The state Senate last week approved a measure aimed at restoring judicial authority to set pretrial bail determinations and conditions of release.
Sen. Mike Padden, the lead Republican on the Law and Justice Committee, sponsored Senate Bill 5987 to again let judges make “common-sense” decisions to save lives and protect the public. It passed with a 47-0 vote.
“In a 5-4 decision the Washington Supreme Court overturned judges’ authority to order standard pretrial conditions of release,” Padden said. “This bill would restore that authority to trial court judges. It re-establishes a common-sense notion that a judge who is setting pretrial terms for a person arrested for a misdemeanor offense like a DUI should be able to order the person to stop drinking alcohol.
“Part of the court’s reasoning for why this long-standing practice should be stopped is that the statute that allowed for a pretrial order prohibiting alcohol consumption only applied to misdemeanors.
This bill fixes that.”
SB 5987 would:
allow the imposition of conditions of release for any felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor case;
require protecting the public from harm as a purpose for imposing conditions of release; and
clarify that a pretrial-release program is any program in superior, district, or municipal courts.
The bill is a product of a legislative work session that included judges and prosecutors. Both the Washington District and Municipal Court Judges' Association and the Washington State Superior Court Judges' Association testified in support of the bill.
Padden also pointed out that allowing judges to set reasonable pretrial conditions actually helps defendants.
“Judges don’t always want to impose high bail amounts or jail time pending trial,” said Padden, a former district court judge. “If possible, many would prefer less harsh restrictions, so long as they are still able to do so while protecting the public.
“This bill will allow them to order the most reasonable pretrial conditions of release, while still putting public safety first.”
SB 5987 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.