California blocks bail reform after a year’s delay

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers balked at a scaled-down attempt to reform the state’s cash bail system on Wednesday, a year after a broader effort also stalled amid headlines over a gruesome murder .

The latest version would prevent suspects released before trial from being charged for things like ankle monitors or other conditions imposed to ensure they show up for court.

It would also require bail bonds to be returned to suspects if charges are dismissed or no charges are filed within 60 days of the suspects’ arrest. Bail agencies would be allowed to retain a 10% fee.

The reform is “focused on those fighting poverty and in the criminal justice system,” said Democratic Congresswoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, who brought the bill to the House. She later added that “the bail system will survive”.

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But Democratic Assemblyman Jim Cooper, who will soon become Sacramento County sheriff, said the danger is that slaves will no longer bail people out and “it will be de facto zero bail”.

The measure fell short by seven of the 41 votes it needed in the 80-member Assembly, with time running out for the year as lawmakers prepared to adjourn.

Most people who post bail – 97% – pay a bond agent a fee that is currently non-refundable, even if charges are never filed. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said requiring the return of most of that money in such circumstances “represents a critical step forward in ensuring Californians’ rights to the presumption of innocence and due process.” .

Last year’s broader release also reportedly set out a statewide bail schedule to account for suspects’ finances. It was planned to enshrine in law a California Supreme Court ruling that judges must consider suspects’ ability to pay when setting bail.

The proposal was stalled when a parolee who had been released without bail was arrested after a Sacramento woman was found dead with her two dogs killed inside her burning home. County prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty for Troy Davis in this case.

The revised version continues to draw opposition from the surety industry, with a coalition of opponents saying the measure “is carefully designed to eliminate the surety industry and open the door to a permanent Zero Bail system in the future. “.

Senate Republicans also criticized majority Democrats for resuscitating the bill “despite enormous public safety concerns.”

Prosecutors continue to tweak their policies by asking for bail two years after a statewide zero bail policy helped reduce the prison population during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who recently replaced a more progressive prosecutor recalled by midterm voters, said last week that she would generally continue her predecessor’s policy of rarely asking for bail in species.

But Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig said last week that his office’s tracking of those released without bail found 70% had committed new crimes and nearly 30% of those new arrests were for violent crimes.

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