FARGO — North Dakota lawmakers rejected a bill to eliminate bond for most misdemeanor offenses.

On Monday, Feb. 15, the North Dakota House of Representatives voted 58-36 against House Bill 1123, which would allow North Dakota residents arrested for most misdemeanors to be released without posting bail. The proposed legislation received a 10-3 do-pass recommendation from the Judiciary Committee.

"The committee determined that the potential harm from holding someone in jail because they were unable to post a bond outweighed the risks they posed to the public for low-level crimes," Rep. Terry Jones, R-New Town, said.

Those who supported the bill argued it would have eliminated what they called an unfair aspect of the justice system that leaves the poor stuck in jail. Excluded from the bill were crimes that carried public safety concerns, such as domestic assault, driving under the influence or violating protection order offenses, Jones said.

A number of law enforcement agencies and judges are issuing court summons for misdemeanors and infractions, Jones said, adding the bill would have created uniformity. It also would conserve law enforcement resources instead of sending officers across the state to arrest someone, the Republican representative added.

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Opponents feared the bill would allow arrestees to commit crimes again once released. HB 1123 didn't take public safety and victims into consideration, Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Grand Forks, said.

“Let’s do bail reform, not bail elimination,” he said.

Vetter cited findings from law enforcement agencies who provided more courts summons to reduce crowding in jails during the coronavirus pandemic. Cass County noted increased warrants for suspects who didn't show up for court hearings.

"The findings don't support passing this legislation," Vetter said, adding warrant lists are "growing out of control."

Vetter and Jones were the only ones to speak on the bill Monday before the House voted.