Bail reform law put on hold as referendum qualifies for 2020 ballot

Trade association challenges legislation that replaces cash bail system

A historic California law that would replace cash bail with a risk assessment system has been put on hold because a referendum challenging it qualified for the November 2020 ballot.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Wednesday that the referendum sponsored by the American Bail Coalition, a bail bond agents' trade association, had enough signatures for the ballot.

The qualification automatically suspends the new law until the election is held. The California Money Bail Reform Act had previously been scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1 of this year.

Bail coalition executive director Jeff Clayton said in a statement, "Now we can move on toward defeating this reckless law."

In opposition, the directors of the California branches of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "We must reject the wealth-based, two-tiered system of justice that the bail industry seeks to preserve."

Separately, two challenges to the money bail system are pending in the California Supreme Court and in federal court in Oakland.

A ruling by one or both of those courts could potentially result in a modification of the money bail system before 2020.

In the cash bail system, people who are arrested and awaiting a criminal trial are released if they post a cash bond in an amount specified in a bail schedule set by the local superior court. People can pay the bond either with their own money or through commercial bail agents, who typically charge a 10% fee for putting up the cash.

The new law would use a risk assessment tool to determine whether arrestees are a low, medium or high risk of failing to appear in court or endangering the public. People accused of violent crimes or threats of violence would usually be denied release, subject to review by a judge.

Opponents of the system contend it is unfair to low-income people and favors well-to-do defendants who can afford to pay.

The ACLU directors said the system "is antithetical to our values of justice, fairness, and racial equity."

"By charging people nonrefundable fees for pretrial release, the bail industry has made billions of dollars off the backs of individuals and families in dire circumstances, especially people most affected by racial and economic inequities in our society and the criminal justice system," they said.

The bail industry coalition claims that assessment tools are inaccurate and could result in dangerous people being released.

The referendum needed 365,880 signatures, or 5% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2014 election, to qualify for the ballot.

— Bay City News Service

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8 people like this
Posted by Cecelia A.
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 22, 2019 at 5:26 pm

Perhaps after the disastrous implications of Prop 47 are finally starting to filter down from the rampant crime, auto thefts & assaults in San Francisco, Oakland & San Jose the people of the Bay Area (& throughout the state) are waking up to the fact that our leaders do not want a safe society for its citizens, just more people to require assistance and press the "D" lever in the voting booth and keep these criminals in office.

5 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 22, 2019 at 7:22 pm

Cecelia, well stated.

5 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 22, 2019 at 9:16 pm

Dumb. Lets see the stats on people most likely to skip bail / not show up for their court date. How much do you want to bet its the same people that cant afford bail to begin with. The fact this is the proposal from a bail bond coalition would suggest they already ran the numbers to support this.

We need to get back to punishing criminals so they dont commit crimes again. For those that try to rehabilitate in jail, we should give incentives to businesses to hire once time is served. Or get back to using them to build public works projects (demo and clearing at least). Probably save on union inflated costs too.

4 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 23, 2019 at 7:58 am

Should be like China. You rob bank, rob foreigner, sell drugs all death penalty and immediate death penalty. We should be killing drug dealers and quickly.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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