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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Money Bail Legislation Passes First Hurdle

money bail
In February 2017, we covered a story that was of particle importance to a number of Californians, especially those kept behind bars because that cannot afford bail. We felt it vital to follow up on a piece of legislation which seeks to end money bail throughout the state, as it could affect both current and future clients; proponents of the bill claim that bail disproportionately affects poor people. If you have financial means and commit a crime you can go home, if you are on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale you must stay in jail, until a verdict is reached.

It is no secret that jail is not a place that anyone wishes to be. While one could argue that people breaking the law, who can’t afford bail, made their own bed and must now sleep in it. However, the reality is that most people are not flight risks and the longer they stay in jail the greater the risk of getting into more trouble. It is not uncommon for people to be sent to jail for one thing, only to pick up additional charges while awaiting trial. What’s more, such people who lack the means to pay bail will likely lose their job while behind bars for an indefinite amount of time. Offenders also have families to consider.

As we mentioned a couple months back, Senator Bob Hertzberg and Assemblyman Rob Bonta introduced legislation in their respective Senate and Assembly, that would allow most offenders (except for the most severe felonies) the ability to await trial from home. Last week, Senate Bill 10 passed a Senate Public Safety Committee 5-1, East Bay Times reports. A significant step to passing the legislation that could result in a ticket home for thousands of nonviolent offenders awaiting or on trial.

“Somebody is arrested, and because they don’t have a few bucks to get out of jail, they’re sitting in jail,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys. “That is not justice. That is not what this country is about.” 

Instead of a judge setting bail, the legislation calls for “pretrial assessments” to decide if a defendant is a flight risk or is a safety threat, according to the article. The bill will affect communities and individual taxpayers as well. Keeping someone in jail costs taxpayers about $100 dollars per diem, and a study from the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School found that low-risk defendants are more likely to break the law again after release from jail, compared to those set free within 24 hours of being arrested.

At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we will continue to follow the future of money bail in California. It is worth noting that California is not alone in efforts to amend the institution of money bail, seven other states are considering reforms.

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