Cash bail reform has been a rallying cry for California Democrats for several years. In August of 2018, Senate Bill 10, the Senate Bill on Cash Bail Reform, passed the State Senate and was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The resistance to this bill was so strong that a veto referendum easily gathered enough votes to place the bill on the ballot for the November 2020 election, allowing the voters of California to decide on bail reform.
SB 10 is opposed by many different groups in the state, including residents of California, law enforcement groups, Human Rights Watch, and the ACLU. As the nation awaits the results of the November 2020 election to decide the fate of cash bail in California, it is interesting to take note of the effect eliminating bail for most offenses in California has had on communities during the COVID-19 crisis.
Cash Bail Nearly Eliminated In California During COVID-19
After the March 19th Stay-At-Home order was issued by Governor Gavin Newsome, the Judicial Council in Sacramento, CA approved a temporary emergency measure to reduce the jail populations to prevent a COVID-19 breakout behind bars. One part of the emergency measure was to eliminate cash bail for most offenses. Only 13 charges in California require cash bail until the emergency measures are removed, which is not scheduled to take place until some time after the Stay-At-Home order is lifted for the state.
If a person is charged with any of these offenses or enhancements, they will still be required to remain behind bars or pay the entire amount of bail required on the standard bail schedule for the listed offenses, which include “serious felonies” such as rape, murder, arson, and other violent crimes. For all other offenses, defendants are arrested, given a citation, and released to return home.
The Effect Of $0 Bail in California During COVID-19
While there are still 13 serious crimes for which bail has not been eliminated, child abuse is inexplicably missing from that list. During a time of high stress and an increase in instances of child abuse, abusers are being released immediately after arrest. For some law-enforcement officers, this is especially troubling.
In San Bernardino, the Sheriff’s Department recently found themselves having to release a repeat child-abuser immediately after an arrest, even though the defendant had a conviction of child abuse on their record. Sheriff John McMahon expressed his frustration to FOX 11 News, “Felony child abuse does not fit into that list of 13 (serious felonies that still require bail for pretrial release), so even though this guy had a prior for domestic violence conviction for child abuse, he gets arrested for child abuse again, and then he gets released on zero bail with a court date in July,” McMahon said. “So that just doesn’t make any sense to me, maybe I’m missing something, but that doesn’t seem to me to be the right thing to do to protect the citizens of our county. If that person is in our custody, we can protect the victim, if he’s not, we can’t.”
No Restraint Among Criminals, With $0 Bail On The Table
While some types of crime in California have declined during the Stay-At-Home order, property crimes have dramatically increased in some communities. Many law enforcement officers feel certain that the blame lies directly with defendants who would ordinarily already be in jail, but are now walking free due to the elimination of the bail requirement.
ABC News in Los Angles reported that one man was arrested three times in a single day for breaking into cars, auto theft, and burglary. After each offense, officers were required to cite the man, Dijon Landrum, and then immediately release him. Landrum was arrested twice on the morning of April 29th and again in the evening.
The Fate of the Referendum on Bail Reform in Californian
Opponents of SB 10, the Senate Bill on Bail Reform, are hopeful that this “free-trial” of bail reform will allow Californians an opportunity to see what life with no bail requirement would be like. Bail bond companies like Justice Bail Bonds in Riverside, CA are hopeful that their communities will recognize the valuable service they provide and vote “no” on SB 10 in November.