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Bill would eliminate bail and arrest warrants for 'low level' offenses

A Legislative committee is looking at a bill to eliminate bails and arrest warrants for “low level” offenders – those who commit Class C felonies or misdemeanors.

Bail would be replaced with "personal recognizance," and arrest warrants with summons.

Supporters of the bill say some of the people who are accused of those lower level crimes often can’t come up with the money to post bail – and therefore have to sit in jail.

"I have seen people plead guilty, simply to get out of jail," North Dakota Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents executive director Travis Fink told the House Judiciary Committee. "That should shake very single person to their core. No one should plead guilty because they don't have the money to post cash bail."

But representatives of law enforcement told the Committee they worry that if there is no bail, people will skip out of appearing in court, and flee across state lines.

"Remember, this person made the decision to break the law," Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner told the Committee. "They need to be held accountable, initially."

Jahner said we need to start looking out for victims.

"That piece has been forgotten in this whole thing," Jahner said.

The Committee did not take immediate action on the bill. Jahner and Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said they would be willing to sit down with the sponsors of the bill and work on compromise language.

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