California Launches Assault on Pre-Trial Release
by Red Smith
Amendment VIII: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
SACRAMENTO – In a move to eliminate California’s bail system, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Senate Bill 10, known as the California Money Bail Reform Act. This will eliminate a citizen’s 8th Amendment Right to Bail and replaces it with an as yet undetermined system of “risk assessments” of individuals and non-monetary conditions of release. “Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” said Governor Brown. Who claims SB 10 will preserve the rights of the accused, while prioritizing public safety.
The new law, which will take effect on January 1, 2020 , orders individual Counties to incorporate new local agencies to evaluate any individual arrested on felony charges for their likelihood of returning for court hearings and their chances of rearrest. These new agencies will then determine a defendant’s custody status while they await trial based on an assessment of risk to public safety and probability of missing a court date rather than their ability to pay cash bail.
SB 10 establishes a scale of determination for release ranging from “Low Risk” to “High Risk”. For Example, a defendant whose risk to public safety and risk of failure to appear is determined to be “low” would be released “non-monetary” conditions. Where as “High-risk” individuals would remain in custody until their arraignment. What “non-monetary” conditions are or may be as yet have not been determined by the State.
This action delivers on the commitment made last August by Governor Brown, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the bill’s authors – Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) – to work together on long-needed reforms in the second year of the two-year legislative session.
“This is a trans-formative day for our justice system. Our old system of money bail was outdated, unsafe, and unfair. It took a three-branch solution with Governor Brown, the Legislature led by Senator Hertzberg and Assembly member Bonta, and the Judicial Council’s Administrative Director Martin Hoshino working with judges in my Pretrial Detention Reform Work Group to bring about a fair and just solution for all Californians,” said Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye. “Our path to a more just criminal justice system is not complete, but today it made a transformational shift away from valuing private wealth and toward protecting public safety.” said Senator Hertzberg.
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