Local law enforcement agencies are preparing for a radical change to local bail rules that will eliminate cash bail for low-level offenses starting next month
Local law enforcement agencies are preparing for a radical change to local bail rules that will eliminate cash bail for low-level offenses starting next month.
Starting October 1, all police agencies in the county will be following a new bail system after a court ruling in May 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.
Those rules came down in July and eliminated the need for money bail for specific offenses while evaluating a suspect’s risk to the public.
“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 earlier this year. “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.”
According to the Santa Monica Police Department, officers now have three choices: cite and release (arrestee is released at the location of the arrest), book and release (arrestee is booked in jail and then released on their own recognizance) or magistrate review (select cases referred to an on-call magistrate).
In a statement, Lt. Erika Aklufi said most suspects will be cite or book and release. According to the bail schedule those outcomes cover crimes like property crimes, minor theft and vehicle violations.
A judge will be called in when a suspect’s crimes pose an increased risk to the public. In those cases, it will be up to the court to decide what terms of release are assigned to that suspect. The most serious crimes, like murder, will not qualify for pre-arraignment release.
“As an example, a person arrested for False Imprisonment under this new protocol is eligible for Book and Release,” said SMPD in their statement. “Under the previous bail schedule, their bail amount would be $50,000. Likewise, a person arrested for theft of an automobile is eligible for Book and Release, while under the previous bail schedule, their bail amount was $35,000.”
Suspects charged with gun crimes, sexual battery, crimes against children/elders and contact with minors with intent to commit a sexual offense will be subject to Magistrate Review.
The zero-bail rules only apply to the first arrest. Individuals rearrested after being released will not be subject to cite/book and release without additional qualifications.
“While this represents a significant change in protocols for all law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County, the Santa Monica Police Department remains committed to the safety and security of our community,” said the statement. “We will not waiver in our commitment to safeguarding our residents, visitors, and business owners even while we work within the processes set forth by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.”