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New Colorado Senate bill would end cash bail for most misdemeanors

pueblo county courthouse
Facebook: Pueblo County

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Some Colorado lawmakers, who think bail discriminates against people who can’t afford it, have created a bill to prohibit monetary bond for more minor crimes.

The new bill that could hit the Colorado Senate floor soon would ban judges from issuing a cash bail for shoplifting, trespassing, drug felonies, and other lower-level offenses if the defendant isn’t considered a flight risk or dangerous.

Supporters say the bill would make the system more fair for low-income people, and lower the number of people locked up in our overcrowded jails.

"It's time to completely rethink how police interact with our communities and recalibrate the role money has in our justice system. Because access to funds shouldn't determine a person's right to freedom and non-violent, low-level offenses shouldn't elicit an arrest," said state Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs), who is sponsoring the bill.

This is the same law that was passed in President of the National Association of Bail Agents Michelle Esquenazi’s home state of New York years ago. She thinks it’s a bad move for others to follow suit, saying this kind of decision should be left to the experts even if it could bring more money to the state budget.

"The legislative branch should never usurp the judicial branch just to pass policy because of some fiscal promises," Esquenazi told KRDO.

She says there's a reason many of these low-level criminals should spend some time in jail: to get help.

"Much of these crimes with moral turpitude are committed by people that are recidivists because of addiction and because of mental illness," Esquenazi explained.

The measure was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday and will now head to Senate Finance for further consideration.

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Julia Donovan

Julia is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Julia here.



  1. So what, Summons and release on anything that isn’t classified as a Felony? Are these lawmakers even thinking? What would they do in the instance when you have a Misdemeanor FTA Warrant? This is a bad idea. If there are crimes that the state’s lawmakers believe should be removed, then they need to repeal them, not keep them active and only require payment of fines and fees. This is silly. Ignoring the underlining problem of not efficiently providing proper rehabilitation for these violators is what needs to be dealt with, not passing the buck on even more crimes. On your update after 6 o’clock can KRDO please include a fully inclusive list of the charges the state is considering to do this to? Because I even re-read this and Drug felonies will also be summonsed and released? Lunacy, A suspect could be high as the moon and they will simply be cut loose without any detox or someone to take custody of the person?

      1. Bail is paid by people that may or may not have committed the crime, have been arrested but not tried yet. They are held in jail until trial unless they can hand over money that is then returned to them when they show up for trial. So it doesn’t interact with debtor’s prison at all.

        1. I am not confused about what bail is, I do know and understand and am quite versed in what it is and what it is intended purpose if for.
          “They are held in jail until trial unless they can hand over money that is then returned to them when they show up for trial.” Not really, If you are sent to jail the vast majority of people are given the opportunity to post bail. Be that Cash, Surety(going through a bondsperson), or Property. If a bail is posted, then it remains in holding until either the suspect is found not guilty or at the sentencing hearing.
          If it is cash and the suspect chose to have it go to paying the fines / fees it will, if not it goes back to them.
          If Surety, you get most of what you paid into the bond, minus their commission traditionally this is 3 – 20% plus collateral.
          Property is rarely used, but it is also self explanatory. If I have a thing of value worth X and by bail is x or -x, then courts will decide if they are willing to accept this as collateral.
          The debtor’s prison comes in because if they are not having to go to jail until the verdict of the case is found and they do not have the finances to pay the fines / fees then what is the alternative sentencing for this case? Jail time at the taxpayers expense? Can’t be placed on probation, that costs money and if they are indigent, how does the court get blood from a turnip?

          1. Thanks. When you pay a fine, though, you are pleading guilty, right? That is entirely different from bail, no?

          2. Yes a fine is after a guilty verdict has been entered, and is entirely different from bail. Unless the cash bail with the option to have the bail go to assessing the fines / fees as I already mentioned.

    1. Crimes where they “only require payment of fines” includes most traffic violations. I don’t think you would say that if we’re not willing to jail anyone who can’t make bail for a speeding ticket we need to remove speeding as a crime, right?

