SJR 104 is a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at addressing deficiencies in Idaho’s bail system. However, the language included in the proposal would have little to no effect in reducing Idaho’s reliance on a cash-money bail system and instead could result in more low-income Idahoans remaining in jail.Read bill text here.
The proposal would allow judges to deny bail based on the premise that the accused criminal defendant committed a “dangerous crime.” However, “dangerous crime” would be defined by the Idaho Legislature, potentially codifying that hundreds--if not thousands--of Idahoans would remain incarcerated pre-trial without the possibility of release. It would also set up a mini-bail hearing between a judge, prosecutor and defending attorney. However, for those Idahoans who rely on a public defender to represent them in court, this mini-bail hearing will further require additional work for Idaho’s already severely overburdened public defenders, likely resulting in unfair representation for low-income Idahoans and potential denial of bail when it should be offered.
Instead of this questionable constitutional amendment, the ACLU of Idaho recommends that the Idaho Legislature consider other proven methods of reducing the state’s reliance on a cash-money bail system by enacting additional reforms. Such reforms include a text message court reminder system, allowing people to be released on their own recognizance, using risk-based assessments to determine who poses a community safety risk and allowing for pre-trial supervision in lieu of incarceration.