The Pandemic and Bail

What the COVID-19 Emergency Bail Schedule Taught Us

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the California Judicial Council announced an emergency bail schedule that would reduce bail to zero dollars for some offenders. The zero dollar bail schedule was recently rescinded with individual counties allowed to adopt independent measures as necessary.

During the $0 bail schedule many people were released pretrial and others were cited and released after arrest. Stories began to emerge almost immediately regarding offenders that were released and committed new offenses. One of the most recent was highlighted in an article in the Patch. According to the article “13 Arrests, 12 Pandemic Releases: LA Man Keeps Stealing Cars: DA,” a man released originally arrested on March 30 went on to steal over a dozen cars, each time being released after arrest. Once the emergency bail schedule was rescinded he was held in custody. His bail is currently set at $550,000 according to the article. Shockingly between his March 30 arrest and release for stealing a car, he was arrested and released another 11 times including twice in one day

The emergency bail schedule may have given Californians a sneak preview into what it would be like if SB-10 passes on the November ballot. SB-10 is an effort to eliminate the current bail system with a controversial pre-trial risk assessment program. Growing opposition to SB-10 gained enough support for a referendum, giving voters the decision in November whether to eliminate cash bail.

Numerous groups have voiced their opposition to SB-10 including human rights organizations, victims’ rights groups, and law enforcement. Many are hopeful that since this is a presidential election, more informed voters will get out and vote. Implementation of SB-10 has been stayed until the results of the November election.