Washington Judge Bail Authority Amendment, HJR 4220 (2010)
The Washington Judge Bail Authority Amendment, also known as HJR 4220, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Washington as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure gave judges the authority to deny bail whenever they deemed the public at risk. Several varying proposals were made by legislators, however, the final proposed amendment called for allowing judges to deny bail to anyone charged with a crime carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison, including "Class A" felonies. Class A felonies include: murder, rape, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. This includes approximately 5,000 defendants.
|Washington HJR 4220 (Judge Bail Authority)|
Text of measure
The ballot title read:
- See also: Amending the Washington Constitution
The measure amended Article I, Section 20 of the Washington Constitution. The section reads:
| Article I, section 20.
All persons charged with crime shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses when the proof is evident, or the presumption great. Bail may be denied for offenses punishable by the possibility of life in prison upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence of a propensity for violence that creates a substantial likelihood of danger to the community or any persons, subject to such limitations as shall be determined by the legislature.
|Law enforcement on the ballot in 2010|
The measure was developed in the wake of the killing of four police officers in Washington on November 29, 2009. The officers were shot to death after an Arkansas parolee was released from jail on $190,000 bail. Maurice Clemons faced four felony charges and the possibility of life in prison when he was bailed out of Pierce County Jail on November 23, 2009. Six days later, Clemons walked into the Forza Coffee Shop and killed four officers - Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards.
In response to the events, lawmakers proposed amending the state constitution. Prior to being certified for the ballot, legislators considered three slightly different options. The House proposed including only defendants charged with crimes that carried potential life sentences. The Senate proposed targeting people accused of crimes that could lead to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The third option, proposed by Sen. Mike Carrell suggested including people accused of crimes involving the "intentional infliction of great bodily harm and certain sex offenses. Excluded were crimes – such as vehicular homicide and arson – that the sponsors argued didn’t suggest a criminal mindset bent on doing harm to others."
The certified version before voters in November 2010 allowed a judge to deny bail to persons charged with an offense punishable by life in prison.
The measure was sponsored by approximately 26 state Representatives. Rep. Chris Hurst said, "I can think of no constitutional amendment in recent memory that has as great of a consequence as this one." Rep. Kirk Pearson said, "It is a wonderful feeling to know we are taking a big step forward and to know that lives are going to be saved with this constitutional amendment." In support of the measure supporters launched Remember Lakewood - Citizens for Lakewood Law Enforcement Memorial Act. According to the website, they had the full support of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs, the Fraternal Order of Police, Washington State Patrol Troopers Association, and the Lakewood Police Chief.
- Rep. Hurst, co-chair of the campaign, said,"I’m confident that when the public is fully educated about what this does and what it doesn’t do, that this is going to pass by the largest margin of any constitutional amendment ever proposed before the citizens of Washington state."
The legislation was sponsored by Representatives Mike Hope, Troy Kelley, Tami Green, Steve Conway, Kevin Parker, Christopher Hurst, Tom Campbell, Deb Wallace, Ed Orcutt, Geoff Simpson, Mark Ericks, Doug Ericksen, Kevin Van De Wege, Dawn Morrell, Dean Takko, Sherry Appleton, Marcie Maxwell, Tina Orwall, Kirk Pearson, Steve Kirby, Mike Sells, Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney, Norm Johnson, Bruce Dammeier, Mary Helen Roberts and Jim McCune.
According to reports, civil liberties groups raised concerns about the speed at which the proposal was made, following the 2009 murder of several police officers. Specifically, advocates said they were concerned about restrictions on bail rights being too harsh.
- The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington argued that changing the constitutional right to bail would "keep people from being considered innocent until proven guilty."
Media editorial positions
- The Tacoma News Tribune supported the proposed amendment. In an editorial, the board said, "Would greater judicial authority to deny bail have saved the lives of four Lakewood police officers? No one can say for sure. But the proposed amendment will, if passed, give judges better ability to balance public safety with defendants’ rights. The News Tribune recommends a yes vote on Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220."
