5 Major Things about California’s New Bail Reform Law

201903.18

5 Major Things about California's New Bail Reform LawSenate Bill 10 California, the state’s new bail reform law, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on August 21, 2018. SB 10 was drafted for the elimination of cash bail system, citing racial and socioeconomic biases in the current cash-based bail system.

There are five fundamental facts about the existing system and the system that may replace it.

1. Senate bill 10 California would replace monetary bail with risk-based pretrial analysis

The new system proposes to replace monetary bail with risk-based pretrial analysis. Instead of posting bail or a bond, people charged with felony crimes would undergo a risk-assessment system designed to determine defendants’ likelihood of attending all court proceedings and the risk they pose to the community. With a few exceptions, only felony crimes would qualify a defendant for the assessment; most people arrested for misdemeanor offenses would be released within 12 hours. This risk-assessment system would consider factors like age, number of arrests and a defendant s criminal history

2. The California Judicial Council has halted the bill

Although the bill was signed into law, it was not set to go into effect until October 2019. The bill is controversial and faces widespread opposition and criticism. In January 2019, a successful referendum delayed the enactment of the law. Instead of being enacted as scheduled, the California Judicial Council placed the issue of bail reform on the 2020 ballot, marking a huge victory for the state’s 3,000 bail bonds businesses and the more than 7,000 people employed by them. The referendum will keep the cash-based bail system alive in California for at least another year.

3. The current bail system is relatively uniform in the United States

This is not a case of a state passing a measure to keep up with the rest of the country. So far, only Alaska and New Jersey have enacted similar legislation. Under the current system, people arrested and charged with crimes are either released on their own recognizance, assigned a monetary bail to ensure their court appearances or denied bail and kept in custody until their cases are resolved.

In cases where a monetary bail is assigned, defendants have two options: They can either scrape up the entire bail amount or enlist the services of a bail bonds agent. Because bail amounts are usually thousands of dollars, the option of paying the entire amount is often impractical or impossible. When going through a bail bonds agency, defendants need only come up with 10 percent of the bail amount along with a small fee, which is usually around $50 to $100. After the defendant pays the bonds agency, the agency secures a bond for the entire amount and gives it to the jail.

4. Senate Bill 10 is losing steam

After the successful referendum, many previous supporters of the new law are backpedaling. Among these deserters, the most noteworthy are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Human Rights Watch. Both organizations have been advocating for bail reform in California for years, but now neither believes this bill is the answer. Starting as a controversial bill and losing some major supporters, SB 10 could be dead on arrival when it hits the floor next year.

5. Opponents are citing two key arguments against the Elimination of cash bail system

Consisting largely of persons tied to the bail bonds industry, opponents of SB10 are urging people to vote the law down in 2020. SB 10, they contend, has no funding allotted to run the proposed risk-based assessments. Additionally, they argue that without monetary incentive, the rate of defendants failing to appear in court will rise dramatically, which will cost the state substantially, pose a threat to California’s communities and slow down its courts.

SB 10 was passed to eliminate cash bail and support equality by basing bail on risk factors like a defendant s criminal history is not going forward as planned, and with its major proponents already jumping ship, it is likely to lose the support it needs long before it goes to a vote. People earning a living in the bail industry oppose the bill for obvious reasons, and supporters of bail reform worry that SB 10 may actually make problems worse.