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Money BailLast year, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 10; the legislation aims to do away with cash bail in favor of judges’ discretion. At the end of August, Governor Jerry Brown signed the SB 10, hereby abolishing money bail, according to The Washington Post. California once again leads the way regarding criminal justice reform, Gov. Brown’s endorsement makes the Golden State the first in the nation to end the controversial practice.

Earlier this summer, we shed some light on the practice of cash bail, and how it keeps the poorest of Americans in jail awaiting trial – not because they put public safety at risk – because they can’t afford bail. Approximately 90 percent of people detained pretrial are locked up because they can’t cover the cost of the bond, according to a report from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. When individuals are locked up for not being able to afford bail, they risk losing their job, neglecting their financial responsibilities, and losing their children.

“A person’s checking account balance should never determine how they are treated under the law,” California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement. “Cash bail criminalizes poverty, and with Gov. Brown’s signature today, California has opened the door to pursue and perfect a just pretrial system.” 

Pretrial Risk Assessment

Some Californians are likely to wonder what happens now when one is arrested for a misdemeanor or felony? Naturally, each case will be handled differently, but getting out of jail before pretrial will hinge on Pretrial Assessment Services and at the decision to release a person on their own recognizance will ultimately fall on the judge presiding over the hearings.

While the abolition of money bail is stepping in the right direction concerning equality, some last-minute changes to the legislation before Gov. Brown inked his name now has criminal justice reform groups at odds with the bill, the article reports. Organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Corps and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, have concerns that the amended measure may likely lead to a jump in pretrial incarceration owing to judges’ generous discretion in determining who jeopardize public safety or may go on the run upon release.

Starting October 2019, people charged with certain misdemeanors no longer have to appear before a judge and will be released within 12 hours. In other instances, those facing charges are subject to a “risk assessment,” to determine if they are “high risk.” Criminal justice reform advocates fear how a judge will decide who fits the bill. And, what subjective criteria or bias might a presiding judge harbor that could factor into their decision to deem someone as high risk and not eligible for release.

“Unfortunately, this amended version of [Senate Bill 10] is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that the ACLU of California envisioned,” the ACLU of California’s three executive directors in northern and southern California and San Diego said in a joint statement. “We oppose the bill because it seeks to replace the current deeply-flawed system with an overly broad presumption of preventive detention.”

California Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in California can benefit from Attorney Ronald Brower’s decades-long experience. Please reach out to us to learn how can advocate for you or a family member, and achieve the best possible outcome given the circumstances of the case.

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