If a person is unfortunate enough to be arrested, getting out of police custody is usually the primary concern. As long as that individual is incarcerated, his/life is in limbo with limited opportunities to communicate with a criminal defense attorney and family, which hinders the person’s ability to build a strong defense against the charges. Over 63 percent of inmates in California jails have not been formally convicted and sentenced, and instead remain in jail as they wait for arraignment, trial or sentencing. This translates to thousands of men and women languishing for months, if not years, before they get their day in court and learn their fate. California’s overpopulated jails and prisons are a well-known problem, and lawmakers have tried in recent years to reduce those numbers through laws that adjusted the sentencing structure for certain offenses, among other things. The most recent attempt by the state assembly to address overcrowding issues focuses on reducing the number of accused being held in jail until their trial date. Basically, lawmakers are trying to reform the pre-trial release system in the State so that fewer people are forced to sit in jail because they cannot afford to post bail. How the new system would work will be discussed below.
Who Decides Whether the Defendant Should Be Released
Currently, judges or magistrates either set bail or authorize a person to be released on his/her own recognizance when that person is arrested and charged with a crime. If bail is set, the accused will not be released from jail unless it is paid, leading to thousands of poor defendants sitting in jail due to a lack of financial resources. Deciding whether to grant a release is based on the judge’s assessment of the defendant’s risk to public safety, and the likelihood he/she will appear in court as ordered. Under the proposed system, judges will no longer make the primary safety assessment for release. This function would be performed by a pretrial services agency that would conduct a pretrial risk assessment for all defendants, except those accused of certain serious felonies, and issue a report on its conclusion for consideration by a judge.
Risk Assessment and Judges’ Modified Role
The risk assessment reports from the pretrial services agency would include the results of the risk assessment, and recommendations on conditions of release for the accused. Judges would have to consider this report as part their evaluation for bail or release if the person is in jail at the time of the arraignment (the hearing where bail is set or release is approved). If the judge, after considering the report and hearing comments from the prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney, decides that even with conditional release the defendant is not likely to appear, the court may set bail, but only at the lowest amount necessary to ensure an appearance. In addition, the court must verify the bail ordered is within the defendant’s ability to pay, and cannot order bail in an amount that would impose a financial hardship on the defendant. This constraint on bail is meant to make it easier for poorer defendants to get released, and make the criminal system a little fairer. This proposed system could result in many defendants accused of non-violent crimes being released from jail faster and without posting bail, and could be up for a full vote by the assembly at the end of May.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Sitting in jail following an arrest is one of the worst situations a person can experience. Calling a criminal defense attorney should be the first thing you do if you want to get out of jail as quickly as possible. The Los Angeles law firm Manshoory Law Group, APC defends individuals against many different types of criminal charges, from misdemeanors to serious felonies, and fights to get each client the best result possible. Attorneys can take your call 24/7. Contact the office today for a free consultation.