California to Consider Statewide Bail Reform Measures

Sign that reads bail bonds

For many individuals currently locked up in jail in California, it isn’t proof of guilt that’s keeping them behind bars; it’s an inability to make bail. In recent years, a number of states have begun to reform their bail systems so that arrestees facing trial don’t spend months behind bars simply because they can’t afford the exorbitant price of bail to buy their freedom. California lawmakers are now discussing potential changes to the state’s laws on bail, and Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated that he would be in favor of bail reform.

Bail reform on hold, but not forever

During the most recent legislative session, California lawmakers introduced bills that would change how California allows its arrestees to make bail. Two state representatives introduced measures in the state legislature and senate that would use “pretrial assessments” in determining whether a suspect was a danger to their community or flight risk, rather than mandating that all arrestees pay bail in order to be released. While the measure passed the state senate, it failed to receive the votes needed to pass in the assembly.

That said, the effort to change how California operates its bail system is not dead. Both Gov. Brown and California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye have come out in favor of bail reform. The governor has agreed to meet with lawmakers in favor of California bail reform to create a substitute bill with a higher likelihood of passing, which lawmakers will consider in early 2018.

Many serving time are never charged or convicted

About 60%, or 50,000 individuals, of the state’s county jail population consists of those awaiting trial or sentencing. A large portion of this population would not be in jail if they had the money for bail. A third of all individuals charged with a felony are not convicted of one, according to California’s Attorney General’s office. Many people are jailed for hours or days without being charged with a crime at all, and they would not have done that time had they been able to make bail. Studies show that, for the average California arrestee, bail is set at $50,000. For inmates who cannot pay the entire $50,000 (which would be refunded), they would need to pay $5,000 (or 10% of the bail amount set by the judge) to a bail agent. That fee is not refundable.

If you’ve been arrested in Southern California, ensure that you spend as little time as possible behind bars by contacting the effective and aggressive Ventura criminal defense attorney Paul Tyler for a consultation, at 805-889-9000.

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