Criminal reform bill ’prioritizes perpetrators over victims,’ sheriffs, police chiefs say
Local law enforcement urges residents to oppose SB21-062
In a lengthy “open letter” to residents of Colorado’s 5th Judicial District, local law enforcement leaders in Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties voice their unified opposition to Senate Bill 21-062, asking residents to contact their state representatives to do the same.
The bill would reduce the scope of crimes subject to arrest and cash bonds in Colorado, taking a position that too many people are in the state’s jails not because they have been convicted of crimes and are serving sentences, but because they are awaiting trial for low-level offenses and unable to post bond for release.
The bill is sponsored by State Sen. Pete Lee and State Rep. Adrienne Benavidez and passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 4.
The measure would generally prohibit police arrests for alleged traffic and petty offenses, municipal offenses, misdemeanor offenses, class 4, 5 and 6 felony offenses, and level 3 and 4 drug offenses — while making some exceptions for crimes that involve victims’ rights, illegal possession or use of a firearm, unlawful sexual behavior, vehicular eluding, or credible threats to a school.
The bill would also prohibit courts from requiring monetary bonds for people to gain release for such offenses, as well as for failing to appear in court for up to three times, unless the court finds the defendant would flee prosecution or threaten the safety of others and no other approach could mitigate that risk.
The letter signed by local law enforcement officials and released on Monday afternoon argues that the bill goes too far — stating that it “guts the current evidence-based procedures used by the courts to determine whether a bond is appropriate” and that it “would allow many dangerous criminals to escape incarceration altogether.”
The letter is signed by the sheriffs of Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties and by the police chiefs of Avon, Basalt, Blue River, Breckenridge, Dillon, Eagle, Empire, Frisco, Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Leadville, Silverthorne and Vail.
“The bill mandates an arrestee’s release immediately, prior to judicial review or bond setting, for every alleged crime other than the most serious felonies,” the letter states.
The letter also notes that people who commit felonies such as burglary, arson, motor vehicle theft, disarming a peace officer, arming rioters, residential and business burglaries, and weapons possession by previous offenders, and all misdemeanor offenses, including violent offenders like assault, would be “issued a court summons and placed back on the streets.”
“This is not how you ’safely’ reduce jail populations — instead, this potentially endangers the citizens of the 5th Judicial District. Therefore, we oppose this bill and want to highlight its unintended consequences that would increase the potential for crime and property damage in our communities,” the letter states.
“No longer will the release of a perpetrator be appropriately conditioned by a judge and monitored by law enforcement. Rather, someone who broke into your home will be issued a summons and released the same day, free to return almost immediately. This bill prioritizes perpetrators over victims,” the letter continues. “Accordingly, your chiefs of police and sheriffs unanimously oppose Senate Bill 21-062. We call upon our residents to do the same. We insist that our legislators amend the bill to allow law enforcement officers to maintain their current discretion to arrest and incarcerate for any felony charge. We also insist that judges be allowed to continue to set necessary terms and conditions upon bonds to protect the citizens of the 5th Judicial District unhindered by this current legislative interference. Without these necessary changes, we will remain opposed to the bill.”