Several prosecutors and defense attorneys are opposed to a bill under scrutiny by Utah state lawmakers to repeal the bail reform passed last year.
House Bill 220, sponsored by House Majority Whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, would remove “the major changes to the bail system” made by HB 206, thereby changing Utah’s pre-trial system to allow for the release of pre-trial suspects who are in custody have little risk of escaping law enforcement and only sit in jail for being unable to afford bail.
The reform efforts were heavily criticized by the bail bond industry at the time, and the Utah Sheriffs’ Association is currently supporting their repeal.
On February 5, Schultz informed House, which passed the bill by 51-21 votes, that the reform had “not been implemented as intended” and that the new bail system had been described as “broken” since it was implemented in October 2020 Pages.”
Schultz spoke of a person who was arrested in Cache County for the sexual exploitation of a minor ten times and “released without a bounty in a matter of hours.”
“Does this sound like a more thoughtful, individual approach? Does it sound like it provided more tools for the judge and has it addressed the public safety risk to a greater extent? It doesn’t sound like that to me, ”said the legislature.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill called the idea that bail reform reduced public safety a “wrong argument” and described the overturning efforts as “alarming and jerky without any factual basis.”
“If the bail reform is overturned, our community will become … less fair,” Gill said Monday during a news conference in Salt Lake City. “The deposit is not a measure of risk and does not protect public safety. It’s simply a measure of wealth and connections. “
Speaking at the news conference, Utah County attorney David Leavitt said last year stakeholders pushed for reform because they understood that Utah’s bail system “is not for our purposes of protecting the victims and protecting society at large.”
“What it did was make sure the rich, who might also be dangerous, had the ability to save their crimes and keep committing them,” said Utah County’s chief prosecutor. “What we need is the ability to detain wealthy people who are dangerous without bail. And that is exactly what this bail reform bill, passed last year, does. “
In response to the anecdotal “claims that dangerous people are dropping out,” Leavitt said, “If you switch from one system to another, there is sure to be a learning curve.”
“And we had a learning curve,” he said. “But we’ve been in substantial reform for five months, and as a Utah County attorney, I would ask our Utah lawmakers to continue bail reform.”
Ben Aldana, an attorney for the Utah County Public Defender Association, said he wanted to speak out against the repeal effort “because my clients don’t have expensive lobbyists on the hill, like the bail industry does and how the sheriffs’ association does push.” Your agenda, whatever that may be. “
Only 12% of the more than 4,000 people arrested since October posed a risk to the community, according to Gill. “The other side will not provide any data.”
“So bail reform works in Salt Lake County. And it works in Utah. And it creates a fair and just system that is constitutionally sound and just, without compromising public safety, without passing those costs on to taxpayers, and without maintaining a system that exploits the poor, suppresses our color communities, and treats our ideals unfairly of justice, fairness, equality and truth, ”said Gill.
Lawyers agreed that the reformed bail system was “not perfect,” and said they supported Senate Draft 171, which would create a task force to “identify obstacles to the effective implementation of pretrial services and protocols and procedures.” to overcome these obstacles, develop “and” create “legislative recommendations on best practices related to pre-litigation services. “
The SB 171, sponsored by Senator Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, passed its second reading in the Senate Thursday by 16 votes to 11.
The repeal bill received a positive recommendation from the Senate Government’s Committee on Operations and Political Subdivisions on Tuesday with 4-3 votes.
Connor Richards covers government, environmental, and South Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at [email protected] and 801-344-2599.