Bail and the California Constitution

What does the California Constitution say about bail?  What rights and protections are guaranteed by its amendments?  With the ongoing debate about bail reform, it is important to revisit the guarantees provided under the state Constitution.  Many people get confused or are misguided when it comes to bail reform and what protections a defendant has or doesn’t have under the constitution.  This article aims to clear up some of the confusion.

Article I, Section 12

Article I, Section 12 of the California State Constitution prohibits the setting of excessive bail.  The constitution requires that “the court shall take into consideration the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at the trial or hearing of the case.”

Defendants are afforded the ability to have a bail review hearing.  At this hearing a defendant may present evidence why bail should be reduced or even dismissed.  A prosecutor is also afforded the right to be heard on why bail should be increased or set if it wasn’t prior.  A judge is required to state on the record their decision to grant or deny bail or to release a defendant without bail.  Judges do not take setting bail lightly.  They are well-practiced professionals who handle thousands of cases each year.  They understand the gravity of sending someone to jail and requiring them to post bail.  They must always balance the rights of a defendant with the rights of the public-at-large.

The California Constitution guarantees rights to defendants regarding bail.  Excessive bail is expressly prohibited.


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