A bill that would reduce bail statewide to $0 for all but the most serious crimes was passed in the Senate on Wednesday by a 30-9 vote.
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Senate Bill 262, authored by Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) would set bail at $0 for all offenses except serious or violent felonies, violations of specified protective orders, battery against a spouse, sex offenses, and driving under the influence. A statewide bail schedule would also be put into place under SB 262, requiring bail to be set for any defendant who commits another offense while out on $0 bail. If bail is et, the court would take into consideration the arrestee’s ability to pay bail.
In addition, SB 262 would require the court to order a return of money or property paid to a bail bond licensee by or on behalf of the arrestee to obtain bail if the action or proceeding against the arrestee who has been admitted to bail is dismissed, no charges are filed against the arrestee within 60 days of arrest, or the arrestee has made all court appearances during the pendency of the action or proceeding against the arrestee.
Senator Hertzberg and other supporters such as Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) are in favor of the bill due to the current cash bail system costing the state millions each year to keep arrestee’s who cannot afford bail in jails and prisons while they wait to see a judge. Some estimates put the figure nationwide at costing taxpayers $38 million a day, not counting lost economic production from arrestee’s missing work and other factors. Supporters say that the process is also obsolete, punishes poorer arrestee’s with jail for not being able to pay, and taints the legal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
“The current system of money bail is obsolete, it’s unconstitutional and fundamentally broken. It has cost us millions of dollars without keeping us any safer,” said Senator Hertzberg in a statement on Wednesday. “SB 262 is fair, it is just, and we must act now to put the blueprint together to eliminate this form of economic discrimination, and stop the predatory practice that the bail industry has used for far too long. I applaud the overwhelming support from the Senate, and look forward to seeing this bill progress in the Assembly.”
Senator Skinner agreed, noting that the Senate sent a clear message on where they stood on the issue.
“Today our state Senate sent a clear message: It’s time to restore the fundamental right that people are innocent until proven guilty. No one should be held in jail simply because they can’t afford bail,” explained Senator Skinner. “SB 262 will restore this basic right for millions of low-income Californians accused of misdemeanor and nonviolent felony crimes.”
Strong opposition to SB 262, another probably cash bail proposition
However, despite 30 votes in favor of passage, a strong opposition movement mounted by Republicans kept bill supporters on their toes. Those against SB 262 have argued that safety risks of having arrestee’s out with out bail could lead to higher crimes and less people having incentive to show up to their respective hearings. Many also noted that California voters had recently voted for keeping the cash bail system in November. Many allege that the bill will go against the majority of Californians wishes, as Proposition 25 had passed with over 56% of the vote.
“Zero bail is a FAIL. It was tested in 2020 during the pandemic and a similar policy was rejected by voters in November 2020,” said Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) shortly after the vote on Wednesday. “Today Democrats doubled down on an idea rejected by voters and already proven to be dangerous to our communities. Social experiments are one thing on paper, but by listening to law enforcement and crime victims, it was pretty clear these policies failed in real life.”
Many experts also noted that quickly reversing something that voters approved of less than a year ago may cause another proposition to be started to halt SB 262 should it be passed.
“As soon as it passes, petitions are going to be sent out by bail bond companies. Many are probably being waited on right now,” explained former bail bond investigator Les Thompson to the Globe. “Really, it’s just going to go back to the voters at some point. They know they have the votes still, so why wouldn’t they protect their business?”
SB 262 is expected to be heard in the Assembly soon.