Money bail has long been a constant in the criminal law realm, with defendants paying bail to a court to remain free while their cases are pending or proceeding to a hearing. The practice has been an enduring mainstay nationally, including in Colorado.
A recent Denver Post article notes, though, that “the cash bail system has been under constant scrutiny across the country in recent years.” A diverse and ever-growing number of money bail critics strongly demand an end to the practice, charging that it poses an unfair and sometimes overwhelming challenge for cash-strapped individuals and families. Whereas one given defendant might have no problem making bail and being released from jail, another individual facing the same criminal charge might be flatly unable to do so.
The consequences of such disparate treatment can be catastrophic for that latter person. Failure to secure freedom can yield a job loss, an inability to stay current on rent and child support, and inflict myriad other personal harms.
Many Coloradans want to eliminate money bail’s disparate outcomes based solely on an individual’s financial circumstances. One of them is state Attorney General Phil Weiser. The Colorado AG recently stressed that the process of money bail in Denver and statewide is “criminalizing poverty.”
Newly proposed bipartisan legislation seeks to change that. A bill currently being considered by Colorado lawmakers calls for an end to money bail in cases involving a wide range of municipal charges and traffic offenses. Its sponsors state that the equitable effects spawned by new law would be supplemented by a reduction of inmates in already overcrowded jails.
The Post notes that the legislation is in line with bail reform efforts currently underway in many other states across the country. We will keep readers timely informed of any material developments that occur regarding the Colorado legislation.