California Federation of Republican Women Sue Blair, President
By Judy Herman, CFRW Legislative Analyst
VOTE NO TO REPEAL Senate Bill 10. Keep monetary bail. Monetary bail has worked effectively throughout America’s history to ensure that a suspect who is released on bail before trial will keep his or her promise to return to court for trial.
CFRW Executive Committee Recommends:
Bail was incorporated into the American system of justice as the Eighth Amendment to the American Constitution which states that an individual (accused of a crime) has the right to bail. The California Constitution also states the right to bail. Bail has been agreed to be “the money or security a person accused of a crime is required to provide to the court in order to be released from custody, with the purpose of assuring public safety and the defendant’s future appearance in court”. The current bail system operates successfully as a cooperative effort between the public courts and private industry.
California’s Democratic legislature passed Senate Bill 10 and Governor Brown signed it for the purpose of replacing the California Constitutional definition of monetary bail with a definition of nonmonetary bail. The bill completely restructures the existing bail system to make it a state-run organization instead of a public and private cooperative effort. It redefines bail as “nonmonetary procedures and conditions which a defendant must follow during his or her release from jail, prior to arraignment and/or trial”. SB 10 requires building a new division in each county probation department. It will allow some suspects to be released prior to being charged with a crime. It will require substantial public investment and ongoing funding for assessment personnel and tools, for supervision of suspects on bail plus personnel to replace bail agents in returning suspects who do not voluntarily return to court.
SB10 imposes unnecessarily detailed procedural statewide guidelines on California courts. California counties vary greatly in many ways. Counties may need to review and update their policies and procedures; they do not need a lengthy one-size fits all statewide prescription. Counties do not need to lose functioning bail agencies to treat criminal suspects fairly.
California courts are responsible to balance the concern for public safety with the need to provide a defendant who is eligible for bail the opportunity to lead a normal life until trial. Judges use a variety of measures to determine a bail amount including a defendant’s history of criminal activity and the risks of that defendant’s flight. Guidelines called bail schedules assist judges in making decisions. California courts should be able to use variations suitable to their cities and counties.
Eligibility for bail is based on the type and level of crime of which the defendant is accused, with some serious crimes preventing release from custody. Decisions about bail should be a judge’s decision. They should not be made according to a general rule such as that specified by SB10 for ‘most misdemeanor cases’ which states that in most misdemeanor cases, suspects will be “booked and released without being taken into custody or, if taken into custody, released from custody without a risk assessment by PAS within 12 hours of booking”.
Bail agents assist courts in providing eligible defendants the money or helping them access the property necessary to secure their release until trial. Bail agents charge a non-refundable fee which varies in scale with a crime and/or the risk of a suspect’s flight. As it is, in most cases, the bail industry saves cities and counties millions of dollars every year by getting defendants to court. Money or security bail enables the individual on release to resume a normal life, including working in a job that might otherwise be lost and maintaining family life. SB10’s substitute of state supervision is not a fair substitute.
In response to claims that California’s money bail system systematically treats the poor and the indigent suspect unfairly, it is important to realize that wiping out the bail industry to impose a state-regulated bureaucracy is not fair to suspects or the public. If “unfair” is based on financial need, the solution is not to replace the entire system with state monitoring. Even the bail industry recognizes that there is a small population of poor or indigent defendants who are eligible for bail, but who remain in custody. Bail professionals believe that the bail industry and the criminal justice system need to work together to find ways to provide additional assistance for that population and are committed to working toward that.
Supporters for Proposition 25 include Democratic legislators, the California Democratic Party, the California Teachers Association, the SEIU California State Council and the League of Women Voters of California.
Opponents include the California Business Roundtable, California NAACP State Conference, Crime Victims United of California, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, some Chambers of Commerce, and the Orange County Board of Supervisors.