Senate Committee Modifies Misdemeanor Arrest Bill

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(Host) The Senate late Tuesday afternoon gave its approval to legislation that expands the number of crimes that an individual can be arrested for without a warrant. But the bill does not go nearly as far as a proposal passed by the House several months ago.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Currently police officers can only make an arrest without a warrant in felony cases where the officer can demonstrate probable cause. The House bill extends this policy to most misdemeanors but members of the Senate Judiciary Committee felt this plan could lead to individuals being arrested for relatively minor offenses.

The Senate bill limits the scope of the plan to misdemeanors that are associated with violent behavior or are violations of abuse orders. Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears:

(Sears) "If it’s an issue of civil liberties and it’s a relatively minor crime, a minor misdemeanor that does not involve physical violence, then let’s err on the side of civil liberties. That’s what this bill does. It’s passage will serve Vermonters well."

(Kinzel) The measure now goes back to the House for its consideration. If House members do not accept the changes made by the Senate, a conference committee will be appointed to work on a compromise.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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