HB 206: Bail Reform
To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker. Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.
If two people are arrested for the same crime, but one is rich and one is poor, their outcomes could be tremendously different—starting from the beginning stages. When it comes to posting cash bail, the rich can afford to secure their pretrial release while the poor are forced to stay in jail. Both are constitutionally presumed to be innocent at this point in the process. But one is stuck in jail, while life on the outside moves on without them. They could lose their job, their home, certain parental rights, and more while they wait days, sometimes upwards of weeks, to be set free.
Pretrial freedom should never be determined on an individual’s wealth. This is an injustice that has prevailed in our pretrial system due to the historical reliance on an imperfect cash bail system, which unfairly punishes the poor by compromising their liberty.
The purpose of bail is to ensure a person charged with a crime will show up for their court date. But cash bail has not always been an effective or fair way of accomplishing this. A signed statement promising to appear could be sufficient for low flight risk individuals. And sometimes, an arrest isn’t even necessary.
Representative Stephanie Pitcher is sponsoring House Bill 206 to help ensure that individuals are given “the least restrictive conditions of release” prior to their court hearing, to reasonably ensure their court appearance while upholding public safety. This legislation will help guarantee that courts respect the individuals presumed innocence, and don’t heavily rely on setting high cash bail that disproportionately harms the poor. Instead, courts must seek other methods of pretrial release conditions on a more individualized basis.
HB 206 would also require law enforcement to issue a citation in lieu of an arrest for individuals charged with lower-level misdemeanors. Law enforcement will retain discretion with a number of exceptions to this rule such as “reasonable cause to believe the individual poses an immediate danger to another individual or property” or “will fail to appear in court.” Avoiding an arrest in these low-level cases will free up law enforcement time and energy while prioritizing individual liberty.