USA Today

Officials Weigh Consequences of Bill Eliminating Bail for Suspects Awaiting Trial

August 29, 2018 - 9:00 am

(KNX 1070) - Cash bail will be no more from October next year.

That's because the Governor has signed into law a bill scrapping bail in favor of a system of risk assessment that will decide if suspects should be released from jail.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell tells KNX he worries about the law's unintended consequences:

The head of the California Association of Public Defenders, Robin Lipetzky, agrees with the Sheriff that changes may be needed.  She is concerned about the broad discretion of judges provided by the new law.

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will eliminate bail for suspects awaiting trial in California.  Payment of money is no longer a condition of release under the new law.  Instead, it'll be up to judges to determine a defendant's flight risk and threat to public safety.

The idea behind the Senate bill is that the system of posting money for bail discriminates against the poor. 

It will be up to each county to use the framework -- designed by a state Judicial Council -- to set its own procedures to decide who gets bail and who doesn't.

Supporters say the change will end the unfair practice of imprisoning people simply because they are poor.  Opponents worry that dangerous people will go free and won't return for trial.

The law goes into effect in October of 2019.

The bill's author is Van Nuys Democrat Bob Hertzberg who says it's a historic reform:

He says those arrested for violent crimes would not be let out of jail ahead of their trials. Under this new law co-authored by Hertzberg, which takes effect next fall, putting up money would no longer be required.

But Republican Jim Nielsen says he thinks the new system is too easy on defendants:

It's estimated around 3,000 jobs in the bail industry will be lost because of the reform.

Organizations that once stood behind the proposed legislation, including the ACLU, are no longer supporting it. Those opposed to the changes are troubled that it would allow for ‘preventive detention’ which prosecutors could argue to keep someone arrested in custody pretrial.

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