California Supreme Court curtails use of cash bail for some defendants

The racial unrest that has characterized the last year has bolstered activist demands for far-reaching criminal justice reform, and courts and legislatures in some parts of the country are responding to those calls in controversial ways.

The Los Angeles Times reports that in a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court last week ruled that detaining criminal defendants solely based on their inability to afford bail is an unconstitutional practice and that financial resources must be taken into consideration before bail amounts are fixed in a given case, ending the current manner in which such pretrial decisions are made.

It should be noted that the decision does not equate to a complete prohibition on the use of cash bail in criminal matters, but the justices did impose on lower court judges a duty to assess the seriousness of the charges faced by each defendant together with their criminal history before determining a reasonable bail amount, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Going forward, courts will be permitted to keep individuals in custody by imposing bail “only if it first finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that no nonfinancial condition of release can reasonably protect” against risks to public safety or of defendant flight, according to the opinion in the case.

Back in November, California voters rejected proposed legislation that would have brought a complete end to the use of cash bail in favor of risk assessments that would have been conducted for each and every criminal defendant, as Fox News reported.

Nevertheless, the state Supreme Court’s decision to limit the use of cash bail for defendants unable to pay was met with approval from criminal justice reform advocates as well as others impacted by the ruling.

Karen Pank, executive director of Chief Probation Officers of California expressed her support for the change, saying, “Wealth should play no role in the justice system and we will continue to fight for a pretrial system that focuses on safety, fairness and effectiveness.”

California is not alone in taking strong steps in limiting the use of cash bail, with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signing legislation earlier this year that made his state the first in the country to halt its use entirely, as The Hill reported.

Amid news that Los Angeles has seen a massive rise in shootings and other crime during the first part of 2021 and in the wake of last year’s slashing of that city’s police budget by $150 million, however, the ultimate wisdom of any move likely to release more criminals onto the streets while awaiting further adjudication remains to be seen.

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25 Responses

  1. We need to buy more guns to protect ourselves and our families. Maybe these criminals will go to these rich neighborhoods and get shot. We could get rid of this trash and wouldn’t be spending money on court cost.

  2. Interesting California has seen an increase in crime since defunding the police gee who would have thought that something like that would happen and if a person is arrested for a violent crime they should not be allowed bail regardless of who they are or how much money they have

    1. Sentence needs to fit the crime and enforce it! Stop patting their hand and looking the other way! No matter the color or ability to pay!

  3. Bail is bail any way one looks at it. When a person screws up and is caught red handed that person should be arrested and bail set according to what he or she did and not according to how much money he or she has. Speaking for myself, I find it hard to understand why law breakers are treated almost like royalty. Most if not all of them know when they break the law and know they’re doing wrong so they should pay.

  4. while the Biden administration is on more crime will be committed just look the illegal immigrant enter they own the country thank to Joe Biden plus gun control for who not Hunter Biden to lie on the application double standard one for you and another one for me

  5. So people who are deemed not to repeat the offense or other crimes and will come to court to answer the charges,
    who have a low income cannot be given an exorbitant bail amount so as to keep them in jail. Those considered flight risks or likely to commit other crimes can have a large bail amount set. Just to keep them in prison. Its about time the punishment fits the crime and ability to pay bail. It is still. Up to the judge to set the bail amount. Let them keep they’re jobs while awaiting trial for minor offenses.

  6. Most racist act ever! What they are saying is that if you’re black or mexican you get a get out of jail free card because you are just too ignorant to stay out of trouble!

  7. Since this administration took office our country has gone backwards thanks to our fearless demented leader and his bunch of nitwits

  8. Crime will rise if the person committing the offense is not jailed or imprisoned. Rapes, Robberies, Drugs and Car Jackings will climb to record Highs.

  9. Ohh, its fastidious discussion about this article here at this web site, I have read alll that,
    so now me also commenting at this place.

    1. We are headed for a third world country extremist agenda in this country. There is nothing cool about releasing criminals back into society they will continue to commit crimes and it will be like a revolving door with dead bodies stacking up. Democrats have sold out the American people to criminals and corruption.

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