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The Effect of $0 Bail in Southern California

Posted on May 7th, 2020 by 1556 Views

On April 6, 2020, emergency orders were issued by the Judicial Council in Sacramento that eliminated bail for most arrestable offenses in California. These measures were intended to reduce jail populations during the novel coronavirus pandemic that has been affecting California, and all of the US, since late January 2020. The judicial council’s order to eliminate bail meant that individuals already incarcerated for misdemeanors and low-level felony crimes, who were in jail awaiting trial, were almost immediately released into the community. The hope was that these individuals would return home to quarantine safely with family members and that the impending legal proceedings, combined with the state-wide stay-at-home-order, would keep them from committing additional crimes while out on $0 bail, pretrial release.

COVID-19 in California

The novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and reached the United States in early 2020, though exactly what the timeline for the virus is and when it reached American is a matter of hot debate among medical and political communities. The virus is called a novel coronavirus because it had never been identified in humans before 2019. The virus causes a disease dubbed COVID-19, which stands for Corona-Virus-Disease – 2019. The first cases in California were confirmed on January 26, 2020, and a state of emergency was declared on March 4.

On March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a state-wide Stay-At-Home order that requires individuals to “shelter in place” with their immediate family members or house-mates and restrict “non-essential” travel and business transactions until the pandemic could be brought under control. This Stay-At-Home order has caused the shuttering of thousands of businesses across the state that are deemed “non-essential” by the state government and millions of California’s are filing for unemployment in the wake of the lock-down. and State authorities have offered no indication of a timeline designed to lift the lock-down. 

As of May 7, 2020, no definite timeline has been released that would indicate an end to the state-wide Stay-at-Home order, although State Government has outlined six indicators that would guide the government in making decisions about reopening. 

The Six Indicators For Lifting the Stay-At-Home Order Are:

  1. The ability to test anyone who was symptomatic and track possible exposures.
  2. The ability to protect vulnerable Californians, especially those at risk of developing severe COVID-19. This step includes a caveat for being able to control outbreaks in jails and state prisons.
  3. Healthcare system’s ability to handle the caseload and any possible surges in COVID-19 Cases.
  4. The development and availability of therapeutic treatments for COVID-19.
  5. The ability of businesses, childcare facilities, and schools to support social distancing.
  6. The ability to reinstate the Stay-At-Home order or other restrictions, if deemed necessary.

As politicians and others debate the feasibility of lifting the Stay-At-Home order and the constitutionality of continuing the current restrictions, many California’s are curious about the effect that $0 bail has had on communities throughout the state. 

SB 10 Bail Reform Pushes for NO-Bail for California EVER

In August of 2018, SB 10, the Senate Bill for Cash Bail Reform, passed at the state level and was signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown. A veto referendum was mounted by opponents to SB 10 and enough signatures were gathered to halt the implementation of the new law and place Bail Reform on the ballot for voters to decide in 2020. 

SB 10 is opposed by many in the state, including residents of California, law enforcement groups, Human Rights Watch, and the ACLU. As California anxiously awaits the results of the November 2020 election to decide the fate of cash bail in the state, it is interesting to take note of the effect 0$ bail has had on communities during the coronavirus crisis. 

$0 Bail During the Stay-At-Home Order

Eliminating cash bail during the coronavirus crisis is somewhat different than a complete elimination of cash bail, as the Stay-At-Home order has had the effect of lowering the crime rate in the State, overall. 

In Los Angeles alone, crime dropped 23% during the first month of the Stay-At-Home order. The LA Police Chief was reported as saying that people staying home and sheltering in place has had the effect of making Los Angeles a safer city. 

However, not all communities have been so fortunate. In early April, Santa Barbara city leaders were forced to address an uptick in criminal activity that they felt was directly related to the release of many inmates amid the $0 Bail emergency orders. 

Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow outlined the increase in criminal activity that her department was seeing, to the City Council. Among the crimes that had Cheif Luhnow concerned were several stabbings, gunshots fired reports, gunshots fired at an occupied vehicle, and an arrest that involved the SWAT team. 

The Santa Barbara police department attributed much of the uptick in criminal activity, especially violent criminal activity, to the emergency release of more than 300 inmates in that city. 

Offenses that still require bail in California during the coronavirus:

  • PC 1192.7(c) – Serious felonies as defined in PC 1192(c) or PC 667.5(c) – These felonies include murder, rape, arson, and other violent crimes.
  • PC 69– Threats against a police officer or resisting a law enforcement officer in the performance of their duty.
  • PC 166(c)(1) – Violating a Protective Order
  • PC 136.1 – Falsifying evidence, bribing, influencing or intimidating witnesses
  • PC 262 – Crimes against persons, including rape, sexual assault, and child sex abuse.
  • PC 243(e)(1) or PC 273.5 - Domestic violence, spousal abuse or battery, or corporal punishment.
  • PC 273.6– Violating a Protective Order
  • PC 422– Making criminal threats, if the violation is a felony.
  • PC 646.9 – Stalking or Harassment
  • PC 290(c) – Failing to Register as a Sex Offender
  • VC 23152 or 23153– Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
  • PC 463 – Looting Violations
  • PC 29800– Possession of a firearm by a felon.

