California Eliminates Cash Bail

California flagThis week represented a milestone for California in the criminal justice system when Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation eliminating cash bail in the state. Starting in October 2019, a system of risk assessment will replace cash bail — a move deemed more fair to defendants with little ability to pay bail.

Senate Bill 10, California puts into place “risk assessments” of individuals and non-monetary conditions of release. A “low” risk will be released with minimal conditions while a “medium-risk” person will be held or released according to local conditions.  “High-risk” persons would remain in custody.

The legislation was opposed by most law enforcement groups as well as the bail-bond industry.  Bondsmen charge a nonrefundable 10 percent fee to post bail. They also supply the personnel to collect individuals who fail to appear for trial.  That system greatly augments the law enforcement forces in collecting defendants on the lam.

New Jersey eliminated cash bail for nearly all crimes in January 2017, but has not reported serious problems.

33 thoughts on “California Eliminates Cash Bail”

  1. An upside is that we will no longer have to watch the bail bondsman commercials on television. A downside is the loss of advertising revenue to media. Another downside is loss of income for media production companies, and for starving actors who made the commercials.

  2. From the other side of the continent I can feel unintended consequences looming on the horizon. I got a feeling this policy will play out in a way nobody likes, not even the defendants.

    1. i hear ya rex, indefinite detention, the only bail is tantamount to a bribe you pay police and never get back regardless of the outcome, i hear that’s how it works in china

  3. As with everything else this state does, what is the financial/power gain by the state? Let’s see, we have a lot of agricultural and construction industry here that requires a lot of labor. We are a sanctuary state. We have the state government passing bills that allow people in this country illegally to serve in government positions. We have an education industry that caters to students and families where english may not even be their second language. We have a candidate for governor that wants to provide free healthcare to those in this country illegally. Now we are going to have a court system that will release people back onto the streets without the cost of posting a bond and hope they show back up. I almost forgot, these loons want to open our border with Mexico and abolish ICE.

    One other little trick I learned this week from an L.A. prosecutor: if you’re going to drink and drive in this state, keep a bottle of booze with you at all times. Then if you get in a wreck or pulled over, just open the bottle and start drinking.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

  4. Another piece of evidence, in case we needed one, that the Democratic Party is run by bourgeois types whose sense of self is crucially dependent on their contempt for ordinary Americans. They conceive of criminals as ‘disadavantaged’ (i.e. social work clients) done dirt by the larger society and in particular by the deplorables who hold to conventional opinions about correct conduct and conventional opinions about reasonable expectations of correct conduct and about how human beings respond to incentives. Conventional is vulgar. Superior persons such as the professional and junior grade professionals who make up the Democratic Party’s gatekeepers are ‘sensitive’ and ‘humane’ and thus better than you. The same disposition is reflected in the Democratic Party’s attitude toward foreigners. (;Leapfrogging loyalties’ one wag calls it). And, of course, more illegal aliens means more jobs for social workers as well.

    We live in an occupied country, and the occupiers are a large swath of our professional-managerial bourgeoisie. Much of the bar, the bulk of the school apparat, the social work apparat, the bulk of higher education, the bulk of the media, many in corporate HR, the mental health trade, and (now, as we speak) the commanding heights of important shares of the tech industry and casino banking all have one thing in common: they are enemies of truth, of justice, and of rank-and-file Americans.

    1. You must have read a different story than the one in the link. Or, perhaps you heard something on Pravda Faux News? I bet the educated reader can guess.

      this is to “I once again, have a ‘hannity was here’ tattoo across my lower back” spaz

  5. We need to start this discussion with a presumption, a presupposition, and a fact. The presumption is that an arrestee is innocent until proven guilty. So, most presumptively innocent criminal defendants should be released pending trial even those charged with serious offenses. The presupposition is that money bonds are used solely to assure a defendant’s reappearance for trial. Money bonds are not a substitute for punishment because they pre-date a finding of guilt and incarceration in lieu of posting a money bond is inconsistent with the presumption of innocence. The fact is that it is counterintuitive but true that the gravity of the charge is not a good indicator of whether a defendant will reappear for trial. The most reliable indicators of whether a defendant will reappear for trial are (1) drug use and (2) community ties. For obvious reasons, drug users forget court dates, don’t return telephone calls, and neglect to open their mail. Therefore, they fail to come to court regardless of whether they are charged with a simple misdemeanor or a serious felony. Also, most poor defendants have grown up knowing nothing but the neighborhood in which they live. Fleeing to another city would for them be like fleeing to another planet.

    Most jurisdictions already use some form of “risk assessment” in determining who should be released pending trial and who should be assessed a money bond as a condition of release and the amount of that money bond. The seriousness of the charge is one factor in that assessment. I suspect California’s “risk assessment” will also assess the seriousness of the offense.

