By David M. Greenwald
Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig put out another press release attacking zero bail on Tuesday. The press release notes “the ongoing impacts related to California Judicial Council’s Statewide Emergency ‘0’ Bail Schedule.”
The release continues: “The ‘0’ Bail Schedule became effective April 13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although rescinded in June, the Yolo County Superior Court continues to use the Statewide Emergency Bail Schedule. Currently, there is no announced end date for the use of the Emergency Bail Schedule.”
The data presented in the press release are unverified by the Vanguard. The DA claims that, since April 13, “266 individuals have been arrested and released on zero bail a total of 305 times, with some benefitting from $0 bail on multiple occasions.”
According to their data, “The individuals who have reoffended since their release on zero bail in Yolo County have committed over 247 new crimes, in Yolo County alone. Those new crimes include 105 felonies and 142 new misdemeanors, including crimes such as Assault with a Deadly Weapon and/or Likely to Produce Great Bodily injury (12 new victims), Robbery (5 new victims), Burglary (12 new victims), felony domestic violence (3 new victims, possession of an assault weapon, gang crimes and dozens of other new felony and misdemeanor crimes.”
In May, Sheriff Tom Lopez gave a presentation to the Board of Supervisors arguing that the amount of recidivism in the country was actually quite low. At that time it was only four cases out of 117 people who were arrested.
But the bigger issue other than the raw numbers is the deception of the DA’s message this week.
In mid-June the Judicial Council had ended the policy of zero bail, but allowed counties at their own discretion to continue the policy locally.
In making the ruling, Council on a 17-2 vote ended the practice. However, “We urge local courts to continue to use the emergency COVID-19 bail schedule where necessary to protect the health of the community, the courts, and the incarcerated.”
Generally speaking, the court solicited the opinion of the major stakeholders in making this determination.
Presiding Judge Samuel T. McAdam said in a comment: “We believe that the current Bail Schedule is working well here in Yolo County and as a matter of public health, we should stay the course. It is not lost on the Judges that, while state and federal prisons and some jails throughout California have been hotspots of Covid-19 outbreaks, we have so far avoided it here.”
He said, “Yolo legal community is safe, and because of that we have a fully operational courthouse where we can provide fair and timely justice.”
In advance of the end of zero bail, Melinda Aiello, the Assistant Chief Deputy DA, sent out the DA’s policy on the statewide emergency bail schedule.
Aiello wrote that “we recognize the on-going need to maintain a reasonable jail population and after consultation with County Counsel encourage the court to return to its Emergency and Provisional Bail Schedule that became effective March 26, 2020.”
The DA did allow, “It is further recognized that the situation is continuing to evolve and there may be need for further examination and changes…”
To our knowledge, there has not been any effort by the DA to request an end to zero bail.
As such, the press release is misleading in several ways.
First, they suggest the ongoing impacts related to the Judicial Council’s Emergency zero bail schedule, when in fact, as of June 19, it was Yolo County’s zero bail schedule.
Second, it was not imposed on the county over the objections of the DA’s office. It was imposed with their express approval and probably would not have been implemented had they objected.
Judge McAdam back in June noted that zero bail only applies to low level felony and misdemeanor charges.
He said, “Importantly, if an arresting police officer believes that there is a public safety risk, the officer can ask a Judge to set or enhance bail.”
The judge noted that this assessment may be particularly appropriate where an arrestee has multiple pending cases or was arrested while already being supervised by the Probation Department.
However, he believes, “Making an individualized determination based on credible information is the best way to assess the risk.”
The judge announced that “the Emergency Bail Schedule will remain in effect during the State of Emergency or further Order of the Court.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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