Calif. Senate approves bill to end cash bail, sends it to governor
The bill was largely opposed by Republicans, the bail industry and some law enforcement groups
By Melody Gutierrez
San Francisco Chronicle
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown praised lawmakers for sending him a bill Tuesday that removes money as a determining factor when considering whether a defendant should be released from jail while awaiting trial.
The long-sought bill by criminal justice reform groups would eliminate money bail — and the bail bond industry behind it. It passed its final legislative hurdle Tuesday in a 26-12 vote in the Senate, despite many approving lawmakers saying the bill lacks safeguards to ensure biases that already exist in the court system don’t permeate any newly created pretrial assessments.
“The Legislature took an important step forward in reducing the inequities that have long plagued California’s bail system,” Brown said in a statement.
Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the bill.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, author of the bill, pushed for lawmakers to approve SB10, saying the current money-based system is worse. He pledged to fix any issues with the bill in subsequent legislation.
“You get arrested by an officer; if you got the money in your bank account or the credit to be able to post, you are out,” Hertzberg said. “There is no diagnostic as to whether you are a safety risk. Write a check, get out.”
SB10 would create a new system that, beginning in 2020, would base the decision to release a defendant before their trial on a person’s risk to the community. Supporters say the shift will ensure that low-income people with misdemeanor offenses are released from jails while those accused of violent crimes are not released, even if they have money for bail.
SB10 garnered the bare minimum support to pass the Assembly in a 41-27 vote Monday, the same day criminal justice reform groups that had been allies in pushing for the legislation pulled their support and lobbied against it. Those groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, said changes last week to the bill gave too much power to county courts that would only exacerbate “racial biases and disparities that permeate our justice system.”
Under SB10, a person accused of a nonviolent misdemeanor would be released from jail within 12 hours after being booked, with some exceptions. People with recent serious or violent felony convictions, multiple failures to appear or allegations involving domestic violence would not qualify. For all other cases, local courts would decide how to assess who is at a low, moderate or high risk of reoffending or fleeing when determining whether someone should be released after an arrest. Conditions like ankle monitors could be required for a person’s release, as long as the defendant is not required to pay for it.
The bill was largely opposed by Republicans, the bail industry and some law enforcement groups.
“This isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s a stay-out-of-jail card,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber (Tehama County). “There is no doubt that many of these tens of thousands of individuals have indeed committed a crime, victimized the constituents that we represent. How about thinking about them instead of the criminals who have done a crime or alleged to have done a crime?”
David Quintana, a lobbyist for the California Bail Agents Association, said if the bill is signed by Brown, the loss of the bail industry will cut 7,000 jobs from the private sector.
“The bail industry has been working hard for generations for crime victims by ensuring that the accused report back to court to answer for their crimes,” Quintana said.