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Overhaul sought on bail proposal

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 24, 2010 at 10:38 am |
February 24, 2010 10:38 am

A House-Senate feud over how to change the state constitutional right to bail could get a public airing this week. If lawmakers don’t come to a resolution soon, one says, the bill could simply be sent for further study with nothing done this year.

To get around the dispute over which accused criminals should lose their automatic right to bail, Sen. Mike Carrell told me Tuesday he is fine-tuning a new, compromise proposal that he hopes will satisfy the required two-thirds majorities in both chambers.

We could find out more about the proposal Friday. Rep. Mike Hope just announced that’s when the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on his bill that passed the House.

Hope said in a statement he’s worried that lawmakers might punt. “I have concerns the measure will be changed from action to studies. We don’t need to study this further. The governor and law enforcement community studied the issue and realized our bail provisions have weakened over the years and should be strengthened.”

Carrell, who serves on the committee, hopes to amend the House bill to reflect his new idea, which he sees as a compromise between the House position (judges should be able to detain anyone facing a possible life sentence) and the Senate position (judges should only be able to detain those charged with certain serious repeat offenses).

“I’m trying to find the sweet spot between the House and Senate  – with the understanding that I’ve got to get 33 votes out of the Senate,” Carrell said.

Specifically, he wants to cover only “intentional acts that are felony crimes,” and that cause bodily harm, he said. A driver charged with killing someone while drunk, for example, would still be guaranteed bail, unlike in the House bill.

As for Carrell’s old bill that passed the Senate, no House hearing has been scheduled and it seems to have been abandoned. Hope said: “I believe the Senate proposal is dead, so it’s very important we keep the House bill moving.”

Lakewood Police Officers’ Memorial Act to be heard in Senate Friday

A measure to amend the state constitution’s provisions for bail will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday, the deadline for non-budget bills to be voted out of committees in the House and Senate.

House Joint Resolution 4220, also known as the Lakewood Police Officers’ Memorial Act, would give judges more discretion when considering bail for violent criminals. When a suspect is possibly facing a sentence of life in prison, regardless of history, the judge could deny bail under the Act.

The sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Mike Hope, who also serves as a Seattle police officer, has been working very closely with legislators from both sides of the aisle and across the rotunda in the Senate.

“I have concerns the measure will be changed from action to studies,” said Hope, R-Lake Stevens. “We don’t need to study this further. The governor and law enforcement community studied the issue and realized our bail provisions have weakened over the years and should be strengthened. It’s important to note this bill will not change a person’s right to a fair trial or the presumption of innocence. This only says that if a judge determines a suspect could be dangerous if released into the community, we aren’t willing to take that risk.”

A Senate measure, which also would address bail provisions, has not been scheduled for a House hearing.

“I believe the Senate proposal is dead, so it’s very important we keep the House bill moving,” Hope said. “The law enforcement community has all their support behind this and the citizens of this state expect us to show we will act on the lessons learned from the Lakewood tragedy.”

Hope said he was glad the bill is still moving through the Legislature.

“People have the right to be safe in their neighborhoods, coffee shops and homes,” Hope said. “This measure ensures suspects charged with the most heinous crimes, and are determined to be dangerous by a judge, will not have an opportunity to go back out into the community and harm our families. When a suspect has nothing to lose, our communities have nothing to gain.”

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