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2010: Engrossed Substitute House J.R. 4220 (Bail/Constitutional Amendment)

This constitutional amendment would authorize Washington courts to deny bail for offenses punishable by the possibility of life in prison, where there is 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. It is a reaction to the killing of four Lakewood WA police officers in November 2009 and the subsequent identification of Maurice Clemmons, recently released on bail, as the shooter.

Votes cast by the 2010 Legislature on final passage:
Senate: Yeas, 48; Nays, 0; Absent, 0; Excused, 1
House: Yeas, 92; Nays, 4; Absent, 0; Excused, 2

Explanatory Statement:
The Washington State  Constitution currently provides that all persons charged with crimes are entitled to be released pending trial upon posting bail by sufficient sureties (bail). The court may impose release conditions where there is a substantial danger that the charged person will commit a violent crime, or seek to intimidate witnesses, or otherwise unlawfully interfere with the administration of justice unless the court imposes conditions on the accused person’s release.

Currently, the Constitution authorizes denial of bail only for capital offenses “when the proof is evident or the presumption is great.” A “capital offense” is an offense for which the death penalty may be imposed if the person charged is convicted.

Statements For:

  • The amendment does not take away civil liberties, such as the right to bail, speedy trial or the presumption of innocence. Voting yes gives judges the flexibility to keep the most dangerous offenders behind bars while awaiting trial.
  • Voting Yes on this amendment will help prevent future tragedies.
  • Votingyes protects us from the most violent criminals.
  • “It balances and protects and ensures that people still have access to bail… But when they are dangerous and pose a threat the judge has to be able to have the discretion to keep them in jail.” – Gov. Chris Gregoire

Supporters: Christopher Hurst, State Representative and 25-year veteran police officer; Mike Hope, State Representative and Seattle police officer; Adam Kline, State Senator; John Lovick, Snohomish County Sheriff; Mark Lindquist, Pierce County Prosecutor; Kim Renninger, Wife of Lakewood Sgt. Mark Renninger.

Statements Against:

  • But HJR 4220 is hasty and ill-considered, unfairly allowing for the detention of individuals who may be innocent. We should not rush to change a fundamental constitutional protection—the right to be presumed innocent—in response to a single tragedy.
  • Our current system already requires judges to consider public safety, criminal activity, and flight risk in setting conditions…But this amendment goes too far… and precious dollars we desperately need to target real public safety threats.
  • Locking innocent people up without bail and without proof of their guilt is out of line with Washington’s values and doesn’t make us safer.
  • [T]here were many failures in the system that led to Clemmons being released, including information not being provided to the judge who granted release. – Seattle University law professor Bob Boruchowitz

Opponents: Robert C Boruchowitz, Professor of Law; Neil M. Fox, Attorney; Colleen Kinerk, Attorney and Mediator.

Source: Washington State Secretary of State – Online Voters Guide


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