On Monday April 13th, beginning at 5 P.M, bail will be eliminated for the majority of crimes in California.
The emergency order, which was approved by the Judicial Council of California last week, will cover all misdemeanors and most non-violent felonies. Murder, DUI, domestic violence, crimes where others are at an inherent danger if the suspected person is released,and crimes of a sexual nature are among those that still require bail. Bail being automatically denied in court has also been halted because of these new changes.
The new order is set to stand for 90 days following either the state of emergency being lifted by Governor Gavin Newsom or if the Judicial Council removes the rule. This means $0 bail will be in effect until mid-July at the earliest.
Eviction defaults and judicial foreclosures were also temporarily suspended in the order, with temporary restraining orders and statute of limitations over civil actions being extended However, the majority of the new orders set down rules for remote technology during court proceedings and online acceptance of documents such as depositions.
“We are at this point truly with no guidance in history, law, or precedent,” noted Chief Justice and Council Chairwoman Tani Cantil-Sakauye in a statement. “And to say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation. In developing these rules, we listened to suggestions from our justice system partners, the public, and the courts, and we greatly appreciate all of the input. Working with our court stakeholders, I’m confident we can preserve the rule of law and protect the rights of victims, the accused, litigants, families and children, and all who seek justice. It’s truly a team effort.”
Side effects in store for courts, prisons
The new orders were passed by the Council to reduce the overall prison and jail populations to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Prisons have been hit hard during the pandemic, and California has responded by making more prisoners eligible for early release and outright releasing thousands of prisoners who had been due for release in the next few months.
“Two months ago this would have been unthinkable,” said prison consultant Doug Gilmore. “But now people charged with crimes don’t need to be held and don’t need to pay anything for the most part.”
“This is not an incentive to do crime at all believe it or not, as the consequences of anything will still have to be met, but it also makes it a bit harder to ensure people will show up to court now. I’ll be looking at what happens during the first few weeks to see how effective this order can be, but it has essentially become almost ‘catch-and-release’ to use a fishing term.”
“The fear over coronavirus also made it more difficult for courts. There’s a huge difference in seeing someone in person and seeing them over a computer. Judges and others need to remain impartial, but now you can hide a lot of subtleties that could help decide people’s futures. For example, in courts you can see people’s visible tattoo. Remotely, you can hide these, especially if they are visible on the hands or neck. If they were gang tattoos, and now the judge doesn’t see them, it could influence his decision on bail. Judges are impartial, but tiny details like that add up.”
“How someone reacts to something, such as crying after being sent back to the cell, has gotten people lower bail amounts in the past. Now since it’s remote, it’s an even more immediate decision.”
“This was passed in the interest of public safety for coronavirus spread, but now we have to look at what the consequences are of people being immediately released from custody with no bail. We’re entering uncharted waters.”
Additional coronavirus -related court orders may be introduced in the following weeks as the coronavirus is projected to recede from the state following this week.
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