Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
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California’s new law abolishing the requirement to post bail for release after arrest, scheduled to take effect in October, was put on hold Wednesday when bail bond companies qualified a referendum to put the issue before voters in November 2020.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that random sampling of petitions submitted by sponsors of the ballot measure showed they had collected more than the 402,468 valid signatures they needed to make the ballot. Qualification of a referendum on a newly enacted law bars its enforcement until voters decide whether to approve it.
The legislation, SB10, cosponsored by state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in August. It would make California the first state to eliminate the requirement that a defendant post monetary bail, in an amount based on the seriousness of the charges, to be freed while awaiting trial.
Instead, a judge would decide whether a defendant could be released safely, with monitoring, depending on the charges, the defendant’s record and the judge’s assessment of the risk he or she posed. People facing capital charges would not qualify for pretrial release, nor would defendants with recent serious or violent felony convictions, those charged with domestic violence or those who had been granted bail in the past and repeatedly failed to appear in court.
Supporters of the change, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, said cash bail does not promote safety and unfairly penalizes low-income defendants while those who can afford bail go free.
But some longtime opponents of the current system, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said SB10 would merely put in place a new system of pretrial detention that would vary from one court to another and pose the risk of racial bias. And bail bond companies, which collect 10 percent fees on each bond they issue, contended defendants would stop showing up in court if they no longer faced forfeiture of their bail.
Separately, the state Supreme Court is reviewing a January 2018 ruling by an appeals court in San Francisco that would require judges to consider a defendant’s ability to pay before setting bail. Opponents of the bail system are also challenging it on constitutional grounds before a federal judge in Oakland.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/California-law-abolishing-bail-is-put-on-hold-13539946.php.