The state Senate delayed debate Tuesday morning on a bill that would increase the age at which youth are still considered juveniles and make changes to the bail bond system.
The legislation, which was dubbed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as Second Chance 2.0, would allow 18-,19-, and 20-year-olds have their cases heard in the juvenile justice system as opposed to adult court.
But it was the changes to the bail bond system that took center stage Monday when reality TV show star Beth Chapman showed up to lobby against the bill.
Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman and his wife, Beth, ended their reality television show and have turned to lobbying to efforts to reform the bail bond industry.
The legislation the Senate had hoped to debate would prohibit a judge from setting a money bail for anyone charged with a misdemeanor, with a few exceptions. The legislation would give judges discretion to impose a cash bond on individuals who pose an immediate threat to the health or well-being of another person.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who proposed the legislation, has said there are far too many people sitting in jail because they can’t post a $20,000 bond, which requires them to pay between $250 and $2,000.
“These are individuals who are often drug addicted, mentally ill, or just plain poor, who have been charged with minor, often misdemeanor charges,” Malloy has said.
In a phone interview, Mr. Chapman, said that’s not true.
“They’re not there because they’re poor,” Chapman said. “They’re there because they’re criminals.”
Chapman argued that without a deterrent these individuals have no motivation to show up for their court date and answer to the charges.
He said most of the cases he deals with involve drug offenses and the possession of drugs is a misdemeanor.
Michael Lawlor, the governor’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy, said the sale of drugs is not a misdemeanor that would qualify for a promise-to-appear under the legislation.
Chapman argues that his services aren’t paid for with tax dollars.
“This is tax free. The taxpayers don’t pay me when I catch a meth dealer or cocaine dealer,” Chapman said.
He said over his 40 years he’s arrested more than 8,000 people.
Lawlor said most individuals who commit misdemeanors show up for their court dates. He said it’s the more dangerous, violent offenders who don’t. And those offenders would still be able to use the cash bail bond system as it currently exists.
A more controversial part of the bill that was expected to be eliminated would have allowed defendants to pay the court a 10-percent cash bond, instead of bail bondsmen.
The Senate had hoped to bring the bill up for debate Monday evening. Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said it’s still their intention to run the bill when they have the votes.
The bill is a priority of Malloy’s and it could be held up as a bargaining chip in negotiations over the budget, which Democratic lawmakers concede is always a possibility.
The legislative session adjourns at midnight May 4.