California Becoming the First State to Eliminate Bail for Suspects Awaiting Trial

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On Tuesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will eliminate bail for suspects awaiting trial. Instead of bail, suspects will be subject to a new risk-assessment system, determining whether they should be held before trial or released within 12 to 24 hours after processing to await their court date.

Details about the risk-assessment system are not immediately clear, according to a report by Fox News. Additionally, the change isn’t scheduled to take effect until October 2019.

However, basic information about the program is available, including that suspects who are facing charges for serious, violent felonies or certain sex crimes will not be eligible for release prior to their trial date.

Additionally, individuals deemed to have high chances of re-arrest or those who may fail to return for court hearings will also be held. This could include individuals charged with driving under the influence for the third time within a period of fewer than 10 years, suspects already under court supervision, or people who violated pretrial release conditions within the previous five years.

Those arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors will be released within 12 hours of being processed, according to the legislation.

If necessary, officials can extend the 12-hour period by an additional 12 hours to assess whether a suspect should be released.

“Today, California reforms its bail system, so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” said Brown in a statement.

The legislation aimed to eliminate monetary conditions for a suspect’s release.

The legislation, formally titles Senate Bill 10, was approved by the state legislature earlier in August. The bill faced significant opposition from the bail industry prior to Brown signing it into law on Tuesday.

Advocates of the legislation asserted that many defendants remain in custody because they cannot afford bail, creating a segment of the justice system that is based on wealth.

The bill allows California’s Judicial Council, a policy-making body for the state’s courts, to reshape pretrial policies and procedures.

Once a framework is created by the council, each county can set its own procedures for determining which suspects are eligible for release. The approach could result in a patchwork system, leading suspects charged with similar crimes in different counties to be held to differing standards.