Utah state legislature passed a bill this week that will repeal most of a recently enacted bail reform bill that allows judges to release pre-trial suspects at low risk of escaping law enforcement and only in In jail because they can’t afford bail.
Legislature passed the repeal bill, House Bill 220, despite vocal opposition from public defenders and chief prosecutors of Utah’s three most populous counties who labeled the repeal a “bad faith” that would negatively and disproportionately affect Utahns who do not Can afford bail.
“If the bail reform is overturned, our community will become … less fair,” Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Monday during a news conference. “The deposit is not a measure of risk and does not protect public safety. It’s simply a measure of wealth and connections. “
“We have been in substantial reform for five months, and as a Utah County attorney, I would ask our Utah lawmakers to continue reforming bail,” added Utah County attorney David Leavitt.
However, proponents of the overturning effort, including the Utah Sheriffs’ Association, argue that the reform “did not deliver as intended” and has resulted in dangerous individuals being released from custody without bail.
“There are at least two things that are consensual about this issue,” said Senator Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, co-sponsor of the bill, on Wednesday. “For one thing, the implementation of House Bill 206, which dealt with the reform of the bail last year, was unsuccessful. And the other consensus is that some corrections and reforms are needed in this regard. “
Sponsors tweaked the bill on Tuesday to “include compromises from the various working groups that attended this meeting,” said Cullimore, an attorney who noted that the amended bill “removes many of the controversial issues.”
Senator Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who sponsors a bill that would create a task force to investigate pretrial services, said the amended bill to repeal had “internal consistencies” and “creates enormous confusion.”
“So now it’s a repeal law that doesn’t repeal, it’s a fix-it law that doesn’t repeal,” Weiler told the Senate on Wednesday. “It creates more confusion than it resolves.”
Weiler noted that victim advocacy groups, including the Utah Criminal Victims Clinic, the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Rape Recovery Center, and “district attorneys from the three largest counties,” account for 80% of the criminal cases prosecute against the bill are in this state. “
“The private defense lawyers seem to like it, but the public defense lawyers across the state are uniform against (HB) 220,” said Weiler, who is an attorney.
Senator Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, expressed concern about the repeal of the bail reform and the return to a system that was “problematic” and “disproportionately affected” for people “who did not have the means”.
“It is really not in my interest to get a part of our industry, the bail bond industry, for its profits when there is a fundamental right to fairness before the law,” said Senator von Lehi. “And for me the question of whether we hold someone or not should depend on their level of threat, not on their solvency.”
However, Anderegg, who ultimately voted to approve the bill, agreed that the new system needs revision, noting that implementing the reform in rural counties was “much more problematic” than implementing it in the Utah, Salt Lake counties and Davis.
Senator Daniel Thatcher, of R-West Valley City, spoke out against the bill, saying those who argue that bail reform has negatively impacted public safety have no data to support their claims.
“The data on your desks shows that this works,” Thatcher told his colleagues. “We have the data. They are not anecdotes, they are not stories, they are not folders full of unrelated cases. The data is on your desks. It works. The most dangerous people are being held without bail, which would be removed under this bill. “
The amended version of HB 220 was passed by the Senate with 20-8 votes. The amendments to the bill were later approved on Wednesday by the House, which passed the original bill on February 5th.
The bill now goes to Governor Spencer Cox’s desk.
Connor Richards covers government, environmental, and South Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at [email protected] and 801-344-2599.