Bail Reform Stalls in California

After a bail reform bill failed on California’s Assembly floor, the legislature announced that it would not be taking up further legislation on the matter until next year.  After numerous discussions on both sides, the bill had serious flaws.  Opponents of the bill saw serious problems with how bail alternatives would be funded and how an overburdened system would handle more.  Pretrial risk assessment was the main alternative presented in the original bill.  Many felt that without money bail it could empower a judge to impose even more strenuous restrictions.  Others pointed to the lack of funding for pretrial risk assessment that could cost taxpayers millions.

All sides agree that California’s criminal justice system is in need of help.  Many counties lack proper funding for court and law enforcement needs.  In many instances, both pretrial risk assessment and bail can live side-by-side.  In some lower level offenses, judges already have the ability to release defendants on their own recognizance.  Asking courts to be staffed nearly 24 hours a day to meet risk assessments needs would likely break the system.  Commercial bail bondsmen provide a crucial role tracking down fugitives who skip bail.  Without commercial bondsmen, the courts or law enforcement would be the sole source for tracking down these individuals.  The potential for more fugitives is not just likely but almost a guarantee unless the bill can be properly funded.  For now, the system will continue to run with the issue tabled until next year.

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