Our state Constitution allows anyone accused of a crime to be released on bail, unless the charge is aggravated murder.
Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220 would amend our Constitution to allow judges the ability to deny bail to one other class: those who could be facing life in prison and have a proven propensity for violence.
We favor this resolution. Judges ought to have the discretion to hold known violent people charged with serious crimes.
We have had more than one case of a suspect released on bail committing a horrific crime almost before the ink is dry on the bond.
The most infamous is the slaying of four Lakewood police officers at a coffee shop last November, and this resolution is in direct response to their deaths.
Opponents to the amendment raise legitimate civil rights concerns. Any expansion of the court's ability to hold criminal defendants without bail does damage to the presumption of innocence that is every American's birthright.
But the rights of defendants must be balanced against the right to live in a secure and safe society.
ESHJR 4220 strikes the right balance. The focus is narrow enough to prevent abuses by the court, but still gives judges the power to keep violent suspects with little to lose off the streets.
The defendants still get their day in court.
The Tri-City Herald recommends voting in favor of Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220.