Lawmakers blast lack of bail after arrest following high speed pursuit in Thurston County
A state representative says the decision to release a suspected car thief without setting bail following an initial court appearance is part of a “growing problem that sends a clear message to criminals that their actions have no consequences and Washington will not hold them accountable.”
“If we don't change that message soon, our families will become more at risk than they already are,” Rep. Travis Couture, R-Allyn, said in a news release Monday morning.
Couture and fellow 35th District representative Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, criticized the decision of a Thurston County Superior Court judge who released the 18-year-old driver. The teen was booked for eluding police, possession of a stolen vehicle, unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge following an Aug. 16 pursuit and crash.
According to a video of the incident released by the Thurston County Sheriff's Office, a deputy chased after a blue sedan at a high rate of speed down several residential roads before the vehicle crashed.
According to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, the 18-year-old suspect spent approximately 21 hours in custody before being released.
"If you break the law in Washington state, you must be held accountable — it's that simple," Griffey said in a statement Monday. "Without that, the bad actors have no reason to stop committing crimes. Beyond that, it attracts new criminals to our state."
At his initial court appearance, prosecutors requested $10,000 bail. In Washington, suspects have a presumption of release unless a court finds the person is a risk of committing a future violent crime, not returning to court or disrupting the administration of justice.
"The judge in this case noted the suspect posed a substantial risk of committing a violent crime. That should have been enough to require some bail," Griffey said. "How this judge and so many others in our state continually release suspects who pose a threat to the public without bail is a mystery to me. We must do better if we ever want to turn things around in Washington and make our communities safe."
Both lawmakers praised the efforts of the law enforcement officers involved.
"From the textbook pursuit and PIT maneuver by Sergeant Chatterton to Sheriff Sanders' safe apprehension of the suspects hiding in the Honey Bucket, law enforcement carried out this operation in a professional manner from start to finish," Couture said.
"I thank them for their professional actions as they sought justice and maintained public safety."