Los Angeles County’s court system has approved a new set of bail schedules aimed at releasing low-level, non-violent and misdemeanor suspects before their arraignment.
The move comes after a May injunction that prevented LAPD and the Sheriff’s department from demanding cash bail for low-level offenses. However, other agencies were not covered by that ruling and at the time, the courts said they would draft new rules for bail that would apply to everyone.
The new system begins in October and eliminates the need for money bail for specific offenses while evaluating a suspect’s risk to the public.
Under the new guidelines, individuals charged with property crimes, minor theft and vehicle violations may be cited and released. More serious offenses will be subject to a review by a judge before any release terms are issued and the most serious crimes, like murder, will not qualify for pre-arraignment release.
While advocates have said the new system will address an unfair system that targeted the poor who could not afford bail, critics say it will contribute to rising crime trends.
“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,” said Presiding Judge Jessner. “Any determination of an arrestee’s status after arrest but before being charged should be based on an individualized determination of risk and likelihood to return to court. A low-risk arrestee should not be held in jail simply because they cannot post the necessary funds to be released pending arraignment. I applaud the members of the Court’s Bail Committee and Executive Committee for producing an innovative approach that, for those arrested for non-violent, non-serious felony offenses and misdemeanors, considers the individual’s risk to public and victim safety and likelihood of returning to court while minimizing reliance on money bail to secure pre-arraignment release.”
Some Westside business owners said they didn’t support the change as their restaurants and food-related businesses have been dealing with dwindling patronage as a direct result of crime.
“Bottom line is that the tourism count is down significantly,” said Darrell Preston, the Operations Manager of The Venice Whaler and Baja Cantina in Marina Del Rey. “We simply don’t have the tourist traffic. It hasn’t been safe, graffiti is everywhere, and there are still two businesses on the block unoccupied post Covid. We estimate that business is down in our area nearly 40% from our number in 2019.”
The Venice Whaler has recently been hit by a string of robberies that has resulted in an increase of security measures.
Preston said that since last year he has been plagued by a string of robberies that have caused a decrease in business and an increase of security expenditures. This year alone, Preston said he spent in excess of $10,000 per location on security measures and to cover property damages following multiple burglaries in Oct. and Apr. of 2022.
Despite the added measures businesses are taking to protect their properties, there is a sense of helplessness when it comes to the average customer and their reluctance to venture out.
“The late night crowd simply doesn’t feel safe,” Preston said. “LAX traffic is at record levels yet our numbers are down significantly. Common sense dictates that the visitors to our area are clearly reducing time spent or removing Venice entirely from their vacation plans.”
A zero bail policy was in effect during much of the Covid-era lockdowns and Preston said he is very concerned over the recent reinstatement of the zero-bail policy.
“I feel zero bail is just another in a line of misguided decisions, meant to lower the consequences for illegal behavior,” Preston said. “It defies common sense that we would remove barriers for robbery, assaults and vagrant behavior.”
Court officials said the new rules do not allow repeat offenders back on the streets as individuals rearrested are not eligible for release a second time.
“With the implementation of the new Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, the Court is helping to develop a robust and dynamic pre-arraignment release system for non-violent, non-serious felonies and misdemeanors that prioritizes public and victim safety and equal access to justice for all,” said Executive Officer/Clerk of Court David W. Slayton.
Magnolia Lafleur & Matthew Hall, SMDP Staff