Wright bill would undo some of bail bond reform law

DENVER — A bill that would have allowed bail bond issuers to get more business is expected to be watered down in a House committee meeting later today.

The measure, which some opponents had dubbed the “give-bail-bonders-anything act,” initially was drafted to make it harder for judges to grant personal-recognizance bonds, meaning defendants don’t have to post anything.

As a result, bail bonding companies would have received increased business.

The measure, HB1261, was introduced by Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, to address some issues that have arisen from sweeping new bond reform laws passed last year.

But because the bill received extensive opposition from numerous groups outside of the Legislature — to date, only the Professional Bail Agents of Colorado favored the bill — Wright and that association agreed to remove many of its provisions. Still, Wright said there is a policy war going on here, one that bail bonding agents believe they could lose.

“The issue is, do we believe the industry belongs entirely within the judicial system, or is there a place for private bondsmen?” Wright said. “When counties are having to cut budgets, I believe there’s a place for a private system to fill that gap.”

Last year’s law gave judges more discretion in how they impose bonds, allowing them to use more non-monetary bonds, such as putting up property instead of cash.

Former state Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, who sponsored the bill that created that law, said the bail bonding industry was in favor of it.

“The main thing we were trying to achieve was to give the courts the discretion to establish the terms and conditions of release,” said Levy, who now is executive director of the Colorado Center on Law & Policy. “We were trying to get away from relying on rigid bond schedules that didn’t take into account the actual risk of flight or public safety.”

Wright’s bill would have undone some of Levy’s new law, including setting stricter bonding schedules and limiting how judges could impose personal-recognizance bonds.

But Lakewood attorney Jeff Clayton, the registered lobbyist for the bondsman association, said all that will come out of the bill when it is debated by the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon.

“For years, bail agents have fought off attempts to eliminate them, and last year was the most recent version of that,” Clayton said. “Our hope was that we could do something that would help our membership do their jobs better.”

One of the things the revised bill would do is restore prosecutors’ right to object to a proposed personal-recognizance bond to a defendant who has a history of jumping bonds, something that was removed with last year’s law.

The rewritten bill also would help define what bonding agents legally can do to capture defendants who fail to appear in court, such as going onto private property to nab them.



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