The escalating pandemic is having a dramatic impact on everyone’s life. We are mourning the losses of more than 30,000 Americans, and over nearly 700,000 people have tested positive in the United States.
In previous blog posts, we discussed how the COVID-19 public health crisis had impacted the criminal justice system in California. Superior courthouses are shuttered, and only the most “essential and emergency” functions are taking place. It isn’t safe for jurors, attorneys, and defendants to be in close proximity. Social distancing guidelines are of the utmost importance.
We also shared with you that people who violate “stay at home” orders or enter public spaces like beaches face the risk of arrest and financial penalties. A handful of arrests have taken place, and some Californians have been fined.
Other changes to the criminal justice system are afoot too regarding juvenile justice and a topic we have discussed before—money bail. Due to fears of the coronavirus spreading through jails, the California Judicial Council took action to deter overcrowding.
Zero Dollar Bail for Low-Level Offenders
The money bail system is a hot-button topic in California. Last year, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 10, which was supposed to go into effect in October 2019. The measure did away with cash bail and gave judges the authority to decide who would be released during pretrial.
You might remember that groups against SB 10 got enough signatures to qualify for a referendum. Now, voters will decide the fate of money bail at the polls this November 2020. Time will tell the future of the legislation.
November is still a long way away, but money bail is back in the news. The California Judicial Council – the policymaker for the state’s Superior Court system – voted to set bail for all misdemeanors and low-level felonies at “zero dollars,” The Orange County Register reports. The mandate will not apply to violent offenders. California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who chairs the council, said:
“We are at this point truly with no guidance in history, law or precedent. And to say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation. Working with our court stakeholders, I’m confident we can preserve the rule of law and protect the rights of victims, the accused, litigants, families and children, and all who seek justice.”
The council’s action was one of several taken this month, including:
- Allowing local courts to set up remote hearings via teleconference technology.
- Attorneys can appear on behalf of defendants in pretrial hearings.
- Extending the statute of limitations for civil proceedings.
- New rules for prioritizing juvenile proceedings.
- Allowing electronic depositions in civil cases.
- Extending time frames for certain temporary restraining orders.
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
Please reach out to Attorney Ronald Brower if you are facing legal challenges. The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can advocate for you and your family, and help you achieve the best possible outcome.