The Missouri Senate discussed a bill Monday that would set new rules for bail and conditions of release in the state.
The bill would establish public safety as the primary consideration for releasing detainees and change a ruling set in 2019 by the Missouri Supreme Court.
State Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, sponsor of Senate Bill 487, explained in a Senate hearing that a norm established by the Missouri Supreme Court in July 2019 created a strong presumption against requiring bail for pre-trial release instead favoring personal recognizance bonds.
Personal recognizance bonds allow defendants to leave custody without having to pay bail, after court consideration.
Onder said this decision was meant as a way of addressing some abuses happening in municipal courts but it had “disastrous consequences,” such as the liberation of Javier Alatorre, who was convicted for several felony charges and later found to be one of two suspects in a Kansas City mass shooting in October 2019 that killed four and injured five.
If passed, the bill would also reduce personal recognizance for defendants who are at high risk of flight or are deemed a danger to the community.
The bill faced some controversy in the Senate, with witnesses testifying in support and opposition to it. Most provided examples of other states’ similar legislation on the matter.
“We have seen repeat offenders and high-risk offenders routinely being released throughout our state, only to reoffend,” Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish said, speaking in favor of the bill.
Mo Del Villar, legislative associate for the ACLU of Missouri, claimed in opposition of the bill that setting the conditions of release first and foremost on public safety would give the state the authority to overlook potential innocence.
“I just moved back here from Washington, D.C., which has not had cash bail since 1992, and as recently as 2018, 94 percent of their defendants were released on their own recognizance, 86 percent were never arrested for a criminal offense and less than 2 percent were rearrested for a crime of violence,” she said.
The bill will continue in the Committee of Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence for further discussion.
The committee passed three other bills Tuesday, including SB 181, which would modify provisions relating to covenants between business and employees, and SB 338, which would establish norms for interpretation of familial relationships described in trusts.
The work of the Missouri News Network is written by Missouri School of Journalism students and editors for publication by Missouri Press Association member newspapers.