Standing alongside Chief Brian Kyes, Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday re-filed legislation to provide law enforcement and the courts with additional tools to ensure dangerous criminals are held in custody pending trial.
First filed on September 6, 2018, the
proposal would expand the list of offenses that can provide grounds for a
dangerousness hearing and close certain loopholes at the start and end of the
criminal process that currently limit or prevent effective action to address
legitimate safety concerns. Governor Baker made the announcement in Everett at
the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association Meeting, an
Association Chief Kyes is the leader of.
“Public safety is a fundamental
responsibility of government and in order to fulfill that duty, we must allow
local police and district attorneys to effectively deal with people who
repeatedly break the law,” said Governor Baker. “Last session we enacted
several provisions to ensure that a small lapse in judgment doesn’t ruin a
life, and we must now give law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts the
tools they need to keep our communities safe. We look forward to working with
the Legislature to pass this important bill.”
The proposal will strengthen the ability of
judges to enforce the conditions of pre-trial release by empowering police to
detain people who they observe violating court-ordered release conditions;
current law does not allow this, and instead requires a court to first issue a
“Loopholes in the current system limit or
prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns,” said
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “This bill will empower law enforcement with
the flexibility and tools they need to protect their communities from dangerous
Under this proposal, judges will be
empowered to revoke a person’s release when the offender has violated a
court-ordered condition, such as an order to stay away from a victim, or from a
public playground. Current law requires an additional finding of dangerousness
before release may be revoked.
“A defendant’s past criminal history should
absolutely be considered as a factor at any such dangerousness hearing rather
than just the alleged crime that is currently before the court,” said
Kyes, Chelsea Police Chief and President of the Massachusetts Major City
Chiefs. “It is essential that in conducting a proper risk analysis in
order to determine whether the defendant is to be considered a potential danger
to any victim, witness or to the public in general, that their past criminal
history – especially as it pertains to previous convictions for violent crimes
– is considered and weighed based on its relevancy pertaining to a demonstrated
propensity to commit violence. This bill will rectify the existing gap that
currently occurs during a dangerousness hearing.”
The legislation also expands the list of
offenses which can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing including crimes
of sexual abuse and crimes of threatened or potential violence. It also follows
the long-standing federal model in including a defendant’s history of serious
Current law requires courts to focus only on the crime charged and ignore a
defendant’s criminal history when determining whether the defendant may be the
subject of this sort of hearing.
Additional provisions of this legislation:
•Improves the system for notifying victims
of crimes of abuse and other dangerous crimes when a defendant is going to be
released by creating clear lines of responsibility among police, prosecutors
and corrections personnel to notify victims about an offender’s imminent
release from custody, and create a six-hour window for authorities to inform a
victim before an offender is allowed to be released.
•Creates a new felony offense for cutting
off a court-ordered GPS device.
•Requires that the courts develop a text
message service to remind defendants of upcoming court dates, reducing the
chance they will forget and have a warrant issued for their arrest.
•Allows dangerousness hearings at any point
during a criminal proceeding, rather than requiring a prosecutor to either seek
a hearing immediately or forfeit that ability entirely, even if circumstances
later arise indicating that the defendant poses a serious risk to the
•Requires that the probation department,
bail commissioners and bail magistrates notify authorities who can take
remedial action when a person who is on pre-trial release commits a new offense
anywhere in the Commonwealth or elsewhere.
•Creates a level playing field for appeals
of district court release decisions to the superior court by allowing appeals
by prosecutors, in addition to defendants, and giving more deference to
determinations made in the first instance by our district court judges.
•Creates a task force to recommend adding
information to criminal records so that prosecutors and judges can make more
informed recommendations and decisions about conditions of release and possible
detention on grounds of dangerousness.
also closes loopholes at the start and end of the criminal process that
currently limit or prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns.
It extends the requirement that police take the fingerprints of people arrested
for felonies to all people arrested, regardless of the charge, to ensure that
decisions about release can be made with knowledge of a person’s true identity
and full criminal history. It also allows, for the first time, bail
commissioners and bail magistrates to consider dangerousness in deciding
whether to release an arrestee from a police station when court is out of