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California Governor Signs Bill Eliminating Cash Bail System

“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Jerry Brown said.

By Ethan Harfenist

California Governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill, set to take effect in October 2019, to do away with the state’s cash bail system, according to reports.

Senate Bill 10 eliminates bail as a determinant of someone’s custody status while awaiting trial, and instead replaces it with a system that evaluates their risk to public safety and how likely they are to miss a court date.

“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Brown said in a statement.

Someone whose risk to public safety and risk of not appearing in court is assessed as being “low” would be released “with the least restrictive nonmonetary condition[s],” according to the bill. Meanwhile, local standards would apply to someone determined to be “medium risk” as far as detaining or releasing them, while “high risk” individuals—those who have committed “serious felonies” in the last five years, for instance—would be held in custody until the date of their arraignment.

The bill was approved by California’s legislature last week and largely backed by Democrats, according to the Sacramento Bee. Those in favor of eliminating the state’s bail system have argued in the past that it punishes “the poor for being poor.” Meanwhile, the bail industry in the state has been against the bill, while the American Civil Liberties Union, which used to back it, recently withdrew its support “because it seeks to replace the currently deeply-flawed system with an overly broad presumption of preventive detention,” among other things.

“We are disappointed to see Senate Bill 10 signed into law. SB 10 is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that California should strive for," the ACLU of California said in a statement issued Tuesday. "It cannot guarantee a substantial reduction in the number of Californians detained while awaiting trial, nor does it sufficiently address racial bias in pretrial decision making. Indeed, key provisions of the new law create significant new risks and problems."

Still, officials in the state aired optimism that the bill’s signing would promote a better legal environment for all Californians.

“This is a transformative day for our justice system,” California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. “Our old system of money bail was outdated, unsafe, and unfair.”

[Photo Credit: Getty]

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