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4 Arizona Bills Aim To Reform How Court Deals With Bail, Fines

Published: Thursday, February 2, 2017 - 4:14pm
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Thousands of people are held in our state’s jail every day, just because they can’t afford to pay the bond set to get out while they’re awaiting trial. Four bills in the state Legislature would work to change that.

Last summer, the Arizona Supreme Court launched a task force aimed at reforming the way the court deals with things like bail, fines and fees.

The group is aiming to replace the court’s current cash-bail system with a risk-assessment tool. So low-risk offenders could get out of jail while they’re awaiting trial, and high-risk offenders would stay locked up.

Dave Byers, administrative director of the Arizona courts, said on one side, you have people getting stuck in jail for a minor crime because they can’t pay the cash bond set by the judge.

“The other side of it, you have drug dealers that are arrested and the judge might impose a $200,000 bond, and we’ve had people bail out in a matter of hours because they have access to money. Well, that’s backwards," Byers said.

He said this leads to overcrowded, costly jails. The four bills address competency hearings, rules surrounding suspended licenses, and a judge’s ability to mitigate civil penalties for low-income offenders or replace them with community service.

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