Missouri lawmakers look to overturn state Supreme Court's bail rules

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Laclede Couty Sheriff David Millsap's deputies have been busy serving more than 1,100 warrants in the last eight months.

"690 people have failed to appear on their warrants after they've been issued," Millsap told the Missouri House Judiciary Committee Tuesday night.

That means his deputies are spending more time trying to track people down. It's something his officers didn't have to do before.

"I don't have the operation manpower to go out chasing people down that should have probably stayed in jail," Millsap added.

He's not the only sheriff who's having a hard time keeping people who should be in jail, from easily being back on the streets.

"We've arrested one in the morning, and arrested him later on in the afternoon. Same offense," said Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham.

Sheriffs say it's all because judges must now consider bond options that don't involve money first.

Missouri's Supreme Court ruled in 2019 many people can't afford bail for low level offenses, and could lose their jobs waiting for trial.

Bail bondsmen like Janet Garms feel they're making the situation a little better.

"We help people in that we care," Garms told the committee.

One of Garms' clients, Molly Lake, was in and out of jail for relatively minor crimes. She says Garms helped her get her life back on track.

"I'd probably still be in and out of county jail," Lake told the committee.

More than 80 Missouri lawmakers are pushing to repeal the Supreme Court's ruling.

Republican Representative Justin Hill of Kirkwood filed the bill.

"I'm for criminal reform," Hill said. "However, we've gone too far, or the court has gone too far. I want to repeal these rules, and have this discussion."

Others, including St. Louis County Democrat Gina Mitten, don't want to see the new rules go anywhere. Her county's courts developed a form that allows a judge to explain their bail decision.

"It doesn't say you can't do it. It doesn't say you can't do it anywhere," Mitten said of the ruling. "All it says is if you're going to do it, you need to let us know why."

The House Judiciary committee has not voted on the bill, but it is expected to make it to the House floor for debate.