California ends statewide $0 bail rule

California’s two-month experiment with $0 bail for many county jail inmates ends Saturday, though individual counties can choose to extend the rule.

In April, the California Judicial Council issued an order to reduce jail populations statewide in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The order allowed bail to be reduced to $0 for those awaiting trial for most misdemeanors and felonies that, by California law, are not considered violent crimes.

Shortly after issuing the order, the county released multiple inmates from the San Luis Obispo County Jail.

But earlier this month, the Judicial Council voted 17-2 to terminate the $0 bail rule, effective Saturday, while allowing counties to decide whether to extend it. 

“The Judicial Council’s action better reflects the current needs of our state, which has different health concerns and restrictions county-to-county based on the threat posed by COVID-19,” said Justice Marsha Slough, a Judicial Council member and chair of the Executive and Planning Committee. “We urge local courts to continue to use the emergency COVID-19 bail schedule where necessary to protect the health of the community, the courts and the incarcerated.”

In SLO County, both District Attorney Dan Dow and Sheriff Ian Parkinson criticized the judicial order, saying it posed a threat to the safety of local communities.

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