California Eliminates Bail For Majority Of Suspects Awaiting Trial

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Tuesday which will eliminate bail for suspects arrested on all but the most violent felonies, reports the Sacramento Bee. Eligible suspects will be let go within 12 hours of booking, according to the new legislation, which can be extended another 12 hours if officials need more time to determine whether suspects should be held for other reasons. 

The passage of Senate Bill 10, which takes effect in October 2019, makes California the first state in the nation to remove the financial burden from pretrial release. 

“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Brown said in a statement.

Under Senate Bill 10, California will replace bail with “risk assessments” of individuals and non-monetary conditions of release. Counties will establish local agencies to evaluate any individual arrested on felony charges for their likelihood of returning for court hearings and their chances of re-arrest. -Sacramento Bee

Anyone who is considered a low risk to public safety will be released with the least restrictive non-monetary conditions applied. "Medium-risk" individuals can be held or released depending on local standards, while "High-risk" detainees would remain in custody until their arraignment - along with anyone who has previously committed certain sex crimes or violent felonies. Also exempt from the new no-bail law will be anyone arrested for a DUI for the third time in a decade, anyone already under supervision by the court system, and anyone who has violated court-mandated conditions of a pretrial release in the previous five years. 

Advocates of abolishing bail contend that too many Californians remain stuck in custody because they cannot afford to bail out, effectively creating an unequal system of justice based on wealth. Counties currently determine their own bail schedule by crime, and offenders can secure their release by paying the entire amount, to be returned at the conclusion of their case, or applying for a surety bond through companies that charge a 10 percent fee. -Sacramento Bee

The essence of this measure is we’re going to look at people as people,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who is carrying the bill (SacBee).