VAN NUYS (CBSLA.com/AP) — A state senator says California’s bail system punishes the poor, so he’s proposing a radical reform plan that would do away with monetary bail for most and take income into account for others to ensure poor suspects get an equal shot at freedom.
Instead of requiring suspects to post bail, county officials would decide whether to release them based on their risk to public safety and use jail alternatives like home detention or monitoring bracelets that track their locations.
When a judge decides monetary bail is needed for suspects accused of serious or violent crimes, the amount would be based on defendants’ incomes instead of on a predetermined bail schedule that varies in each of California’s 58 counties.
State Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s bill to reform the state’s bail hearing will get its first hearing Tuesday.
“Sixty percent of the people in our jails are just awaiting trials or sentencing and taxpayers are spending four and a half million bucks a day on these unsentenced populations,” Hertzberg said.
Supporters of the bail reform bill say the current system keeps many innocent people behind bars, disproportionately affects minority defendants and encourages some suspects to plead guilty simply to get out of jail.
“We literally see people in jail for two or three months and they finally just agree to a plea, so they can get out,” he said. “And there’s never even been a trial. Come on, that’s not America. That’s not patriotism.”
The median bail in California is $50,000, and the 10 percent — or $5,000 in this scenario — required to get a company to post bail is out of reach for many.
Michael Rushford with the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation says the proposal puts crime victims at risk and doesn’t exactly compel people who have committed crimes to make their court appearances.
“If you’re able to get relatively inexpensive bail for an auto theft or a drug deal, why would you show up in court, if no one’s gonna come looking for you?” Rushford said.
The bail industry is also opposed to the bill, saying that counties already have the option of freeing suspects without bail, but that having money at stake remains the best way to make sure defendants show up in court.
On the other end of the political spectrum, a state senator from Laguna Niguel is pitching three anti-crime bills. Sen. Patricia Bates wants to expand the definition of “violent felonies” to include vehicular manslaughter, human trafficking of a minor, and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer or firefighter; and make it a felony for a convicted sex offender to purposely remove or disable a GPS tracking device.
Bates’ third bill would clarify that a felony DUI conviction, even if it is reduced later to a misdemeanor, can still be used as a prior felony offense if a driver is caught again.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.)