Colorado First-Degree Murder Suspects Now Eligible for Bail
Until recently people in Colorado who were accused of first-degree murder had no right to contact a bonding company and post bail. That all changed on June 20, 2023, when the Colorado State Supreme Court ruled that denying those defendants the opportunity to post bail violated their rights under both the US and the Colorado state constitutions.
This doesn’t mean that the average bail bond company is suddenly going to be overwhelmed by requests for assistance from accused murderers, but it does create the possibility that some defendants who the state believes have committed cold-blooded murder may end up walking the streets while they await trial.
As you can imagine there are plenty of people in Broomfield County and beyond who are none too happy with the Supreme Court’s decision and many have called for a special session of the state legislature to address the issue.
Why Are Accused Murderers Allowed to Post Bail?
The concept of bail and the bonding company exists for a good reason: to respect the concept of innocent until proven guilty and to provide the accused with a powerful monetary incentive to appear in court to face the charges against them. Although the bail system is not perfect it has nonetheless performed its intended function for hundreds of years.
However, people accused of crimes that carry significant punishment such as the death penalty or life in prison are far more likely to flee once released than someone who is facing 30 days in jail and community service. For that reason, bail has always been denied for people accused of first degree murder.
Will Broomfield Bail Bond Agents be Forced to Offer Assistance to Accused Murderers?
Contrary to popular belief the bondsman has quite a bit of discretionary leeway when it comes to who they can choose to help. Of course, they cannot turn someone down based solely on their race, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, or sexual orientation, as that would violate both state and national anti-discrimination laws.
However, if the agent believes that providing help to someone would present an unacceptable risk either to themselves or the community at large they have the right to refuse to work with the person. That said, let’s return to that ruling for a moment.
Bail for First-Degree Murderers: What Happens Now?
The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling stating that first-degree murderers are entitled to bail consideration has left politicians on both sides of the aisle shaking their heads, wondering where we go from here. The hew and cry have been particularly loud because the court’s decision is based on a technicality.
That is, the state constitution – drafted at a time when the death penalty was relatively common – states that bail can only be denied in the event of a capital case. That is, a case where the death penalty might apply, like first-degree murder.
But here’s the rub: the state abolished the death penalty in 2020. So, technically, there is no possibility of a case going to trial in Colorado now where the death penalty will be in play which, the court reasoned, means all defendants now have the right to be considered for bail. Even those accused of premeditated murder.
In the immediate wake of the court decision attorneys for several accused murderers moved quickly to secure bail for their clients, including Christopher Martinez who is accused of killing three family members. After the Supreme Court ruling a judge set his bail at $9 million cash.
Fortunately, the “cash” requirement means the accused cannot seek the help of a bail bond agent. Instead, they must come up with millions of dollars of their cash to post bail. As a result, neither Martinez nor any other accused murderers who had bail set in the past few weeks have been able to post, yet.
The issue has created a rare bit of bipartisanship both from law and order advocates on the right and anti-bail advocates (including Governor Jared Polis) on the left. Unfortunately, that hasn’t prevented quibbling over what is the right way to proceed.
So the question remains: Will the time soon come when first-degree murder suspects can apply for 24-hour bail bonds and walk? Stay tuned.