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'Grace Period' Bill Gives Defendants 72-Hour Window To Appear In Court

DENVER (CBS4) – A proposed law in Colorado would eliminate arrest warrants for those who fail to appear in court at their set time. Colorado House Bill 20-1123, known as the "Grace Period" bill, would give a defendant a 72-hour window to appear in court after failing to make their initial date.

(credit: CBS)

The bill, which is sponsored by members of each major party, is said to provide a grace period for those who cannot make their court dates due to issues like oversleeping, work or child care. However, the bill itself does not specifically list acceptable reasons for missing court dates.

"People sometimes make mistakes," said Sen. Pete Lee, a Democrat representing Colorado Springs. "We ought to provide an opportunity for people to avoid going to jail for a mistake."

The bill reads, in part: "The bill prohibits a court from issuing a warrant for failing to appear at a scheduled court appearance for 72 hours after the missed appearance. If the defendant presents himself or herself to the court during the 72-hour period, the court shall not issue a warrant."

Pete Lee (credit: CBS)

"When you are late for court, it can be significantly consequential," Lee said. "(A defendant) can lose their job. They can lose their connections to family and members of the community."

"I'm perplexed that anybody decided this was a good idea," Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith told CBS4's Dillon Thomas. "It is an absolutely ridiculous bill."

Smith, speaking on behalf of Colorado's County Sheriffs, testified in strong opposition of the bill. He suggested the bill would allow a defendant to continuously put off a court case in a system which is already backlogged with cases.

"It really runs counter to our judicial system, which is based on the promise for people to appear, to show up and be held responsible," Smith said.

Smith said often times victims of crimes have to take time off work in order to appear at a case against the defendant. Smith noted, under the bill, the victim could potentially be re-victimized by having to take time off work multiple times while waiting to see if the defendant will appear within the 72-hour period.

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CBS4's Dillon Thomas interviews Justin Smith (credit: CBS)

"Justice delayed is justice denied," Smith said. "I hope this bill dies a quick death."

In a statement issued to CBS4 from Tim Lane of the Colorado District Attorney Council, "The decision to issue a warrant when a criminal defendant fails to appear is decided by a judge based on the individual circumstances of a case. CDAC opposes efforts to limit a judge's discretion Taxpayers pay for judges, attorneys and staff to appear in these estimated 76,000 cases per year and Colorado should be very careful about a proposal that hasn't been tried in any other state, and may further increase the costs."

The bill has only been read in the House, and is scheduled to be read in the Senate on March 11.

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