Earlier this month, newly-inaugurated Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais urged state legislators to reform the state’s bail laws. He pointed out that of the 817 arrests that had been made in 2024, 306 of those arrested — 37 percent — were out on bail.

“Despite an overall reduction in crime, the failure to comprehensively address bail reform is contributing to significant challenges within Manchester,” Ruais said at the time.

On Thursday, the state Senate took a significant step toward bail reform, requiring anyone who fails to appear in court to answer for felony, class A misdemeanor, and drunk driving charges at least three times over the course of three years to face a mandatory pre-trial detention.

The Senate advanced the bill on a party-line vote, with no Democrats in support.

“This bill keeps repeated bail jumpers from avoiding our criminal justice system and helps keep felons off our streets,” said state Sen. Daryl Abbas (R-Salem). “Implementing this change to New Hampshire’s bail system benefits public safety and ensures our court systems run smoothly.”

While the bill isn’t everything he wanted, Ruais thanked the Senate for starting the bail reform process.

“The safety of our citizens is non-negotiable, and this legislation is a good step forward in the broader effort to ensure the protection of our community. But it cannot be the last,” he noted. “This cycle of arrest, release, and rearrest for serious crimes must end.”

Though the bill would only cover repeat offenders, Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) argued it might be unfairly harsh on some people who perhaps didn’t deserve to be punished.

“To be clear, there are people who fail to appear because they failed to receive the notice that they had to appear,” Soucy said. “Their requirement to appear is not something that is always orally provided in a courtroom. Perhaps it should be, but it isn’t.”

She added, “These notices are sent in English. Many people speak other languages. Many of these people who have committed offenses are unhoused, and therefore, there is no place to send the notice.

“Further punishing them when they haven’t received the notice really isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s very clear that it’s going to mean our county jails are going to fill up far more quickly,” Soucy claimed.

She also criticized the legislation for not being more comprehensive.

“I look forward to working on the bills that are coming back to us that will deal with bail reform in a more holistic way,” Soucy added. “To be clear, there are people who fail to appear because they failed to receive the notice that they had to appear.

Sen. Keith Murphy (R-Manchester) later posed the following question to Majority Leader Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry):

“If a defendant does not appear three times in three years, do you believe it’s reasonable to believe that person is very unlikely to show a fourth time?”

“Yes,” Carson answered.

Carson also pointed out that the bill does not take away the option for defendants to post bail.

“It simply creates a rebuttable presumption that if someone has failed to appear numerous times, they’re likely to do it again,” she said. “This bill is a preventative step we must take to ensure the safety of all Granite Staters.”

The proposal now advances to a third reading.