County Attorneys and Law Enforcement Express Concern over New Hampshire Bail Reform

The New Hampshire Police Chief’s Association and 10 of the state’s county attorneys expressed grave concerns over the Criminal Justice Reform and Economic Fairness Act of 2018 passed by the legislature this month. Senate Bill 556 allows for a large majority of New Hampshire’s criminal defendants to be released without the requirement of posting bail. Suspects arrested for first offense driving while intoxicated and any misdemeanor that does not include an act of violence such as simple assault will be released on their “own recognizance” under this new law.

The bill set to take effect 60 days after it is signed into law, lacks pretrial resources according to opponents such as the Police Chief’s Association and county attorneys. The County Attorneys expressed concerns about the potential for releasing dangerous criminals on their own recognizance posing a threat to public safety. The police chiefs pulled their backing citing uncertainty about funding in the state’s pretrial defendant services. They also point to the devastating death of a Maine sheriff who was killed by a defendant released under similar legislation. The association argued that “the bill would institute a system that, without proper administration and oversight, would release far too many offenders before trial” according to WMUR.

It is unclear whether New Hampshire will face the same fate as many other jurisdictions that have implemented bail reform without listening to those working in the field such as law enforcement agents and criminal defense attorneys. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu expressed concerns over the Criminal Justice Reform and Economic Fairness Act but has indicated that he will sign the bill.

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Anthony Armstrong

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