or drug test, curfews, even substance-abuse treatment and anger management classes, all paid for by the defendant.
Statewide, 10 jurisdictions have pretrial services programs. According to Sharon Winfree, president of Colorado Association of Pretrial Services, in those jurisdictions, fewer than 5 percent of defendants in the programs fail to appear for trial. In Larimer County, where she is located, it is fewer than 2 percent.