Some good news from the General Assembly for once. The Senate yesterday passed the Bail Reform bill, House Bill 204. It passed 15-5 with 1 not voting. The no votes are who you would expect: Colin Bonini, Gerald Hocker, Dave Lawson, Bryant Richardson and Gary Simpson. Brian Pettyjohn did not vote. All are Republicans. To their credit, four Republicans (Cathy Cloutier, Ernie Lopez, Anthony DelCollo, and Greg Lavelle) voted yes. All two of those four (Lopez and Lavelle) are facing election this year. All Democrats voted for the measure.
The House already passed this bill last year, so the bill will now go to Governor Carney’s desk.
HB 204 gives judges the option to release defendants without requiring cash bail, and it requires courts to consider risk by using empirically-based tools to determine whether a defendant is likely to stay out of trouble and come to court, and use that information to make individualized “assignments” of conditions of release. Judges could require an ankle monitor, demand that the defendant hold down a steady job or institute regular mandatory check-ins with court officers, for example. Judges could still have the option to impose cash bail. This bill further requires the court to conduct a review of conditions of pretrial release for a defendant who remains detained after 72 hours from the defendant’s initial presentment because of inability to meet any condition of release (including a financial condition). Such a review must happen within ten days of detention.
And so for one brief, shining moment common sense did prevail and what needed to be done actually was done. Hardly a trend in Dover but welcomed none the less.