- The Stranger supported the Bail Authority Amendment. "Voting to approve allows judges to hold people who are charged with crimes potentially punishable by life in prison (and who are truly dangerous) without bail until trial. If this had been the case in 2009, those four police officers would probably be alive today. Vote to approve," said the editorial board.
- The Yakima Herald-Republic supported HJR 4220. "The law is narrowly drawn, leaves the decision up to a judge and could prove to be a valuable tool in maintaining safety in our state's communities. It passed the House 80-17 and the Senate 48-0, and it deserves to pass muster with the state's voters," said the editorial board.
- Publicola supported the proposed measure. "Currently, Washington State judges may only deny bail for suspects up for aggravated murder; this amendment gives them another tool to protect the public from potentially violent criminals," said the editorial board.
- The Longview Daily News supported HJR 4220. "Approve the constitutional amendment authorizing courts to deny bail for offenses punishable by the possibility of life in prison, on clear and convincing evidence of a propensity for violence that would likely endanger persons," said the board.
- The Wenatchee World was in support. "This is a sensible step to protect both the accused and the public in cases where the potential for violence and crime is clearly evident. It is a reasoned reaction to a horrible tragedy, to increase the possibility it will not be repeated. Rights to due process, habeas corpus, speedy trial, and the presumption of innocence are not infringed. Vote yes," said the board.
- The Kitsap Sun opposed the measure. "We feel this undermines the presumption of innocence of accused persons, and that it’s unnecessary for public safety because judges already have wide latitude in setting bail amounts based on the seriousness of charges. We oppose HJR-4220," said the board.
Path to the ballot
In order to place the measure on the statewide ballot, the measure required at least a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. On March 4, 2010 the Senate unanimously approved 48-0 the measure. On March 8, 2010 the House approved the measure 92-4.
- Associated Press, "Voters to weigh in on bail-denial measure," October 23, 2010 (dead link)
- The News Tribune, "Ballot will shape state budget," August 30, 2010
- Washington Secretary of State's: From Our Corner, "Here’s your quick guide to WA ballot measures," August 10, 2010
- The News Tribune, "Senate, House closer than appears on bail bill," February 26, 2010
- Herald Net, "Bail measure will go before voters," March 8, 2010
- The Seattle Times, "Amendment deal reached to allow judges to deny bail," March 4, 2010
- The Spokesman-Review, "WA Lege Day 53: Bail changes on the ballot," March 4, 2010
- From Our Corner, "WA income tax plan headed for ballot," July 15, 2010
- Washington Secretary of State, "2010 Election Voters' Guide (Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220)," accessed August 24, 2010 (dead link)
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Washington Legislature, "HJR 4220 full text," accessed March 9, 2010
- The Seattle Times, "Lakewood cop killings behind amendment to tighten bail system," October 2, 2010
- Associated Press, "Wash. lawmakers send bail-denial measure to voters," March 8, 2010
- The Daily Herald, "Campaign to pass bail measure begins today," March 16, 2010
- The News Tribune, "Campaign kicks off for ballot measure limiting bail," March 17, 2010
- Washington Legislature, "HJR 4220," accessed March 9, 2010
- The News Tribune, "Bail amendment a measured response to massacre," September 28, 2010
- The Stranger, "VOTE, BABY, VOTE!," October 13, 2010
- The Yakima Herald-Republic, "Legislative measures: Two thumbs up, one down," October 14, 2010 (dead link)
- Publicola, "PubliCola Picks “Yes” on the State Constitutional Amendments," October 16, 2010
- The Longview Daily News, "Daily News endorsements for the Nov. 2 election," October 25, 2010
- Wenatchee World, "Yes, and yes again," October 23, 2010
- Kitsap Sun, "OUR VIEW | Sorting Out the Ballot Issues," October 21, 2010
- The News Tribune, "Bail rights limits look headed to ballot," March 5, 2010
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