When an individual is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, part of the process may include the establishment of bail. Generally speaking, bail is a set of pre-trial restrictions imposed on a suspect to ensure that he/she participates in the trial process. Typically, in this country, bail is a required payment a criminal defendant must make to be permitted to leave jail before trial. If the defendant shows up for trial, the money paid is returned; if he/she fails, then he/she forfeits the money (and may be subject to additional criminal penalties). Bail is typically negotiated by the defendant and the court, so retaining the services of a criminal defense attorney, who understands the bail procedure, is key to ensuring that bail is set at the lowest possible amount. Unfortunately, for those that cannot afford bail, they will not be permitted to leave the court before their trial. Obviously, this has a more disparate effect on those of less financial means. To alleviate having criminal defendants remain in jail for an extended period of time prior to a trial, the California Legislature recently passed a bill which will eliminate the money bail system throughout the state. A discussion of the bill currently awaiting the Governor’s signature, as well as the current bail system, will follow below.
Proposed Reform Bill
Citing the fact that a quarter of the inmates in California jails or prisons not been sentenced or even convicted of a crime, but are incarcerated because they cannot afford bail, the Legislature passed SB 10. If signed by the Governor, SB 10 would end bail, and instruct courts to adopt risk assessment algorithms to predict whether certain defendants are likely to pose a risk to public safety if they are released, and whether they are likely to show up to trial.
Further, the bill instructs courts to release nearly all misdemeanor defendants after they are booked. Defendants deemed low and medium risk could also be released, with conditions, such as probation supervision or an ankle monitor, if a judge determines additional measures necessary. Defendants deemed high risk, such as those facing violent felony charges and those with past violent felonies, would generally be held in jail until their trial.
The Current Bail System
Currently, making bail means that one pays a specified fee to the court, which is primarily determined, by each county, according to a schedule that outlines the amount of bail for each crime, and also includes any enhancing features (e.g., whether the charge is the defendant’s second offense). This schedule is extremely objective, and merely lays out the fee. That is, it does not account for either the presumption of innocence or a particular defendant’s ability to pay. As a result, the current system, as alluded to above, affects those of lesser financial means moreso than those with greater resources. Typically, one of two results would happen. First, an indigent defendant may choose to spend time waiting for his/her trial in jail, thus depriving him/her of the ability to earn money while awaiting trial. Second, that same defendant may be more likely to plead guilty to a criminal offense if it means immediate release from custody. By passing SB 10, the Legislature hopes to alleviate such defendants from having to make this choice.
Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney
If you, or a loved one, have been arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, it is absolutely crucial that you contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible. Vigorous defense of a criminal charge is a must, and combatting bail issues will ensure that you don’t spend more time than necessary in jail. The lawyers at our office will use their knowledge of criminal law to devise a strategy and present the best case for your defense. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.