California Abolishes Money Bail

California has made major changes in that state’s bail practice, under a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday, that largely leaves pretrial release decisions up to local judges — a change praised by legislative and judicial leaders, but condemned by some criminal defense advocates.

SB10 abolishes the long-standing system of requiring newly arrested defendants to put up bail, in an amount based on the seriousness of the charges, to be freed while awaiting trial. Bail-bond companies and other advocates say the current bail system promotes public safety and encourages defendants to show up in court, but opponents note that poor people are kept in jail because they can’t afford to pay their way out. But this change is controversial. The new law, signed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown, replaces a statewide money bail system with a county-based system that uses risk-assessment tools to help determine who goes free while awaiting trial. Advocates say the measure was “hijacked” via late amendments that give too much “unbridled” power to judges to make pretrial decisions.  The Marshall Project’s  Abbie VanSickle provides an  analysis from that perspective. See The Marshall Project article for more.

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