Bail Reform Efforts Become a Two-Year Bill

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Sacramento – In 2020, the California voters defeated a measure that would have ratified SB 10.  The measure was put on the ballot by the bail industry, but its defeat was sealed because many of the reformers strongly favoring bail reform opposed SB 10 because it replaced bail reform with a risk assessment guideline that many believed would actual increase pre-trial detention.

This year, Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg that had the backing of many of the justice reform groups and was co-sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, Western Center on Law and Poverty and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

Nevertheless, the effort failed to get to a floor vote.

“The road to equal justice for all is long but we’re committed to taking the road that results in what all Californians deserve: a fair, safe and equitable bail system, free of industry greed,” Hertzberg said in a release.

“We will prevail because the presumption of innocence – the bedrock of our system of justice – remains fundamentally incompatible with a bail system that keeps Californians locked up who pose no threat to the public and who have been convicted of no crime, simply because they cannot pay what the bail industry demands,” he said.

He added, “The State Supreme Court agrees with this and earlier this year, ruled that California’s cash bail system is unconstitutional. SB 262 simply provides a framework for the state to implement this ruling.”

The State Supreme Court in Humphrey ruled that inability to pay could not be the sole means for holding an individual in custody pre-trial.

“The common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional,” the court wrote.

The court recognized that those pending trial “have not yet been been convicted of a charged crime” and therefore “unquestionably suffer a ‘direct “grievous loss” ‘ of freedom in addition to other potential injuries.”

They note: “In principle, then, pretrial detention should be reserved for those who otherwise cannot be relied upon to make court appearances or who pose a risk to public or victim safety.”

One of the issues that hurt the effort this time was the killing that occurred in Sacramento last week.  The man, out on parole, was arrested and charged in the slaying of a Sacramento woman found dead along with her two slain dogs inside her burning home.

Troy Davis was released without bail after being arrested on auto theft charges last June, but failed to appear for his arraignment.

Hertzberg told the Associated Press, “The gruesome murder of the Sacramento woman had several of my colleagues reaching out with concerns.”

He said that he believes this “actually could have prevented that parolee from being released in the first place” but that he ran out of time to explain that to reluctant lawmakers before Friday’s adjournment deadline.

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson who heads the CDAA said that those supporting changes to the bail system are “expressing sympathy toward prisoners instead of prioritizing public safety.”

However, it is the Supreme Court decision that is mandating those changes.

The bill, heavily amended after running into opposition from the Assembly, would set follow guidelines set by Humphrey and set a statewide bail schedule that takes into account suspects’ finances and returns the money if charges are dropped.

The amended bill would have required the Judicial Council to set a statewide bail schedule by 2023, replacing schedules that vary across the state’s 58 counties.

The courts would have to make the determination whether non-monetary conditions like electronic monitoring could protect the public and victims while reasonably assuring that suspects would show up for court appearances.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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