Californians to decide fate of state’s cash-bail system

Border Report

SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The state of California currently uses a cash-bail system to release defendants awaiting criminal trials, and it’s being challenged in the Nov. 3 election.

Those who are granted bond can pay and be set free, and those who can’t afford it seek the services of a bail bond company, which charges a small fee, usually 10 percent, to provide bail to the court on behalf of the defendant.

California’s Judicial Branch describes bail as a way to “ensure the presence of the defendant before the court.” Judges are responsible for setting the bail amount.

California Senate Bill 10 from 2018 ended the cash-bail system in the state, replacing it with a risk assessment system to determine whether a detained suspect should be granted a pretrial release and under what conditions.

The risk assessments categorize suspects as low, medium, or high risk. Suspects deemed as having a low risk of failing to appear in court and a low risk to public safety, would be released from jail.

Those considered a high risk would remain in jail, with a chance to argue their release before a judge. People deemed a medium risk could be released or detained, depending on the local court’s rules.

San Diego’s Central Jail. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

People charged with a misdemeanor, with a few exceptions, would be exempt from a risk assessment and would be set free.

This risk assessment system has not been implemented because the bail bond industry, fearing their businesses would be destroyed, sponsored a referendum to stop SB10.

This is how Proposition 25 came to be.

A “yes” vote would uphold SB 10, which would replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects awaiting trials.

A “no” vote would repeal SB 10, thus keeping in place the use of cash bail for detained suspects awaiting trials.

Supporters say cash bail benefits the rich who can afford bail and/or the fees to secure a bond while hurting poor defendants, especially people of color, who can’t afford bail.

Those against the measure say it will keep more people in custody costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year while slowing down the criminal court system.

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