Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation that will eliminate money bail in California, replacing it with a system that assesses the risk to public safety and the likelihood that a defendant will return to court to determine custody status.
“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Brown said in a statement.
The passage of Senate Bill 10, which will take effect on October 1, 2019, marks a key milestone in ongoing efforts to reform the bail system. Money bail was already undergoing significant revisions following a state appeals court ruling in January in the case of Kenneth Humphrey, a San Francisco man who was held on $350,000 bail for more than 11 months on robbery assault charges.
Following an appeal by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, the court found it unconstitutional for judges to set bail without considering a defendant’s ability to pay.
Humphrey was released in May after a new bail hearing.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office asked the court to review that ruling for clarity on when a defendant can be held without bail.
Introduced by state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, SB10 passed the Senate last week just days after a compromise was reached that caused several backers, including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, to withdraw their support. Advocates argued that the revised language of the bill could allow courts more discretion to keep defendants in custody in judges believed there was no other way to protect public safety or ensure their return to court.
“We are disappointed to see Senate Bill 10 signed into law,” the ACLU of California said in a statement today. “SB 10 is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that California should strive for. It cannot guarantee a substantial reduction in the number of Californians detained while awaiting trial, nor does it sufficiently address racial bias in pretrial decision making. Indeed, key provisions of the new law create significant new risks and problems.”
The group called on Hertzberg to make good on his commitment to address racial bias in risk assessment tools through new legislation.
The American Bail Association opposed to the legislation, calling it a “monstrosity” in recent statements and arguing that defendants have a constitutional right to bail. The group has indicated that it believes the legislation will be overturned in a legal challenge.
The changes have the potential to place additional strain on the pretrial diversion programs that supervise inmates who have been released from custody pending trial. The Examiner has previously reported that the Sheriff’s Office and pretrial diversion programs have reported a need for more staff in the wake of the Humphrey decision.