There is a lot at stake if you are a criminal defendant. But one thing that defendants have traditionally enjoyed is the option of being released from jail until their court date by paying a monetary amount set by the judge. Known as posting a secured bond, the money is returned when you show up for your court appearance. The other option is an unsecured bond, where a defendant promises to not skip town before their trial date.
This could all change for criminal defendants in Colorado. Come November, those who cannot afford to post bond may no longer have the option of an unsecured bond to secure a pretrial release, unless it was a non-violent misdemeanor first offense, such as certain drunk driving charges, for the defendant. And while this proposal may only affect certain individuals, the decision has been left up to anyone in Colorado who can vote.
This proposal, known as Proposition 102, eliminates the unsecured bond. But the scope of this proposal doesn't end there. When defendants are released on their promise to return, judges sometimes require them to attend pretrial service programs, often in response to drug charges. So not only would defendants unable to post bond be required to remain in jail, but they would not be able to participate in pretrial programs that help with drug or alcohol abuse.
Those who support the proposal suggest that requiring a secured bond will force defendants to show up for their court appearance or risk losing their money. They also claim that the pretrial programs do not do a good job of ensuring a defendant's return for trial. Those against the proposal argue that it unfairly targets those who cannot afford to post bond. Unable to get pretrial release, they end up suffering in jail more than the affluent defendants who can pay the money.
Ultimately, the question is whether Proposition 102 will actually affect the likelihood of defendants appearing in court. But for now, it is up to Colorado voters to decide whether this proposal should pass.
Source: denverpost.com, "Prop. 102 would force defendants to pay to remain free before trial," Christopher N. Osher, 12 October 2010