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New ‘zero bail’ policy in effect in LA County


Attracts share of advocates and detractors

Los Angeles County will officially move to a zero-bail system this week, ending the years-long standard of setting cash bail amounts for defendants commensurate with the severity of the crime they are accused of committing–a process critics say favors the rich while doing little to protect public safety.

But the zero-bail system has come under fire from hard-line law-and-order backers who contend it removes accountability from the justice system by allowing the vast majority of arrestees to be quickly released from custody rather than kept in jail as they await charges and trial, unless they are accused of the most serious of crimes.

“Our communities have not been shy about telling us how nervous they are about this change,” county Sheriff Robert Luna told the Board of Supervisors last week, saying crime victims who see offenders immediately released from custody are left with little confidence in the criminal justice system. He said he understands the need to respect constitutional rights of arrestees, but said zero-bail can demoralize deputies and police officers who work hard to make arrests, only to “watch the offender walk away with a citation as the victim looks on in disbelief.”

But Supervisor Holly Mitchell said the zero-bail system that took effect on Oct. 1 does not mean criminals are escaping punishment for their offenses.

“It’s really dangerous for us to conflate bail with accountability,” Mitchell said, adding later: “Bail means I have the resources to pay my way out of jail.”

The zero-bail system, officially dubbed by the Los Angeles Superior Court as Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, or PARP, largely eliminates the existing cash bail system for all but the most serious of crimes. Most people arrested on suspicion of non-violent or non-serious offenses will either be cited and released in the field or booked and released at a police or sheriff’s station with orders to appear in court on a specific date for arraignment once they are actually charged with a crime.

Arrestees who are believed to present a heightened threat to the public or be a flight risk will be referred to a magistrate judge, who will review the case and determine whether the person should be held in custody pending arraignment or released under non-financial restrictions such as electronic monitoring.

Once a person is charged and appears in court for arraignment, a judge could change or revoke the defendant’s release conditions.

Twelve Southland cities have filed court papers in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking an injunction blocking implementation of the zero-bail system, arguing it will harm public safety. It was unclear when that legal challenge will be heard.