Missouri lawmakers are maneuvering to potentially cancel bail rules that have been in place for less than a year.
The rules were established by the Missouri Supreme Court, but not endorsed by the legislative or executive branch.
“One of the ranking Democrats was trying to take the position that the rules were fine and the judges could do, you know, everything else they thought they could do before,” Jeff Clayton, the director of the American Bail Coalition, said. “And there were six uniformed elected sheriffs that came and said, ‘No, that just isn’t the case.’”
Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, filed legislation to end bail rules put into place less than a year ago.
The Missouri House Judiciary Committee hosted a hearing on Tuesday in which proponents and opponents of canceling the rules testified.
Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett was not one of the sheriffs who testified, but he told News-Press NOW that he’s noticed a change since the rules were put in place last July.
“A lot of offenders we’ve seen don’t show up to court on the court date,” Puett said. “So we’ve seen a huge increase in failure to appears, so they are not showing up for court.”
The rules require local judges to consider nonmonetary release conditions for defendants before considering financial ones.
Clayton has advocated for lawmakers to amend the law so that low dollar “nuisance” bonds are removed. He argues bonds set by judges should either be substantial enough to guarantee defendants’ appearances in court or defendants should be released on their own recognizance.
According to Clayton, a vote on the bill to cancel the rules is expected within a few weeks.
The measure does not require the governor’s signature. The Missouri Constitution allows the legislature to cancel Supreme Court rules with a majority vote in both houses.