No money required for misdemeanors
The presiding judge of Los Angeles County’s court system announced this week the approval of a new set of bail schedules that will allow for the release of many people arrested for non-violent, non-serious felonies and misdemeanors before they are arraigned, saying a low-risk arrestee should not remain behind bars simply because they can’t come up with the required bail.
“A person’s ability to pay a large sum of money should not be the determining factor in deciding whether that person, who is presumed innocent, stays in jail before trial or is released,” Presiding Judge Samantha P. Jessner said. “A low-risk arrestee should not be held in jail simply because they cannot post the necessary funds to be released pending arraignment.”
The presiding judge said the new bail schedules, set to take effect Oct. 1 in Los Angeles County, will not require money bail for misdemeanors and non-violent, non-serious felony offenses as a condition for release.
“Instead, the protocols focus on an individual arrestee’s risk to public and victim safety and the arrestee’s likelihood of returning to court,” Jessner said.
Arrestees could be eligible for cite-and-release or book-and-release involving most theft offenses, vehicle code violations and offenses against property such as petty theft and vandalism, according to the court, which noted that the pre-arraignment release of people arrested on suspicion of certain other offenses including possession of a loaded firearm and sexual battery would be subject to review by a magistrate. Capital offenses such as murder with special circumstance allegations and certain other felonies identified in California’s constitution won’t be eligible for pre-arraignment release.
The presiding judge noted that a preliminary injunction issued in May prevents the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department from demanding cash bail from many arrested people still awaiting arraignment, but does not apply to the remaining 50-plus law enforcement agencies in the county that were not named in the lawsuit. She noted that there has been “confusion and a lack of fair and equal access to release to all arrestees in the county based on one’s wealth rather than one’s risk.”
Jessner said the court is confident that the new approach will “increase community safety and reduce failures to appear in court.”