Senate Bill 10, known as the California Money Bail Reform Act, would completely transform the bail system in California. The California Legislature passed SB10; however, the law is put on hold until November 2020 when voters can decide if the state should move forward with bail reform or if the law was inadequate.
The bill raised the eyebrows of the bail industry, human rights groups, and law enforcement agencies and was especially criticized after last-minute amendments were made. SB 10 would replace the commercial bail system with a pretrial risk assessment tool that would use data to determine whether a defendant would be eligible for release. Many questions remain as to how the system can work and how it will stay funded.
A group of opponents to SB 10 banded together and launched an effective effort to get enough signatures to stop the bill implementation and the referendum obtained success in gathering enough signatures to take the matter to California voters in 2020.
At present, if you are arrested for a crime in California, law enforcement has three options:
- Release you with no bail on your own recognizance
- Set a bail amount, and release you after you post it
- Set no bail and keep you in custody until your court hearing
If the bail is set, you have three choices on how to pay it:
- Pay the bail yourself
- Post a property bond if you own real estate
- Pay a bail bondsman to post a bond
California Bail Reform Law
Opponents of SB 10 wonder if the new legislation doesn't put the public at risk. According to the law, a computer algorithm will decide a person’s risk level and based on it he or she will be released from jail for free on a promise to appear. The pretrial risk assessment programs rely on information that many argue discriminates against minorities and people already disenfranchised. They are rarely entirely transparent in how they determine a person’s risk level and, according to opponents, use biased data in their assessment.
Many question whether these risk assessment tools will result in more individuals being incarcerated or if more criminals are going to get free without monitoring. Others argue that the legislation might place an excessive amount of discretion at the hands of judges and result in more people being incarcerated with no eligibility for release.
Also, if passed, SB10 can have an important effect on taxpayers. Many wonder whether fiscal considerations were really taken into consideration before passing the law. There are question marks as to how the cost of new pretrial services programs including additional staffing requirements, training, and resources will be supported.