      The point of bail is not to punish, it’s to allow a charged person to leave jail while being financially restrained from not showing up for trial. That’s all it does. So if you are accused of a crime and innocent but don’t have money or collateral, you have to stay in jail until trial. If you are accused of a crime and guilty, but have money or collateral, you can get out of jail until your trail. Or, like Torin Smith, if you have the money you can get out of jail until your trial and become a fugitive right before you’re about to be tried and convicted of five counts of abuse of children.

      It’s a very imperfect system that usually doesn’t work the way we’d want it to work.

      1. Correct a bail is not a punishment, though if you do post a cash bond you can choose to have that cash bond go to the payment of any fines / fees at sentencing, if found guilty. If not found guilty it is returned to you.
        Your over simplification only muddied the water as a traffic violation in the majority of the time is referred to as a “penalty assessment” and again in most circumstances does not require a trip to the jail. A Penalty assessment is different from a summons and a summons is a lot different than a trip to the jail.
        If you are asking my opinion about all of the active laws still need to be repealed, I would say no, not all. But I do believe that some of the lesser ones should be repealed. IF it takes an officer / deputy over 1-2 hours to complete paperwork for a PO1, PO2, M3, M2 case then I would say that the cost of the officer’s time out weighs the need for the crime to be properly reported and filed. But this topic will require me to get rather verbose and lengthy to give it the explanation it needs so this is the cliff’s notes explanation.
        I am not sure what you are referring to in the 1st paragraph, the second paragraph states, “The new bill that could hit the Colorado Senate floor soon would ban judges from issuing a cash bail for shoplifting, trespassing, drug felonies, and other lower-level offenses if the defendant isn’t considered a flight risk or dangerous.” not “only require payment of fines”. I believe you misunderstood the point of the entire topic, which I do understand as most people do not understand how this part of our Justice System works.

        1. I see, you are saying that someone can pay their bail money and then, if they are later convicted or plead guilty, just leave that money there to pay the fines.

          My point about the traffic violations is that, if I’m reading correctly, the new law will treat shoplifting as essentially the same as speeding. If you pay the fine, the ticket, you are de facto pleading guilty and taking the punishment. If you choose not to pay the fine for a speeding ticket, you can contest the charge. But if you are speeding, you don’t get arrested, go to jail, have to bail out, right? I don’t know if that makes my comparison any more clear, or if you find it any more apt. Thanks.

  2. Or is this eluding to the fact that the only type of bond will be Surety. If so, that too is a bad idea.

    1. I had to look that up, do you mean using a bail bondsman? I don’t think they can make that illegal, people have the right to get money for bail anywhere they can do so through assets or loan. The story if pretty confusing, I think by “cash bail” they mean bail instead of just an assurance by the accused that he will return for trial. I think. Happy to be corrected.

      1. Traditionally there are three accepted types of bail, Cash, Surety, and property. Not counting a PR bond, because this is the Judge’s decision based upon the PR Questionnaire.

        1. I’ve also been trying to work out what they’re really proposing to replace cash bail. There needs to be some guarantee that the person will show up in court, and other than PR, surety seems like the only option for poorer people, since they wouldn’t be eligible for loans and probably have little in the way of personal assets.

  3. Soon the radical Marxist Democrats that now occupy all levels of our government will want to pay criminals for the crimes they commit instead of putting them in jail.
    No joke, these radical Marxist democrats are absolutely psychotic and are on a mission to destroy America.

  4. So goes Colorado the way of Portland, NY, San Fran…….all you libs – if it’s so good that way, why’d you leave? Slow destruction of what was once great CO!

  5. Just one more pro-criminal, anti-victim law from the Democrats. It’s all they do. Crime in Colorado will go sky-high, at a time when police agencies are unable to fill all of their vacancies due to all of the anti-cop legislation and rhetoric. Hang on to your hats!

  6. It’s because they don’t have to worry about trespassers, thieves, being assaulted, etc in their gated communities with private security.

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