The Cash Bail System in Los Angeles County

In Los Angeles County, the cash bail system has long been a contentious issue in the criminal justice system. Rooted in centuries-old practices, cash bail was initially established as a means to ensure defendants would appear in court for their hearings. However, in recent years, its detrimental effects on the accused, particularly those from marginalized communities, have come to light. Many efforts have been made to rectify this inequality, including a recent court ruling by the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. This ruling allows for no cash bail in nonviolent misdemeanor cases, and judicial review for felony cases.

The Inequity of Cash Bail

The cash bail system has perpetuated an unequal playing field in which defendants with significant financial means can easily post bond and remain out of custody while awaiting trial. Conversely, individuals from low-income backgrounds may languish in jail for weeks or even months, due solely to the lack the funds to secure their release. This glaring disparity disproportionately affects minority communities, leading to a cycle of economic hardship and perpetuating the criminalization of poverty.

Cash Bail’s Unfair Impact on the Justice System

Communities in Los Angeles County Are Not Immune to the Repercussions of Cash Bail. Families of Incarcerated Individuals Suffer Emotional Distress and Financial Strain, Innocent People Held in Pretrial Detention May Be More Inclined to Accept Plea Deals Simply to Avoid Prolonged Incarceration, and Los Angeles County Jails Serve as a Very Undesirable and Dangerous Location for Long-term Residence. Since January 2023, for Example, 22 Inmates Have Died in the Los Angeles County Jail System.

Alternatives to Cash Bail

Fortunately, there are viable alternatives to the cash bail system, such as pretrial risk assessment tools, which take into account factors like flight risk and threat to public safety. Additionally, supervised release programs, ankle monitoring, and home confinement can help ensure defendants’ compliance with court orders without resorting to detention in the county jail.

Successful Reform Initiatives

In recent years, California, and Los Angeles County in particular, have taken important steps toward cash bail reform. In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that effectively eliminated cash bail, replacing it with a risk assessment system that considers public safety and flight risk. In 2021, the California Supreme Court decided the landmark decision of In re Humphrey, which held that the court must consider the arrestee’s ability to pay the bail amount and the arrestee may not be detained solely because they cannot post bail.

More recently, the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court held that as of October 1, 2023, defendants accused of most misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies in Los Angeles County will either be cited and released altogether, or will be released on electronic monitoring, home supervision, or other terms and conditions following a judicial review of their case within 24 hours of their arrest. This ruling allows criminal defendants who pose no threat to society to entirely avoid the cash bail system.

However, there are several misdemeanor exceptions that will still require cash bail. Those misdemeanors include domestic violence, stalking, and violation of a protective order. Furthermore, individuals who are on parole or already had their pretrial release terms determined by a judge will be ineligible for the newly implemented cite and release program, but can still be released pretrial without bail by a judge.

Defendants accused of rape, murder, manslaughter, and assault will still face the cash bail system. However, defendants facing certain felonies, such as human trafficking, battery on a peace officer, and sex with a minor will be entitled to judicial review.

If you or a loved one are incarcerated and facing cash bail, it is critical that you discuss your case immediately with a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has extensive experience filing and litigating bail motions and is extremely well-versed in pretrial procedures such as bail reduction.

For more information about the criminal justice process, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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