Changes to California Bail System & What It Means
As you may have heard, California is about to undergo a huge change in the bail system. First, let’s review some of the current system before getting into the changes.
It is possible to as the court for a bail reduction. Keep in mind that a large majority of misdemeanors actually come from felony arrests. If a case gets filed as a misdemeanor, even after a felony arrest, there’s a good chance at bail reduction.
“Bail” is money that the court requires you to pay, in order to assure that you will appear in court. You post bail by either paying the total amount in cash or, more commonly, through a bail bond.
You can obtain a bail bond through a bail bondsman (or bail agent). Bail bondsmen agree to post your bail in exchange for a maximum of 10% of the total bail amount. This 10% that you pay is a nonrefundable fee; think of it as interest paid on a short term loan.
Do all defendants have a right to bail?
The option does not exist when a defendant is charged with a capital crime, such as homicide; a felony involving violence or sex; if the judge decides the person’s release would result in great bodily harm to someone; or when the defendant has threatened someone.
How does the new law change bail?
The new law eliminates the cash-payment bail system and replaces it with a “risk-based” pretrial analysis that will be conducted locally. Counties will establish local agencies to evaluate individuals arrested on felony charges for the person’s likelihood of voluntarily returning for court hearings and their chances of re-arrest.
A person whose risk to public safety and risk of fleeing is determined to be “low” would be released with the least restrictive non-monetary conditions possible. Those conditions are not specified in the law and are up to the court’s discretion, but the conditions may include a monitor attached to a defendant’s ankle or required check-ins with authorities between hearings.
“High-risk” individuals would remain in custody until their arraignment, as would anyone who has committed particular sex crimes or violent felonies; is arrested for driving under the influence for the third time in less than 10 years; is already under supervision by the courts; or has violated any conditions of pretrial release in the previous five years.
The new law also makes available a new process for prosecutors to file for “preventive detention,” blocking release pending trial, if they believe no conditions would ensure public safety or the defendant’s appearance in court.
The new California law takes effect in October 2019.
How is the risk assessment determined?
The assessment protocols will be developed by the California Judicial Council. The counties will conduct the evaluations, through the courts or another public agency.
Why was this done?
Supporters of the new law contend the current cash bail system is “unsafe and unfair” because release decisions are made based on a person’s bank account, not on public safety or whether the person is a flight risk.
If you or a loved one are facing charges and need to understand more about how the bail system, both old and new works, please contact the Law Offices of Sara D. Bratsch, today!