Utah prosecutors, county attorneys gather to denounce 'bad faith repeal' of bail reform bill

Posted at 12:47 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 14:48:01-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Pending legislation could overturn a 2020 law that reformed the bail system in Utah.

Last year’s House Bill 206 allows some pre-trial defendants to be released from jail if a judge determines that the defendant is not likely to flee from the jurisdiction area and doesn’t pose a threat to the public.

Although monetary bail amounts can still be assigned, the legislation helps to ensure pre-trial defendants are given the “least restrictive reasonably available conditions that the court determines will reasonably ensure the appearance of the defendant as required and the safety of the any other individual, property and the community.”

Supporters of House Bill 206 argue that a person’s ability to get out of jail ahead of a trial should not be tied to the person’s financial ability to post bail.

“What it did was ensure that the wealthy, who could also be dangerous, had the ability to bail out while they continue to perpetrate their crimes,” said Utah County Prosecutor David Leavitt of the old bail system. “What we need is the ability to hold wealthy people who are dangerous without bail.”

Those who want to keep the new law in place say no-bail holds have gone up for the most violent people in our community, regardless of their ability to make bail.

“That’s why we’re here because we are passionately committed to the gains that we have made and we are worried about the risk of losing it,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, Salt Lake Legal Defenders Executive Director Rich Mauro, Davis County Public Defender Coordinator Todd Utzinger and Utah County Public Defender Ben Aldana joined Leavitt and Gill in a news conference Wednesday to denounce what they say is a “bad faith” attempt to repeal the bill.

This year’s House Bill 220, which cleared the Utah House of Representatives on Friday, would repeal almost everything in last year’s House Bill 206. The Salt Lake Tribune reports House Bill 220 has the support of sheriffs from around the state, with lobbying help from former House Speaker Greg Hughes.

Watch FOX 13 for updates.