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Dozens of SLO County inmates out on $0 emergency bail order

Posted at 5:41 PM, May 15, 2020

It's been one month since a statewide emergency order went into effect setting bail at $0 for lower level offenses.

While it was intended to reduce the jail population and limit the spread of COVID-19, it's allowed suspects who may otherwise not have been able to post bail, to get out and potentially offend again.

Just one day after arrests were made in connection with a bomb threat at the San Luis Obispo County courthouse, one of the suspects is already out of jail.

"Sadly, that crime even though it's a felony to call in a threat of a bomb in a building, that qualifies for zero bail," said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney, Dan Dow.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says at least 72 inmates are also walking free since the zero bail emergency order went into effect last month.

"I find it to be really troubling for our community's safety," Dow said.

Most misdemeanor and lower level felonies make the cut. Plus, those accused of child or elder abuse, car theft, and even hit-and-run are eligible for zero bail.

Gregory Sullivan, Owner of ABC Bonding in San Luis Obispo says some of the alleged criminals are picking up new cases before even making their first court appearance.

"We're seeing a lot of car thefts and a lot of burglaries a lot of things that some of them know they're just going to get booked and then they're going to get released," Sullivan explained.

But DUI and sex crimes will keep people behind bars.

Critics say it's a one size fits all program that's just not needed in all 58 counties.

"Our county still has no cases, not even one of Coronavirus in our jail and so to apply this zero bail in our community was really an answer for another county and applied here which I actually think made us less safe," Dow said.

At San Luis Obispo County Jail, each new inmate is isolated for 14 days in addition to other safeguards like temperature checks throughout the facility.

Meantime, Sullivan says we have 18,000 to 20,000 active warrants in SLO County and he believes when this is all said and done, there's going to be many more.

"With this, just releasing people, there's nothing hanging over their head. When that alarm clock goes off in the morning on their court date they can just roll over in bed and go 'ah, I'm not dealing with this today and catch me when you can,'" Sullivan said.

The zero bail ruling will remain in effect until 90 days after Governor Newsom lifts the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

This November, voters will see a bail reform proposition on ballots.