CARTHAGE — Village Police Chief Reginald Huber said his department has arrested people shortly after they were released for a separate case, but a woman who was recently arrested for the third time in six weeks for allegedly driving while impaired is the first example where lives were at risk.
The case is a prime example why he has many problems with current bail reform laws, Mr. Huber said.
On Monday, Chelsea Frost, 28, was arrested in the village and charged with several counts, including fleeing from police. But the count of driving while under the influence marks the third time she has been charged with it in six weeks as she continues to be released after being arrested.
“My main concern is that it seems like we’re rolling the dice every time,” Mr. Huber said. “I don’t think she is going to stop. She has been given no reason to stop. She’s going to continue to drive and every time she goes out there, who knows if the next time is the time she runs somebody over or slams into anybody.”
Mr. Huber said it’s just how the law is written, and he thinks it needs to be addressed. He said of course he would like to see defendants in front of a judge sooner, but even then there’s not much that can be done as the judge would likely release them for some period of time before their next court appearance.
“We don’t set court dates out four months,” he said. “We set it as soon as possible, but at the same time, even if we got her into court in three days, the judge still could do nothing.”
But above all, he said this case is different when it comes to public safety.
“We’ve definitely seen where we’re arresting people and they are just immediately released and then we’re arresting them again,” he said. “This isn’t the first time we have done this deal.
“This is the first time where somebody’s life is in danger because we’re releasing them like this,” he added.
John Hallett, a Jefferson County defense attorney and bail reform supporter, said the commission that wrote the statute was aware situations like this would pop up from time to time. That’s why the commission set terms and conditions of a release called probationary release, he said, meaning a judge could actually put a defendant into rehabilitation, revoke their driver’s license or order them to take drug and alcohol classes. If a defendant were to violate those orders, then they would be eligible to be placed in jail, he said.
“I’ve said for a long time that Jefferson County doesn’t have a crime problem,” he said. “It has a mental health and substance abuse problem. Deal with those issues and then see the crime statistics drop.”
Chief Huber noted Ms. Frost does not have a driver’s license, yet continued to drive.