Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini along with Representative Steve Smith announced today that they were introducing legislation to repeal House Bill 204.
“The consequences of House Bill 204, along with a general shift in culture in our judiciary system, has been that many folks who are potentially dangerous are now being immediately released without any bail whatsoever”, said Bonini. What House Bill 204 did, in a nutshell, was completely revamp how we do bail and in my opinion, basically got rid of bail for potential offenders.
House Bill 204 was intended to decrease the use of monetary bail while releasing more defendants from jail pending trial. In addition, judges were compelled to use a pretrial risk assessment tool, which, as a matter of course, recommended the release of all defendants pending trial unless a prosecutor or judge made a “special showing” that they should be required to post bail prior to release, said Bonini.
By January 2019, there were numerous reports of individuals being freed pending trial who would probably never have been released without putting up bail. Democrat Senator Bryan Townsend of Newark, one of the co-sponsors of HB 204, acknowledged that unforeseen problems had developed as a result of the legislation, including a number of “acts of criminality” stemming from assailants being released on unsecured bail, said Bonini. Townsend also indicated that there were numerous questions about the new law coming from both law enforcement, as well as members of the community.
Because of these negative developments, Senator Townsend introduced a resolution calling on the Delaware Supreme Court to alter the rules governing the release of defendants. While that resolution passed the Delaware legislature overwhelmingly in February, the state Supreme Court has not done anything since that time to assuage these concerns and has not changed the problematic rules implementing bail reform, according to Bonini.
At today’s press conference Bonini gave several examples of well-known cases where violent offenders were released on no bond. One example he gave was an instance where a man charged with pistol-whipping a woman before he shot at her. The man was later released on his own recognizance with no bond. He was just let out immediately, which to me is just crazy, added Bonini.
We also get many stories from law enforcement. For example, folks who have been arrested for multiple drug-dealing charges, they have multiple bags, dozens, if not hundreds of bags of heroin on them and they are being released immediately, said Bonini.
Also in attendance at the press conference was Middletown Chief of Police Robert Kracyla. Kracyla relayed a story in which his officers had arrested a man for domestic violence. His officers knew the offender and had dealt with him on numerous occasions. The offender was presented to the court and the judge was informed of the man’s history. The man was literally on the street, released and on the street before the officers could even finish the arrest paperwork, according to Kracyla. Middletown officers were back at that same home less than six hours later for the same thing, domestic violence, said Kracyla.
So, the bottom line is House Bill 204 has made Delaware a more dangerous place, said Bonini. The situation prior to House Bill 204 was that we had a real opportunity to set bail. We had an opportunity in the interest of public safety to set bail high so that dangerous folks couldn’t get out.
We have unfortunately defaulted to where we let everybody out now and don’t hold anybody at all. The legislation discussed today in the press conference is to repeal House Bill 204 and to go back to a system where we had real cash bail. I think, more importantly, to start a discussion about where criminal justice reform has gone. In my opinion, it has gone too far, to the point where we have, quite frankly, started caring more about offenders than we do about victims. I think we’ve set a very dangerous precedent and our public policy needs to be more focused on victims, Siad Bonini.
We are hoping to repeal the bail repeal. In the process, we want to get back to much more of a common-sense system that would allow for those folks who represent a danger to the public to have their bail set appropriately.
To see some of the cases where defendants were let out on unsecured bound you can visit here.