Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Thomas Garcia
Staff writer 

Officials uneasy with bonding changes

Release of potentially dangerous suspects poses problems


Thomas Garcia

The Sally Port on the south side of the Quay County Detention Center remains open Monday morning after an inmate was brought in for booking. Under the new bond law the inmate could be released before an arraignment hearing.

Local courts and the local district attorney have concerns regarding changes to statewide bonding procedures, which now allow certain defendants to be released without bail.

"How can we keep the truly dangerous criminals in jail," Tim Rose, 10th Judicial District Attorney, asked of the procedures, which took effect July 1.

Rose said the new constitutional amendment was well-intended, driven by a thought that dangerous criminals should remain in jail and people who are not a threat should not remain in jail simply because they are poor.

One of the main issues with this new system, Rose said, is a suspect who might be dangerous can be released on bond before the D.A.'s office even sees the case.

Rose said with the new regulations, a person without a record who isn't considered a flight risk could be released on an unsecured or own recognizance bond. He said in non-felony cases the defendant could be released on the same day as their arrest, and notes that assault charges don't always reach the felony level.

Timothy O'Quinn, Quay County Magistrate Judge, said an issue for a rural area is the lack of a public defender's office.

O'Quinn said the requirements state that if the defendant does not have counsel at the initial release conditions hearing and is not ordered to be released at the hearing, the matter shall be continued no longer than three additional days for a further hearing to review conditions of release, at which the defendant shall have the right to assistance of retained or appointed counsel.

O'Quinn said if the court cannot accommodate requirements for the hearing then the defendant could be released on an unsecured bond - even in felony cases where the defendant has a prior record.

Rose said plenty of work is needed to comply with the system in a way that protects the public and victims.

"I want to work with local law enforcement officers, to train them to contact the D.A.'s office when they arrest a potentially dangerous defendant," Rose said. "This would allow our office to learn of the case immediately and file a motion if needed to prevent this defendant's release."

O'Quinn said defendants with records of failure to comply with conditions of release or failure to appear could be held without bond for additional time until their hearing.

He said the court appoint a designee in the Quay County Detention Center who could release a defendant on a own recognizance bond provided the defendant

n Has been arrested on a misdemeanor charge

n Is not known to be on probation or parole, or on release pending a trial

n Has no history of arrest in the past 90 days.

O'Quinn said there are misdemeanor offenses that the designee can not release on a own recognizance bond including battery, assault of a household member and criminal sexual contact.


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