Child Abusers Released Amid $0 Bail Measures

While there is a list of 13 serious and violent felonies for which bail has not been eliminated, child abuse, inexplicably, is not on that list. 

For some law enforcement officers, this is especially troubling. The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department recently decried the state’s $0 bail mandate, after he was forced to release a repeat child-abuser back into the community. San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon went on record with FOX11 News as saying, “I just don’t think it’s good government, and it’s not safe to force the release of people on zero bail. The people that we have in jail for the most part are felons.” 

Criminals Acting Without Restraint Amid Zero Bail For COVID-19

In Los Angeles County, law enforcement officers reported to ABC News that one man was arrested three times in a single day for crimes ranging from breaking into cars to burglary, because of the zero bail orders for COVID-19. 

According to officers, Dijon Landrum was arrested for breaking into a car and attempting to steal it on the morning of April 29, 2020. Because of the COVID-19 emergency orders, officers couldn’t take Landrum to jail, so they cited him and released him on the spot.

An hour later, Landrum was arrested again for stealing items from resident’s yards. Again, Landrum was cited, the stolen items recovered, and Landrum was released. 

On the evening of April 29, 2020, Landrum was again arrested for stealing a vehicle and evading officers, as he led them on a chase from La Puente to Pasadena. Once again, Landrum was issued a citation and released from custody. 

Residents of California Concerned About The Effect of Zero Bail in Their Community

Understandably, residents of California are concerned about the increase in criminal activity amid the $0 bail requirements of the COVID-19 crisis. While overall crime rates are declining, property crimes are spiking in some communities and some law enforcement officers are quick to point the finger of blame at defendants who would ordinarily be behind bars.

In San Bernardino County, a woman named Krystal is upset that the man who was caught on camera stealing her Luis Vuitton purse would be allowed to walk free under the zero bail policy. 

In Riverside County, a man already out on bail was arrested again for stealing a motorcycle, but law enforcement officers were forced to simply cite and release Christopher Lewis, in accordance with the Zero Bail emergency order. 

Members of law enforcement and residents are frustrated at the government’s seeming prioritization of the health of inmates over the well-being of law-abiding citizens. This glimpse of life with no cash bail is giving many people concern about the possibility of SB 10 passing on the November ballot. 

No On SB 10 Is The Responsible Choice 

Bail bond reform is being sought because cash bail is seen as “unfair” to the poor and communities of color. While many admit that cash bail isn’t perfect, it is still one of the best methods of balancing an individual’s need to obtain release from jail after an arrest while still holding them accountable for their actions while on pretrial release. 

What isn’t often mentioned by those who favor cash bail elimination is the fact that judges already have the authority to release an inmate on OR, or “on their Own Recognizance.” This is nothing new. If a judge determines that a defendant is unlikely to re-offend during the pretrial release or that he/she doesn’t pose a threat to the community, judges are not obligated to required cash bail. Defendants are often released with $0 bail after a bail bond hearing. 

Senate Bill 10 proposes the creation of an entirely new agency that would be responsible for conducting a pretrial assessment of every defendant before they could be considered eligible for bail. The agency would then make a recommendation to the judge about the defendant's risk to the community and likelihood of flight, after which the judge would determine whether that individual was able to go free or remain behind bars until their trial. While this proposal is intended to take a defendant's ability to pay bail, as well as many other factors, into consideration, the reality is that these types of investigations cannot be done both quickly and well. If speed becomes a priority, it is inevitable that people who are a danger to the community will be released back onto the streets as the warning signs slip through the cracks. If the assessments are done thoroughly, every defendant will wait in temporary lockup, waiting for their assessment to be completed.

Bail Bond Agencies Are An Asset to Their Communities

Beyond providing bail bonds to those who would otherwise have to wait behind bars for their trial proceedings, bail bond agencies are active in their communities and often provide support and communications between family members and those who are incarcerated. Bail bond agents receive calls daily from family and friends who don't know if an individual has been arrested, or where they're being held. They've called local jails, only to get recorded messages or unhelpful law enforcement officers answering the phone. They're desperate to know where their loved ones are and what they can do to get them home.

Bail bond agents use their time and technology to track down arrested individuals and are able to discover where they're being held and on what charges. Then, they can relay this information to the friend or family member and help them work through the process of getting their loved one out of jail and home safely. Sometimes these activities result in a paid bail bond, but often these services are just provided as a service to the community.

For more information about bail reform or for assistance with bail in Riverside County, contact the experienced bail bond agents at Justice Bail Bonds. (951) 445-4155

When the election comes in November, vote NO on the SB 10 Referendum.

 

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For faster service please call 951-445-4155 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you or a loved one has been arrested and need to be bailed out quickly and confidentially or if you simply have questions regarding bail, an arrest, or inmate information please do not hesitate to call or fill out our contact us form. We are available 24/7 for all of your bail needs. 


For faster service please call 951-445-4155 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you or a loved one has been arrested and need to be bailed out quickly and confidentially or if you simply have questions regarding bail, an arrest, or inmate information please do not hesitate to call or fill out our contact us form. We are available 24/7 for all of your bail needs.