Bonding bill fails to move out of committee

Democrats and one Republican voted against passing a law that would have caused bond agents to forfeit the bail of an individual if they are found to be an illegal immigrant and removed from the court’s jurisdiction.

The bill, created by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, was said to have been designed to make bail bond agents more responsible when giving out bail. Opponents of the bill said it would limit both citizen and non-citizen access to constitutionally mandated bail.

“The reason the district attorneys brought this bill has nothing to do with immigration, it has to do with fairness,” spokesperson for the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council Tamar Wilson, said. “We are asking that the bondsmen be held to the same standard that a defendant’s family that posted the bond is held to.”

The bill would have required law enforcement officials to make an effort to determine the immigration status of those arrested. If there was probably cause to believe the person was in the country illegally, that information would then be passed on to bonding agents who could then determine whether to provide a bail bond to the individual knowing they could forfeit the money used to bail the individual out if that person was deported.

Hans Meyer, policy director for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said the bill while favorably amended to include probable cause could still limit access to bail to many U.S. citizens. He said that under the law, a list of materials that might provide probable cause was incomplete.

“First and foremost there is a consideration of the identifying documents that would purportedly establish legal status. That list is wholly inadequate. As is common for the defense community and the law community many people will be pulled into the system who do not have any identification at all,” Meyer said.  “So we could face a situation where people use inappropriate facts or make a mistake or engage in tautologies to arrive at the conclusion someone is undocumented.”

Much of the committee agreed with Meyer’s testimony and voted 4-1 to postpone indefinitely the bill.

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