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Colorado bill would eliminate cash bail for minor offenses

The bipartisan bill could help more than 10,000 people avoid pretrial detention.

The Colorado House unanimously passed a bipartisan bill on Friday that would eliminate cash bail for minor offenses. 

Those minor offenses include having an open container, trespassing and shoplifting less than $50 worth of goods. 

Exceptions include "a traffic offense involving death or bodily injury, eluding a police officer, circumventing an interlock device, or a municipal offense with substantially similar elements to a state misdemeanor offense," the bill reads.

Sponsors of the bill, including Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) and Rep. Matt Soper (R-Delta), argue thousands of Coloradans await trial in jail for minor offenses simply because they can't afford bail - essentially punishing people for being in poverty.

“Every night, thousands of Coloradans awaiting trial for minor offenses languish in jail simply because they can't afford to get out," Rep. Herod said. "We are caging the poor and the homeless, not for their crimes, but for their poverty. Poverty is not a crime."

Sponsors also believe the bill will help least 13,000 Coloradans avoid pretrial detention.

An ACLU of Colorado study which looked at state court data suggests the bill would also ease overcrowding at many Colorado jails. Currently, Pueblo County jail is operating at 194 percent and Alamosa County jail reported operating at 127 percent. 

HB19-1225 bill now heads to the state Senate.

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