A controversial California bill that’s currently pending in legislature will allow suspects behind bars to receive a bail amount that matches what they can afford to pay, possibly including those behind bars for heinous crimes such as murder and assault.
The Orange County Register reports that California Senate Bill 10 would allow people without the money to pay high bail amounts the opportunity to leave jail like their wealthier counterparts who can afford high amounts. Currently, those who cannot afford to post high bail amounts stay behind bars and generally end up losing their jobs, cars, and homes, leaving their families to take on the consequences, advocates for the bill claim.
Nonviolent offenders will be given the opportunity to await their trial from home, whereas violent offenders would undergo a risk assessment to determine if allowing a lower bond would pose a “significant” risk to society should the suspect be released.
Each case will be looked at thoroughly prior to setting bond, including whether allowing them back into society would put others at risk for harm and whether they’re considered a flight risk.
“Somebody is arrested, and because they don’t have a few bucks to get out of jail, they’re sitting in jail,” Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, lead author of Senate Bill 10 said. “That is not justice. That is not what this country is about.”
On the flip side, SB10 would eliminate fixed-bail schedules for all offenders, meaning that murder and rape suspects, who are typically given a bond amount ranging in the millions, could have a much lower amount, depending on their income. Violent offenders will also be allowed a a pretrial services report under the new bill, as well as the right for their lawyers to cross-examine witnesses and victims.
Those facing misdemeanor charges would be allowed to walk of out jail without a bail amount at all if their income meets the qualifications.
President of the Professional Bail Agents of the U.S., Beth Chapman, told Nancy Grace that in many instances, allowing suspects to walk free or get out of jail on reduced bond is giving them an open ticket to commit crimes, whether a misdemeanor or felony.
“What all of these people are boasting is that we should just turn a blind eye because it’s a minor crime. You know, multiple driving offenses becomes a habitual traffic offender. That becomes a ‘prisonable’ offense. We cannot just continue to say, ‘Oh it was a minor crime, let them go,’ because there’s victims involved.”
High bail amounts are currently in place to help ensure suspects return to their hearing. If they skip out, the consequences are costly. For example, if a family member posts $1 million bail and the suspect flees, the family will not get their money back.
“The main reason for the bail bonds system is to ensure the person’s appearance in court,” Chapman explained. “This is a user-funded service where if you get in trouble, we’ll help you get out, but we have to make sure you’ll return back to court. If they don’t go back to court, then we go out and at no cost to the taxpayer we bring them back to the jurisdiction of the court.”
Meanwhile, New York Gov. Cuomo wants to pass a similar law, a bail reform package, that will help those who cannot afford it the opportunity to bail out jail based on their income and their risk factor. Similar to SB10, judges will be allowed to perform risk assessments on suspects prior to deciding what, if any bail amount will be set. Violent felons will be assessed individually while
“By tying freedom to money,” Cuomo wrote, “[New York] has created a two-tiered system that puts an unfair burden on the economically disadvantaged.”
Other states pushing bail reforms include Georgia, New Jersey, Texas, New Mexico, and Alabama.
[Feature Photo: AP/Ronen Zilberman, File]