(Madison) State Representative Mark Born says a constitutional amendment to allow higher bail amounts for some criminal defendants has received bipartisan support. The amendment allows judges to consider the danger a defendant might pose to the public when setting bail – or forgo bail and keep someone in jail.
Born says currently, judges only consider bails based in the likelihood a defendant will appear in court. He says if a judge sees someone charged with a crime as a flight risk, a high cash bail would be set. Born says the resolution would amend the constitution to allow judges to consider the crime, such as violent offenses, and the risk to the public before setting a bail.
Born says this amendment has been discussed for the majority of his time in the legislature with little movement. The Beaver Dam Republican says it has gained traction following the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy. Darrell Brooks, the man accused in the deaths of six people – including a former Beaver Dam educator – and the injuries of dozens more, was out on a thousand dollars bail for a domestic violence arrest. An amount later deemed by prosecutors to be inappropriately low.
Born says there have also been other incidents, especially in Milwaukee County over the last few months, where a defendant has been out on a very low bail after being arrested and charged with a violent crime. He says these individuals then commit other crimes which has led to public frustration and concern.
During a recent Community Comment, Born said the amendment does carry concerns with due process. He says a judge could hold someone who really is not a threat and may be wrongfully charged. Born adds that a defendant may be held for weeks or months before the case is adjudicated incorrectly. He notes that this is why the amendment has been widely debated for several years.
Born says faith should be placed with the elected judges to make the right decisions to keep the public safe. The amendment would need to pass another session of the legislature and a statewide vote before going into effect.