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COVID-19 no bail order ending but CA voters could adopt permanent bail reform

Posted at 7:25 AM, Jun 19, 2020

California's judicial leaders are ending the $0 bail order imposed due to COVID-19 but voters could have the final say on the issue this November.

The statewide emergency order is set to end this Saturday, after The Judicial Council of California voted 17-2 to end the controversial measure aimed at reducing the risk of virus spread in overcrowded jails.

But even after the order ends, bail could be permanently replaced with a risk assessment if California voters support the change.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10 into law in 2018 but opponents of the issue collected enough signatures to deliver a voter referendum, which is an opportunity for voters to weigh in.

ABC Bail bondsman Greg Sullivan agrees the system could be improved but said bail serves a purpose.

"When people just say money, money, money. It's really not just that," Sullivan said. "What it is, is the support system. We don't go out and contact people for bail, families come to us. So when families come to us and want to get their loved one out, it's because they want to get them into rehab, get this behind them."

Sullivan noted that since he began issuing bail in 1993, new state laws have reduced the number of defendants seeking bail but the dollar figures for those who are assigned bail have skyrocketed.

"I think if judges lowered the bail and keep us in the loop, I'm still gonna make sure that person goes to court each and every time," Sullivan said. "I don't wanna lose $10,000, I don't wanna lose $50,000, but bails don't always have to be that high."

Under the emergency COVID-19 order, over 100 non-violent San Luis Obispo county offenders have been released on $0 bond.

Sullivan is keeping track of those defendants and SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow confirmed in an email that he supports Sullivan's data.

Of the defendants released on no bail, Sullivan said five were arrested again for a new violation.

Sullivan said April, May, and June brought court dates for 11 of the defendants. Only one of those defendants showed up for his or her court appearance.

The ACLU is opposed to the risk assessment, arguing racial and economic biases of the assessor could impact the defendant's release.

The bill's sponsor argues that the current bail system unfairly disadvantages the poor.

“Currently, we have a system that punishes people and takes away their liberty, simply because they have less money. That’s not fair, and it’s not protecting public safety," Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) said. "The point of this bill is to treat people as people, and to consider their public safety risk and their flight risk on an individual basis.”