Pilot Program Eliminates Bail for Some of Sacramento County’s Low-Level Defendants

SACRAMENTO -- As part of a test for a new statewide system, Sacramento County will soon be releasing some defendants without bail.

Sacramento is one of 16 counties where a two-year risk assessment program will be launched.

It will decide whether a person accused of a low-level crime should be released from jail before trial. That includes property, drug and driving under the influence offenses.

“They’ve already been doing this. The problem is they’re just getting more funding to do it even more,” said bail bondsman Eddie Cuevas.

Cuevas told FOX40 pretrial release of low-level crimes has already been happening for years. He believes the move is meant to relieve overcrowding in the Sacramento County Main Jail.

“The jail doesn’t have any more space,” he said. “I mean, that jail was built for maybe 1,600 and I think they’re up to like 3,000.”

The county is getting $9.5 million from the state’s Judicial Council for its probation department and criminal court division.

The money will then be used to hire staff to run the Public Safety Assessment program, a tool used to score defendants on the likelihood they would commit another crime if released, if that crime could be violent and how likely they are to show up for a court date.

“Yeah, but a lot of them don’t show up,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said he worries the program signals the coming of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign promise of ending bail in California.

“Law enforcement is going to have to work double,” he told FOX40.

In 2018, the legislature passed a law that would, essentially, eliminate the bail bonds industry in the state.

While it was supposed to take effect this fall, a bail industry-backed measure will instead appear on the 2020 ballot.

But Cuevas said he and others in the industry are not waiting for voters to decide the fate of their businesses.

“I’ve heard other bail bond companies opening up other types of businesses,” Cuevas said. “I do granite countertops.”

The pilot program will not eliminate bail by itself but it is the first step in achieving that goal.

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