The Colorado Senate voted unanimously on two significant criminal justice bills Monday, one that would do away with bail for minor offenses and another that keeps colleges from asking applicants for admission about their criminal history.
House Bill 1225 would mean that people don't spend time in jail for most Class 3 misdemeanors. The legislation heads to the governor, who could sign it into law. The aim of the bill is to keep from jailing people -- at a high cost to taxpayers -- simply because they are too poor to pay bail for such infractions as using having an open container, trespassing, and shoplifting something worth less than $50.
Ultimately, the fines could be as little as $50.
The legislation carves out exceptions for extenuating circumstances that make the offenses more severe, such as those that injure someone.
House Bill 1225 was sponsored by Reps. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Matt Soper, R-Delta, with Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Paul Lundeen, R-Monument.
“Our bail system is unfair to many offenders who are not a danger to our communities, but who have to remain in jail because they can’t afford even minimal cash bail,” Lee said in a statement Monday. “This change is a crucial part of making our criminal justice system more equitable for all Coloradans.”
Senate Bill 170, which blocks colleges and universities from asking applicants about their criminal or disciplinary histories, bounces to the House, with 25 days before the four-month session adjourns.
The bill is sponsored by Herod with Sens. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, and Jack Tate, R-Centennial.
“A college degree is important in today’s world, and we want to make sure that every Coloradan who applies to college is judged on their merits, not their past mistakes,” Rodriguez stated.
"Banning the box on college applications will allow colleges and universities to fairly examine each application and increase opportunity for everyone, particularly children of color, LGBTQ youth and students living in poverty.”
The bill has exceptions for convictions for stalking, sexual assault and domestic violence.
The legislation is referred to as "ban the box," which is similar to legislation that prevents perspective employers from asking job candidates about their criminal history in most cases. House Bill 1025, another Herod bill, is expected to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday morning.