Bail Reforms California 2018

Bail is a ubiquitous part of the American justice system. Bonds and bail bondsmen have become prominent industries that cater to individuals who cannot afford bail. However, Senate Bill 10 in the California Senate is seeking to make major changes to the way bail is calculated. These legal changes, if fully enacted in the form they have been proposed, could considerably change the income stream for bail bondsmen in the state.

The traditional bail system

The cash bail system currently in effect in California is similar to the traditional bail system in other states across the country. When an individual is arrested, they are brought before a judge who arraigns them and performs a pretrial risk assessment. The judge determines whether or not they will have to post bail and what the amount will be. In order to calculate bail, a judge determines the severity of a crime and the possibility that an individual will try to flee and jump bail. The bail is then set and an individual has until their trial date to cover it. In many cases, the bail is much too high for an individual to pay outright. They then enlist the help of a bail bondsmen. These individuals pay the bail bondsman a fee and then he or she covers the rest of the bail in order to help an individual get out of jail pending trial.

The California changes

California has decided to introduce a new system to help change the way that cash bail is calculated. Current California’s bail system of calculating bail leaves a considerable amount of discretion to judges when determining amounts. Almost no controlling or countervailing mechanism exists to ensure that cash bail is distributed and granted fairly. As a result, critics argue that the cash bail system in California is backward and racially unfair. California bail reforms 2018 hope to change that situation by modernizing pretrial practices. These reforms call for a new pretrial services agency that looks at cases of bail along with judges.

The pretrial services agency will issue recommendations and guidelines about when bail should be granted, pretrial risk assessment, and pretrial release terms and conditions. In most cases, the pretrial services agency will attempt to formulate a way for the release of arrested person pending trial under strict pretrial release terms and conditions. In order for an individual to be held pending the posting of bail and not release of the arrested person, a prosecutor or judge must present a legal argument and a pretrial risk assessment for why such detention is necessary. The defendant would then pay a percentage of the bail sum and be released under this effort of modernizing pretrial practices. A California Court of Appeal ruling could review bail decisions and point out certain decisions as pushing for excessive bail.

The effect on bail bondsmen

The effect on bail bondsmen of Senate bill 10 and associated California money bail reform may be considerable. They will not have to be subject to the regulations of this bill since California money bail reform regulations are put into effect before bail is even determined. However, the bill is designed to considerably reduce the amounts of bail that individuals pay for the California Court of Appeal cases or otherwise. Reducing bail means more pretrial release and reducing the number of people who need to pay fees for bail bondsmen. Fewer individuals held on bail means fewer customers and much less revenue for bail bondsmen. There is a chance that some bail bondsmen will go out of business. A handful will still exist in a weakened state to handle the serious offenders and flight risks who are routinely arrested in a large state like California and not subject to pretrial release. However, there is still the real possibility that a considerable percentage of the state’s bail bondsmen would have to shutter their doors if this bill passes.


Bail bondsmen in California need to watch the activity of the California Senate with alarm. The bail reform bill there may fail or be changed substantially. There is no guarantee as to how the new system will work and if it will substantially reduce the number of individuals who will require bail under California’s bail system. But if the bill is enacted and works as it is intended, there is a considerable chance that bail and the industries that support it could change permanently in the state.