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Connecticut’s 10% Bill Should Not Pass

Governor Malloy’s Second Chance 2.0 initiative was under review Wednesday in the Joint Committee on Judiciary at the Connecticut State House.  I was present for the hearing along with ABC Policy Director Jeff Clayton, American Surety Company agent Mary Casey and other members of our profession to testify in opposition to S.B. 18, a bill proposing reforms in that state’s criminal justice system.

Jeff and I arrived a day early to meet with ABC’s lobbying team and legislators to discuss S.B. 18.  The two components of this bill that would have an immediate impact on commercial bail are 1) a 10 percent deposit bail option and 2) releasing all misdemeanor offenders from jail without bail.

The 10 percent cash bail scheme is nothing more than the state competing against commercial bail for the sole purpose of providing 90 percent discounts to defendants so the court can use the cash bail deposits to pay a defendant’s fines and costs.  When Mike Lawlor went before the committee he was asked who would be apprehending defendants released on 10 percent bail who failed to appear for court, Mr. Lawlor had no answer.

With regard to the proposal contained in S.B. 18 to release all misdemeanants with no bail, this was scrutinized by the committee, as well.  There are serious Class A Misdemeanors such as criminally negligent homicide, sexual assault 4th degree and assault of the disabled as well as repeat offenders and defendants with prior failures to appear who should not be eligible to be released without bail.

Mike Lawlor, chief of justice policy for Governor Malloy, was the first to testify in favor of S.B. 18.  He made some interesting claims.  He said New Mexico recently declared money bail unconstitutional.  This, of course, is not correct.  New Mexico passed legislation that will put the issue of preventive detention on the ballot in November to amend the constitution.  If New Mexicans vote yes, judges will be empowered to detain persons deemed a threat to individuals or public safety pending trial.  All other arrestees are eligible for bail, posting a bail bond remains an option for the defendant regardless of what voters decide on the constitutional amendment issue.

Mr. Lawlor went on to say law enforcement arrests the majority of defendants who skip bail.  Before you come through your computer screen, I provided rebutting testimony (six hours later) refuting this claim.  Yes, it is true, some fugitives are arrested on warrants discovered during a traffic stop or while committing a new crime but those are few and far between.  Bail agents and their recovery teams spend countless hours and incur significant costs to apprehend the majority of their fugitives.

During my testimony I provided American Surety Company’s forfeiture detail from 2015 to demonstrate while some losses were paid to the State of Connecticut in cases where the defendant could not be returned in a timely basis, most fugitives had their cases reset with the help of their bail agent or were apprehended and surrendered by their bail agent.

Earlier this year Governor Malloy tasked the Connecticut Sentencing Commission with studying the criminal justice system, including pretrial release options, and offering suggestions for reforms where needed.  Regardless, Governor Malloy still put forth his bill (S.B. 18) which included reforms not yet deemed warranted by Sentencing Commission.  This fact was not lost on some members of the committee and many state officials and members of the private sector providing testimony.  It is the desire of the commercial bail industry that this bill be tabled if not killed and allow the Sentencing Commission to conduct its study.

How many failures to appear have you resolved in the last 12 months, 10, 25, 100 or more?  Post a comment to let everyone know how bail agents are living up to their responsibilities.