California Supreme Court ends cash bail for defendants who cannot afford it

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week to end cash bail for defendants who cannot afford to pay. [CNN]

Following Thursday’s ruling, courts in California will now be required to to consider an arrestee’s ability to post bail, and they will be prohibited from detaining the defendant solely because he or she cannot pay the stated amount.

“The common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional,” Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar wrote in the court’s unanimous opinion. “It is one thing to decide that a person should be charged with a crime, but quite another to determine, under our constitutional system, that the person merits detention pending trial on that charge.” 

Cuellar stated in the ruling that conditions of release other than posting bail, such as electronic monitoring, regular check-ins with a pretrial case manager, community housing or shelter and drug and alcohol treatment, are often enough. 

“When people can obtain their release, they almost always do so,” Cuellar wrote. “The disadvantages to remaining incarcerated pending resolution of criminal charges are immense and profound.”

Last November, California voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have eliminated cash bail and replaced it with a risk assessment system. Voters rejected the initiative, Proposition 25, by a tally of 56.41 percent to 43.59 percent. 

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