House committee advances bail reform bills

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Criminal Justice Committee Chair Terry Roy (R-Deerfield) on Jan. 20, 2023. File Photo/Andrew Sylvia

CONCORD, N.H. – On Thursday. the New Hampshire House of Representatives’ Criminal Justice Committee advanced four pieces of legislation addressing bail reform.

The bills, SB 252, SB 249, HB 653,and HB 318 were advanced by a subcommittee of five Democrats and five Republicans.

After deliberation, the subcommittee agreed on the primary solutions to the issue:

1. Allocating funds to the Department of Safety to upgrade their electronic communications systems to ensure officers know if someone is free on bail.
2. Implementing the new position of Magistrate within the Court system to both hear more serious bail issues when the courts are closed and assist with various functions within the courts to help free up judges.
3. Lowers the high evidentiary standard to hold someone for dangerousness.
4. Adopt a list of 14 of the most serious felonies that may not be brought to a bail commissioner and instead must be heard by a judge or magistrate.
5. Mandate minimum levels of training for bail commissioners.
6. Ensure that bail commissioners are paid by the courts for their services, allowing the courts to collect bail fees from defendants.
7. Mandate electronic monitoring for anyone arrested for a violation of a protective order who is to be released by a judge pending trial.
8. Allocate funding for the courts to allow them to tie into the Department of Safety system for updating bail and warrants.
9. Ensure that no one is held for more than 24 hours without a decision being made on their ability to be released on bail.
10. Ensure that cash bail is not used to hold people who cannot afford to pay it, instead of either holding them or releasing them based on the totality of the circumstances surrounding their arrest and criminal history.
11. Mandate that defendants are made aware of various programs in their area to assist with substance addiction and mental health.
12. Task the existing Interbranch Criminal Justice Council with examining and recommending legislation on several of the more pressing issues facing the state, such as the establishment of a statewide pretrial services model for counties to use and apply for funding assistance from if their system meets a minimum criteria.
13. Require the notification by law enforcement of victims of violent crimes at least 1 hour prior to any alleged offender is released on bail.

“We heard hours of testimony from all the stakeholders and in the end, won their full support,” said Criminal Justice Committee Chair Terry Roy (R-Deerfield). “Many thanks to the ACLU, the Chiefs of Police Association, the Attorney General, the County Attorneys, representatives of the Courts, and our constituents – and many others who gave up their time to give testimony.”

“It is important to reiterate the bipartisan nature of our work. We never approached this issue from the left or the right. We listened and learned as a group and produced what we believed to be the best answers for our citizens,” added Roy, also giving special thanks to ranking member Linda Harriott-Gathright (D-Nashua), Committee Clerk Alissandra Murray (D-Manchester), David Meuse (D-Portsmouth) and Vice Chair Jennifer Rhodes (R-Wincnhester).


About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.