Bail Reform in California – Not as Great as it May Seem

figure of justice holding the scales of justice representing bail reform

Background on California’s Bail Reform

Last year the California Supreme Court voted to eliminate the former traditional cash bail program for defendants who could not afford it. The Supreme Court justices cited their belief that “conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional.” 

The original decision focused on a particular case of a man named Kenneth Humphrey, a retired shipyard worker who was accused of stealing cash and a bottle of cologne from his neighbor. Originally setting the bail at $600,000 and later reducing it to $350,000 was not affordable for Humphrey, and a new discussion about the constitutionality of cash bail as it has existed for years came up for debate.

The current California laws do not totally eliminate the cash bail system in California. However, Californians who are presumably innocent until proven guilty can no longer be kept in jail while they await trial solely on the basis that they are unable to pay bail money. 

The current California law also states that the court system cannot set bail at a level that someone is unable to afford, unless they cannot find other alternative conditions that are “less restrictive.” The intention is to be reasonably assured that a person accused of the crime appears in court and is not a danger to the community. Because of this, the law cites that cash bail is still allowed in certain circumstances where the individual is a danger to themselves or their fellow community members. 


Understanding the Two Sides of the Issue

This issue has been hotly debated on both sides because the decision has many ethical implications and practical consequences. 


The Supporters’ Stance

Those who support California’s current bail reform believe that pretrial detention of individuals, especially people who have committed petty crimes, has extremely devastating consequences for a person’s life and that of the defendant’s family. Supporters point to research that shows common loss of housing, jobs, and sometimes even losing custody of children when someone is detained in jail (for an extended period of time) as they await a trial.

Supporters also cite the research that shows people are more likely to plead guilty, and be convicted, and receive longer sentences than people who are let out of jail before their trial.


Opposition of Bail Reform

On the other side of the coin, people who oppose the cash bail reform are concerned that allowing individuals who don’t pay bail to get out of jail before they stand trial means they are much less likely to show up to their court hearing.

Since those accused of crimes are not typically are not tracked down by authorities after being released from custody, they potentially get off scot-free and may commit more crimes. One recent report found that 55% of alleged criminals released in San Francisco reoffend before they face trial for the crime of which they were originally charged. 

Those who are against California’s bill reform simply want to reinstate the system of cash bail to keep potential criminals off the streets and eliminate the varying treatment of individuals based on those who can afford to pay bail and those who cannot.

The judge should determine if a defendant is a flight risk and whether the accused is a danger to the public. The bail amount that the judge sets should be on par with the crime of which they are accused. In this way, the judge will properly incentivize a defendant to show up for their court date which means valuable law enforcement resources will not be used to track down any defendant who doesn’t show up!

By making sure the accused party is financially responsible for the amount of the bond, the bail system exponentially increases the chances that they will show up for their court date and stand trial for the crime they are accused of committing.


Bail House’s Position – Support Anne Marie Schubert

At Frank Calabretta’s Bail House we envision a future where a balanced judicial system serves the entire community. Currently, we support the tough-on-crime independent candidate for the position of California Attorney General, Annmarie Schubert. Schubert has promised to eliminate California’s recent bail reform and return the state to the established, much more effective system. 

We believe that the current bail reform instituted in California puts our local communities at risk and causes unfair discrimination based on an individual’s ability to pay bail. Wealthier people are no more innocent or guilty than those who are poor, and the standard of bail should be the same for everyone in order to avoid classism. 

California’s bail reform is clearly not working and must be repealed. For defendants of all financial standing, their families, and our communities as a whole, we support the return of California’s state law to the traditional cash bail system immediately.


Fast & Confidential Bail Bonds

When you or your loved one needs out of jail fast, our bailbondsmen at Frank Calabretta’s Bail House can assist you with affordable bail bonds. Our bail bond agents are available 24/7 and can help you whether you are in Placer County, California, or another state. 

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