States nationwide are fighting for bail reform. Proponents of bail reform argue certain bail practices disproportionately burden people of color and those with limited financial resources. When a dollar amount is all that keeps some behind bars while others walk free, the system is indeed flawed.
California's bail system is under attack and in need of reform, although the State is somewhat behind others in reform efforts. Given California's overcrowded jails, reform can not only reduce oppression but also save the State some money. While the controversy over bail reform continues, here's some basic information on California's bail system and how it could change.
California's Bail System
Each county in California maintains practices for setting bail. In general, however, counties set bail based on the severity of the crime and, to some extent, the defendant's prior criminal history. More serious crimes equate to higher bail. Likewise, someone with multiple prior violent offenses, for example, could potentially face a significantly higher bail than one with a clean record. These two factors allow counties to set bail in a uniform, standard way. This saves time and, ultimately, resources. Bail bond companies offer their services to those who can't pay their bail, but some argue the bail bond industry is predatory due to the high fees they charge to people with no other options. Essentially, people who can pay are set free while those who can't remain in custody, regardless of who poses a greater risk. Sadly, those who do remain in custody can face several months in jail awaiting trial.
How Can We Improve Bail?
Much of the argument surrounding bail reform points to other factors, such as a thorough risk assessment and the defendant's ability to pay, as being a fairer way to determine bail. In the end, it's a game of risk. The court has to assess the risk the defendant poses to society if released and the amount of money needed to secure their return to court. Defendants forfeit bail when they fail to appear in court, and that serves as an incentive. The problem being those who can afford it can get out of jail faster and potentially even afford to skip court. The less fortunate, however, often can't afford to get out of jail, even if working with a bail bond company, and face much higher financial stakes if they do.
Bail reform varies from state to state. In California, proponents of bail reform call for better risk assessment tools using a model analysis and a consideration of the defendant's financial resources when setting bail. It is possible if the bail system is reformed, higher-risk defendants will face higher bail while low-end offenders who cannot afford it can secure their release, as many have jobs and families to return to. This more holistic approach to bail, many argue, will cost more, and could potentially release dangerous criminals into the community.
Whether you are for or against bail reform, it's safe to say changes will eventually take place, as many other states struggle with the same issues. When and how it changes remains to be seen. There are many factors that will influence how bail is changed. What we do know is the system is being put under pressure, which might ultimately make it easier for some defendants to get out of jail and back to their normal lives sooner.
Arrested? Call an Attorney for Help Today
If you've been arrested, you should call a California criminal defense attorney. As each county sets bail according to its own policy, it's best to contact an attorney who practices in the county that has jurisdiction over your case. For example, if you're arrested in Tulare County, call a Tulare criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney can walk you through the bail process and explain your rights. It's important to remain silent until you speak with an attorney. The criminal justice system is not user-friendly. You may not be given the information you need from the authorities to make a good decision about your case. Discuss your case thoroughly with an attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.
Have you been arrested and are facing criminal charges? If so, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for expert counsel. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your options and help you take steps to fight your charges, so that you can clear your name. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Christopher Martens will aggressively defend your rights and help you get the outcome you want. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.