Governor Signs Bill Eliminating Money Bail in California
New law will replace the cash bail system with one that assesses individual risk instead of personal wealth
SACRAMENTO – Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) announced today that Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 10, the bill they authored that will eliminate the money bail system in California and replace it with a system that assesses each person’s individual public safety or flight risk.
“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” said Governor Brown.
Today’s announcement is the culmination of nearly two years of leading voices calling for reform to the state’s cash bail system, including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and more.
“Our path to a more just criminal justice system is not complete, but today it made a transformational shift away from valuing private wealth and toward protecting public safety,” said Senator Hertzberg. “Thanks to the collaboration of the Governor, Chief Justice, and the Legislature, we are creating a system that is fairer for all Californians. Today’s signing is historic, and California will continue to lead the way toward a safer and more equitable system.”
“Today, California takes a transformational step forward to correct a fundamental injustice,” said Assemblymember Bonta. “Abolishing money bail and replacing it with a risk-based system will enhance justice and safety. For too long, our system has allowed the wealthy to purchase their freedom regardless of their risk, while the poor who pose no danger languish in jail. No more. Freedom and liberty should never be pay to play.”
California's current bail system punishes low-income individuals by presenting a terrible choice: stay locked up for months (before ever being convicted) and risk losing your job and your livelihood; go into debt to pay a bail agent a nonrefundable deposit to post your bail; or plead guilty to be able to go home. Meanwhile, the wealthy can buy their freedom.
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While some individuals are considered a risk to public safety and may be held in custody for that reason, many are not a threat to public safety and could be released, monitored and reminded when to return for court hearings.
Under the new law, defendants will be held only if they pose a significant risk to public safety or risk missing their court date. Recommendations for non-monetary release conditions, such as GPS trackers, electronic home detention, or a number of other proven methods, would instead be made in place of money bail.
The bill was heavily based on the recommendations of the Chief Justice’s Pretrial Detention Reform Work Group, which determined that California’s current system, “unnecessarily compromises victim and public safety because it bases a person’s liberty on financial resources rather than the likelihood of future criminal behavior.”
“This is a transformative day for our justice system,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. “Our old system of money bail was outdated, unsafe, and unfair. It took a three-branch solution with Governor Brown, the Legislature led by Senator Hertzberg and Assemblymember Bonta, and the Judicial Council’s Administrative Director Martin Hoshino working with judges in my Pretrial Detention Reform Work Group to bring about a fair and just solution for all Californians.”
Today’s signing comes nearly two years after the authors stood with Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, fellow Senators and Assemblymembers, and community groups to first unveil the legislation.
"A person’s checking account balance should never determine how they are treated under the law. Cash bail criminalizes poverty and with Governor Brown’s signature today, California has opened the door to pursue and perfect a just pre-trial system." said Lt. Governor Newsom. "I applaud Senator Hertzberg, Assemblymember Bonta, and the many others who helped advance this landmark legislation and the fight against this immoral and unjust practice."