OLR Bill Analysis

sHB-7044 (as amended by House "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING PRETRIAL JUSTICE REFORM.

SUMMARY

This bill makes various changes in laws concerning pretrial detention for certain crimes. These include, among other things:

1. limiting the circumstances in which a court can impose financial conditions of release for someone charged only with a misdemeanor that is not a family violence crime;

2. barring courts from prohibiting a bond from being posted by surety for certain crimes (in other words, barring courts from requiring cash-only bail for such crimes);

3. generally shortening the period within which defendants who cannot make bail and who were charged only with a misdemeanor must receive a bail review hearing, from within 30 days after the person's detention to within 14 days after his or her arraignment; and

4. requiring the court, at a bail review hearing for such a defendant, to remove the financial conditions on the person's release unless the court makes certain findings.

The bill also requires the Office of Policy and Management's under secretary for criminal justice policy and planning to study the feasibility of establishing an assistance program for indigent criminal defendants being detained before trial in connection with allegedly having committed minor crimes. He must undertake the study in consultation with the Connecticut Sentencing Commission, the Bail Association of Connecticut's board of directors, and licensed surety bail bond agents and tenured property bail agents who are not members of the association. The study must explore possible funding sources for the program. By January 1, 2018, the under secretary must report on the study's results to the Judiciary Committee.

The bill also makes minor and technical changes.

*House Amendment “A” adds to the list of people with whom the under secretary must consult in conducting the study, to include licensed surety bail bond agents and tenured property bail agents who are not members of the Bail Association of Connecticut.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017, except the study provisions are effective upon passage.

1 — CONDITIONS OF RELEASE

Under current law, when an arrested person is presented to court for a bailable offense, the court must promptly order the person's release on the first of the following conditions sufficient to reasonably ensure his or her appearance in court:

1. written promise to appear without special conditions,

2. written promise to appear with non-financial conditions,

3. bond without surety in no greater an amount than necessary, or

4. bond with surety in no greater an amount than necessary.

The bill bars a judge from prohibiting a bond from being posted by surety. This provision applies to offenses that are not certain serious crimes (see below).

In determining the conditions of release, the court can consider certain factors. Currently, one such factor is the person's prior record of appearance in court after being admitted to bail. The bill instead allows the court to consider such prior court appearances regardless of whether they occurred after the person was admitted to bail. As with the above provision, this bill excludes certain serious crimes from this change.

Specifically, these changes do not apply to individuals arrested for the following crimes:

1. a class A felony;

2. a class B felony, except for 1st degree promoting prostitution or 1st degree larceny;

3. a class C felony, except for 2nd degree promoting prostitution, bribery of a juror, or bribe receiving by a juror;

4. the following class D felonies: 2nd degree assault, with or without a firearm; 2nd degree assault, with or without a firearm, of an elderly, blind, disabled, or pregnant person or a person with intellectual disability; 3rd degree sexual assault; 1st degree unlawful restraint; 3rd degree burglary, with or without a firearm; reckless burning; 3rd degree robbery; or criminal use of a firearm or electronic defense weapon; or

5. a family violence crime.

By law, when presented with someone arrested for such a crime, the court must order release if any one of certain conditions are met to reasonably ensure both the person's court appearance and that the safety of other people will not be endangered. In determining what conditions are appropriate, the court may consider additional factors beyond those allowed for other crimes (CGS 54-64a(b)).

Misdemeanor Defendants

The bill prohibits a court from imposing financial conditions of release on a defendant charged only with a misdemeanor unless the (1) person is charged with a family violence crime, (2) person requested such conditions, or (3) court makes a finding on the record that there is a likely risk that any one of certain events will occur.

Specifically, these risks include that the person will:

1. fail to appear in court;

2. obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice, or threaten, injure, or intimidate a prospective witness or juror or attempt to do so; or

3. engage in conduct that threatens his or her own safety or that of someone else.

In making such a finding, the bill allows the court to consider the person's criminal history, including (1) any prior convictions for 1st degree failure to appear or (2) convictions during the preceding 10 years for 2nd degree failure to appear. The court may also consider the person's other pending criminal cases, if any.

2 — BAIL REVIEW HEARING

Individuals Charged with Misdemeanors

Current law generally requires a bail review hearing within 30 days after detention for a defendant who has not made bail and who is charged only with a misdemeanor. The bill shortens this period to within 14 days following the person's arraignment unless the person waives the return to court.

Under the bill, when the person is presented in court for the bail review hearing, the court must remove the financial conditions on the person's release unless the court finds on that record that there is a likely risk that the individual will:

1. fail to appear in court;

2. obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice, or threaten, injure, or intimidate a prospective witness or juror or attempt to do so; or

3. engage in conduct that threatens the safety of someone else, for family violence or other misdemeanors, or threatens the defendant's own safety, for other misdemeanors.

Under the bill, these provisions do not apply to someone detained for (1) extradition due to criminal charges in another state or (2) violating parole pending a parole revocation hearing. By law, the bail review period for such defendants is 45 days.

Under existing law, unchanged by the bill, anyone who has not made bail may ask for a hearing on a motion to modify bail at any time.

Individuals Charged with Class D or Class E Felonies

The bill specifies that defendants charged with a class D or E felony may waive their right to a bail review hearing.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

23

Nay

15

(04/04/2017)