New Colorado law on weekend arraignments likely to cost thousands for Pitkin County, 9th Judicial District
A new state law requiring weekend bond hearings for those arrested and held in jail could end up costing Pitkin County tens of thousands of dollars more a year.
The law signed in May by Gov. Jared Polis ordered each of Colorado’s 64 counties and sheriffs to provide cost estimates for the proposed weekend bond hearings to each chief judge of the state’s 22 judicial districts by Nov. 1.
“It’s probably another unfunded mandate from the state,” Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman said earlier this month when asked about the new law. “I don’t think it’s a great idea.”
The law requires the chief judge to develop a plan for holding a bond hearing for every in-custody defendant within 48 hours of arrest. That means the advisement/bond hearings must be held at least six days a week and possibly seven, said 9th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Cheney.
The law also requires defendants be able to post bond within two hours of bond being set by the court and released within four hours after the bond is posted.
For the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, it will cost about $29,000 a year to provide two deputies for three hours on a Saturday or Sunday, according to Undersheriff Ron Ryan. The cost doubles to a little less than $58,000 if the court must be open both weekend days, he said.
“It will be (a significant expense), I think, for everybody involved,” Ryan said. “How to staff it is a bit of a challenge.”
For the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office — which covers Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties — the costs are much higher, Cheney said. And because it is not yet clear if court in each county must be open on weekends, or whether just one court could get the job done with video-conferencing technology, the costs vary widely.
For example, if just one court could handle weekend advisements for all three counties, the cost to provide an assistant district attorney to cover just Saturday or Sunday hearings would be about $57,000 a year, Cheney said. The cost doubles if one court must be open both weekend days.
If all three District Courts in the district must be open both weekend days, it will cost just the DA’s Office an extra $667,500 per year, Cheney said.
And while Cheney said he thinks his office does a good job getting defendants who are arrested over the weekend in front of a judge first thing Monday morning, he isn’t against having weekend advisements.
“I’m not opposed to it if the state would contribute what it would cost to implement it,” he said. “The opposition I have is how will we pay for it.”
It’s not clear if the state will foot the bill for the weekend advisements, Cheney said, and the text of the law does not address the issue.
Lynn Reed, the 9th Judicial District’s court executive, said the district has submitted a cost estimate to the Legislature, though the figures were not available this week. The estimate was based on the courts being open just one day per weekend, she said.
According to the law, the state court administrator’s office must forward the plans for each of the 22 judicial districts to the judiciary committees of the state House and Senate.
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