New Bail Law Under Review
March 12, 2020
The historic law eliminating cash bail for criminal defendants in favor of a risk-assessment system to determine release is not even a month old and the California Supreme Court is already getting ready to review the constitutionality of it.
There is broad agreement among state and criminal justice leaders that the money bail system in California is unfair and often unconstitutional, but there is disagreement about whether the system under the new law complies with the state constitution.
The case of Kenneth Humphrey, whose win before a state appeals court in January upended California’s reliance on unaffordable bail amounts to keep defendants in jail awaiting trial, is pending before the state Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court initially took up the issues raised in Humphrey’s case to determine under what circumstances a defendant can be jailed — with no chance to bail out — before he or she has been convicted of a crime.
The court also asked whether judges can consider public safety in setting bail amounts.
Rather than take the review up as a separate matter, the justices asked for both sides in the matter to submit written arguments about the constitutionality of the new law as part of its review of the Humphreys case.
Meanwhile on a separate front, the bail industry is fighting to survive. Across the state, industry representatives are gathering signatures for a referendum to overturn SB 10. Harmeet Dhillon, an attorney for the California Bail Agents Association, said she is 95 percent certain that bail proponents will be able to gather the necessary signatures in time for a Nov. 26 deadline. If so, the issue would then go back to voters in 2019.
For a good overview of the State Supreme Court’s decision to hear the matter, you can click on this link.