NATION’S LARGEST TRIAL COURT UNVEILS SAFE AND FAIR PRE-ARRAIGNMENT RELEASE PROTOCOLS FOR NON-VIOLENT, NON-SERIOUS FELONIES AND MISDEMEANORS
New Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols Prioritize Public Safety by Focusing on Risk to Community Safety While Reducing Reliance on Money Bail, Set to Take Effect October 1
Today the Superior Court of Los Angeles County approved a new set of bail schedules that include safe and fair Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols which determine release status based on an arrestees’ risk to public or victim safety and their likelihood of returning to court while reducing reliance on money bail as a condition of release for many of those arrested in Los Angeles County for non-violent, non-serious felonies and misdemeanors, Presiding Judge Samantha P. Jessner announced.
“Today the Court approved a shift in the way we approach pre-arraignment release for non-violent, non-serious felonies and misdemeanors that acknowledges the fundamental inequality of money bail,” said Presiding Judge Jessner. “A person’s ability to pay a large sum of money should not be the determining factor in deciding whether that person, who is presumed innocent, stays in jail before trial or is released. Any determination of an arrestee’s status after arrest but before being charged should be based on an individualized determination of risk and likelihood to return to court. A low-risk arrestee should not be held in jail simply because they cannot post the necessary funds to be released pending arraignment. I applaud the members of the Court’s Bail Committee and Executive Committee for producing an innovative approach that, for those arrested for non-violent, non-serious felony offenses and misdemeanors, considers the individual’s risk to public and victim safety and likelihood of returning to court while minimizing reliance on money bail to secure pre-arraignment release. The Court looks forward to working with County leaders, including our law enforcement and justice partners, to continue to think broadly about what we can do as a community to facilitate the protection of public safety, maximize the likelihood that these persons will return to court and ensure that low-level offenders do not sit behind bars prior to arraignment simply because they cannot afford bail.”
The California Constitution provides that the purpose of bail is to ensure an arrestee appears for all court appearances and reduce the risk to public or victim safety. Under the Constitution, most arrestees who are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt are entitled to release on bail while awaiting trial. In addition, the Constitution prohibits excessive bail and requires that judicial officers take into account the protection of the public, safety of the victim, seriousness of the offense charged, previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of the arrestee appearing at court appearances. The United States Supreme Court has stated that “in our society liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial is the carefully limited exception,” and the Court’s action today seeks to make this a reality.
“With the implementation of the new Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, the Court is helping to develop a robust and dynamic pre-arraignment release system for non-violent, non-serious felonies and misdemeanors that prioritizes public and victim safety and equal access to justice for all,” said Executive Officer/Clerk of Court David W. Slayton. “We are hopeful the protocols announced today will build on our productive and collaborative working relationships with members of the LA County criminal justice community as we work together to change the landscape of and thinking around pretrial release for low-level crimes.”
Uniform county bail schedules are established by the Court under the authority granted by Penal Code Section 1269b(c). Under the traditional bail schedule model, crimes correspond with specific dollar amounts, which individuals can post as bail to secure release prior to their arraignment, which is typically held within 48 hours of arrest if the arrestee is detained, regardless of the arrestee’s risk to public safety and likelihood to return to court.
The newly adopted felony and misdemeanor bail schedules, which include the new Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, will replace uniform misdemeanor and felony bail schedules for arrestees before arraignment. Under the protocols included in the new bail schedules, crimes will correspond with pre-arraignment release terms based on the arrestee’s risk to public and victim safety and likelihood of returning to court. Instead of assigning a money bail amount to low-level, non-violent, non-serious offenses, the majority of these arrestees will be released at the location of arrest or booked and then released on their own recognizance with a promise to appear at arraignment. Persons arrested for certain crimes which pose a greater risk to the public will be referred to a magistrate, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who will exercise discretion by conducting individualized determinations of the appropriate non-financial pre-arraignment release terms and conditions of the arrestee necessary to reduce the risk to the public and victim safety and the likelihood of the arrestee returning to court. Examples of release terms and conditions include prohibitions against engaging in illegal conduct, text reminders about court appearances, check-ins with court staff, home supervision, and electronic monitoring.
Pursuant to the law, all release conditions for arrestees may be reconsidered by a judicial officer at arraignment. At that time, judicial officers will consider the facts presented and the arguments made by counsel, rely on applicable legal precedent, and exercise their discretion to determine release conditions and an amount of bail necessary to ensure the safety of the public and victim and likelihood of the arrestee returning to court.
The newly adopted bail schedules will take effect on October 1 to provide law enforcement and justice partners the opportunity to design and implement systems, procedures and tools to accommodate the new pre-arraignment protocols.
Persons charged with capital offenses or certain felonies designated in the California Constitution and Penal Code 1270.5 will remain ineligible for pre-arraignment release.
As mandated by Penal Code 1270.1, persons arrested for serious or violent offenses under the law remain eligible to post money bail for pre-arraignment release, but will not be eligible for cite and release, book and release or magistrate review.
Persons arrested for felonies while on Post-Release Community Supervision or while on Parole will not be eligible for cite and release or book and release and will be referred to a magistrate for review.
The new bail schedules reflect the conclusions of the Judicial Council of California’s 2017 Pretrial Detention Reform Workgroup that pretrial systems that rely exclusively on the financial resources of the accused are inherently unsafe and unfair. Consistent with these conclusions, for non-violent, non-serious felonies and misdemeanors, the newly adopted bail schedules will decrease reliance on money bail as a condition of pre-arraignment release in recognition that these persons have not yet been convicted of the crime for which they were arrested and that an individualized determination of risk and tailored conditions are more effective in reducing risk to the public and victim and failure to appear rates. The schedules are also consistent with precedent set by other jurisdictions throughout the nation, including New Jersey, Kentucky, and Washington D.C., whose systems have largely removed money bail as a condition of release while concomitantly reducing crime and failures to appear in court.
You can view the current notice here.
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