MYTHS vs. FACTS
The majority of people in jail pending trail are there sitting in jail because of non-financial reasons. They are either serving a sentence on another case, there is a probation or parole violation hold due to an alleged violation, or other legal holds. The ACLU noted that 88 percent of those in the Los Angeles County jail, pending a pretrial could not bail out due to “non-financial reasons unrelated to money bail.”
Under current law, a judge is required to consider several factors for determining bail, such as whether the person is a danger to the public if they are granted bail and the likelihood they will appear in court.
In California, a judge looks that the defendant’s criminal history, ties to the community, likelihood to flee, the severity of the crime, the potential danger he/she posses to the victim or the victim’s family and host of other factors to determine the amount of bail and/or whether the person is to dangerous to be in the streets.
In California the bail amount is not by bail agents, it is set by the court, after looking at the defendant’s criminal history, ties to the community, likelihood to flee, severity of the crime and potential danger to the victim or community.
The New Jersey program is just 4 months old, and it is already costing the state $450 million to run – New Jersey only has a quarter of the population of California.
In the District of Columbia, with a population of 670,000 people, the cost of supervising and evaluating defendants is $65.2 million a year.
The District of Columbia releases about 91 percent of those arrested. In California there are approximately 1.2 million crimes committed each year including homicide, rape, burglary, vehicle theft, robbery, arson and so on.
In California, nothing comes cheap. The questions that have yet to be answered by the legislation authors are: How much is it going to cost to implement this program in the first year? How much will it cost to put some of the evaluators in place? The technology, risk assessments, monitoring services, staff at the county and city level, training, etc?
If we just look at the population of California and compare it to the District of Columbia and New Jersey, the postposed “pretrial system” will going to cost our state between: $2 billion – $3.8 billion a year.
California has a risk assessment program in place where a judge determines, during the intake process, whether a defendant poses a flight risk or a danger to his/her community. If the person isn’t a flight risk and/or is a low-level offender or has no criminal history, they are released.
Currently, the courts consider each case individually, when determining who is a flight risk. The courts weigh a defendant’s reliability against factors that point to a likelihood to flee, including:
- The seriousness of the charge against you
- Your criminal history
- Whether or not you previously threatened the alleged victim
- The potential danger you may pose to the alleged victim or that victim’s family
- Statements provided by the alleged victim in regard to the danger you pose
- Strength of evidence
- Family and community ties
- Record of appearances at trial
- Previous occurrences of fleeing
- Defendant’s character
- Opportunity to flee
After evaluating all the facts, if the circumstances point to a defendant’s reliability and an unlikelihood of fleeing, then the defendant can be released on their own recognizance without the need for a money bail bond.
If the judge determines that the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community, then release will be set with conditions. These conditions include surrendering a passport, wearing an electronic monitor device or posting bail bond.