Sounding the alarm to what they perceive as unaddressed safety threats, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have refiled legislation to update and expand the judicial definition of the danger criminal suspects pose to the public.
The governor, who’s seen previous versions of this bill stall in the Legislature, hopes to sway lawmakers with this final attempt before he leaves office at the end of the year.
The bill seeks to increase protections from dangerous persons in the judicial process.
The bill would keep defendants who meet that criteria in jail while they await trial.
Those deemed “dangerous” would include individuals accused of certain violent crimes, like assault with a dangerous weapon, if the prosecution believes the defendant is likely to commit another crime while released, or poses a threat to the community and victim.
Other changes include stronger consequences for people who cut off their GPS bracelet; allowing police to arrest those who violate their release conditions; and improvements to the system for notifying victims when a defendant is set to be released.
In previous attempts at passage, Baker alluded to the death of U.S. Marine Corps veteran Kevin Quinn as one reason why we need such a bill.
Quinn, who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, was returning home after visiting his wife and newborn daughter in the hospital when he was killed in a head-on car crash in Cotuit during the summer of 2018.
The driver of the other vehicle, Mickey Rivera, who was fleeing a high-speed police pursuit, had been released a month before the crash after a drunken-driving arrest, despite awaiting trial on separate charges connected to an armed robbery attempt and murder.
This bill would also allow police to detain individuals they observe violating court-ordered release conditions, empower judges to revoke a release for violating conditions without an additional dangerousness finding, and create a new felony offense for cutting off a court-ordered GPS device.
Police would additionally be required to take fingerprints of all people arrested, regardless of charge.
The initial filing of this bill came shortly after the passage of a comprehensive criminal justice reform law. Among its sweeping changes was the requirement that financial resources be taken into account when determining bail amounts.
As the Legislature’s nearly unanimous passage of that bill indicated, those reforms were long overdue. In many instances, a defendant’s financial circumstances, rather than the severity of the alleged offense, often determined whether that individual remained incarcerated pending trial.
As state Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Easton, told the State House News Service, criminal justice reforms should accomplish three goals: reduce recidivism, increase public safety and save the taxpayers money.
The bill’s reforms targeted recidivism and cost; Baker’s bill strives to keep violent suspects off the streets.
And when it comes to a defendant’s potential to inflict harm on the citizenry while awaiting trial, judges should be able to take into account that person’s complete criminal history.
Presently, when prosecutors seek a dangerousness hearing, judges must ignore a defendant’s criminal history when determining their risk to public safety.
Judges should weigh three main factors when deciding whether to issue, reduce or deny bail: a defendant’s flight risk, financial circumstances and potential to harm law-abiding citizens.