    Here is the rub: money bonds are middle ground between release on personal recognizance or other non-monetary condition and detention without bond. Elimination of money bonds results in an all or nothing situation. Either the defendant is released or s/he is incarcerated with no opportunity for release pending adjudication. If California (or New Jersey or Maryland) eliminates money bonds, those arrestees who would have previously been assessed money bonds will either be released without the necessity of posting bond or detained without bond. A defendant who previously would have been released after posting bond may now be detained without the chance to post bond and be released. This may result in more people being detained pre-trial in contravention of the presumption of innocence.

    For example, a tourist from Denmark is visiting Los Angeles. He has no criminal record. He gets into a bar fight. No one is injured but the Dane is clearly the aggressor possibly the result of his Viking heritage, or so at least the police suspect. Under a system of money bonds, the Dane posts say a $1,000 bond and returns to Denmark. He either returns to the U.S. for his trial in which case the money bond has served a purpose or he stays home in which case the bond is forfeited, California is $1,000 richer and the defendant’s punishment is the forfeited $1,000 bond which is probably a more serious punishment than the defendant would have received if he had gone to trial and been convicted. So, the bond serves a purpose, right? The no money bond alternative would be either to incarcerate the Dane without bond for an offense that he would not have received jail time anyway even in the event of conviction or to release him without bond being assured that he would never be seen by the court system again.

    Substitute Mexican for Dane and you can see the magnitude of the problem for California.

    I am not sure politicians think all of this through.

      1. PCS, you just can’t seem to get enough of the California bashing. Wonder why. An ex-? Couldn’t get accepted in school here?

        1. hollywood – just being honest about your problems because they are causing me problems. I have a health issue that is aggrevated by your fires and pollution. Other than that I love CA. Visit often. Have a sister who lives in Carlsbad and we do museum tours every couple of years. We were going to do it this year except for the fires.

          I bleed maroon and gold, never applied to a school in CA. However, they are rivals in the PAC-12. Still, I am more concerned about beating the pants off the UofA each year.

            1. hollywood – you sure you aren’t starting them on purpose? That is not the story we are getting here.

              1. We should have started some select fires on purpose to clear out potential tinder. Apparently we did not have the budget.
                And some property owners should have cleared some brush.

        2. California-bashing is appropriate because… California sucks. It’s a horn o’ plenty of suckitude.

        3. Truman Capote on California: “You lose one point off your IQ every year you stay there.”

    1. I agree with most of what you wrote. But the presumption of innocence is a widely misunderstood concept. It’s a procedural rule which kicks in if and when a trial begins. It doesn’t mean the defendant is actually innocent. If there was a real presumption of innocence there woud be no arrest, no bail, no prosecution & no trial.

      1. a little bit yes and a little no:
        the PRESUMPTION of innocence is an important civil liberty and keystone element of what under the 14th amendment is considered DUE PROCESS

        but you are right that as a presumption, it neither means nor even implies ACTUAL innocence.

        i can’t agree with the use of “real” that is kind of besides the point

        the presumption is there at bail hearings. the state needs to show evidence that there is danger and a flight risk and so on. if there was no presumption then they could just say so. well, in many cases, from what i hear, at bail hearings, the presumption kind of “fades away” and the evidentiary standards are significantly more “relaxed”

        (funny thing happened as i type this: spell check tried to suggest “penitentiary” instead of “evidentiary”)

        1. By “real” I meant a belief the defendant was actually innocent–if the prosecutors thought that way there wouldn’t be any defendants. {“I don’t think this guy actually did it your honor but the cops arrested him so I gotta try to convict him of something”}

        2. Check that, the presumption of innocence arises out of the specific text of the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment was made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

  6. So the question remains. If the risk assessment determines that the person is a flight risk then do they have no hope of release from pre-trial custody? At least with bail there is that amount.

    There could be the matter of whether this might be tested in the courts as a form of Excessive Bail when a defendant has no ability to be realized on recognizance.

    1. interesting idea

      i have seen some cases particularly with white racist defendants where they were denied bail just because they were racists, in nonviolent possession type crimes, whereas accused persons with violent beefs were let out on bail

      that seems rather unfair to me too but usually these defendants do not have the means to mount a big challenge to such things and would rather avoid the issue altogether

      1. There was that army of federal law enforcement in response to Randy Weaver missing a court date (on a charge of selling a sawed off shotgun to an undercover agent).

        1. that was a horrible miscarriage of justice but I think weaver was ROR’d. and then when he failed to appear, the ATF made the infamous raid that lead to the death of his innocent wife and boy (and dog) and the wounding of a houseguest.

          perhaps you allude to that because, we may surmise, that in that case bail agents would have made a more humane and effective grab there is no doubt collateral damage means nothing to a West Point trained sniper but it’s bad for bail bondsmen’s business

          i also think that the undercover agent was actually a biker in trouble for drugs who was working off the beef by entrapping Weaver

    1. For all practical purposes, it will have to be catch and release, given the overcrowding of California’s jails.

      1. A defendant probably won’t be able to disappear and remain on the low-risk list. Mostlikey it will be something thing they can do just once or twice and then never be released pending trial again.

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