California enacts zero bail for most low-level offenses

California temporarily set bail for most misdemeanor and lower-level felonies at zero in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus in jails by reducing the number of inmates.

On Monday, California’s Judicial Council approved 11 temporary amendments to the rules of the court, including suspending all property foreclosures and evictions, extending expiration dates on some restraining orders, and extending time on some civil actions. In addition, the council adopted rules to prioritize juvenile custody proceedings.

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow praised the council and the court for allowing video conference hearings with attorneys and parties in various locations to minimize exposure to others.

“This is critical to safeguarding the health of all who need access to and come within the justice system,” Dow said.

In regards to the zero bail for many low-level offenders, Dow voiced concerns over the inclusion of suspects accused of trafficking and elder or child abuse.

“I am hopeful that the Judicial Council’s new emergency rules do not unintentionally cause further harm to vulnerable labor trafficking victims, children, or elders in our communities who have already been identified as victims of crime,” Dow said. “We have urged the council to add human trafficking, child abuse, and elder abuse to the exceptions to zero bail, but sadly they did not adopt our recommendations.”

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