Why Was the California Bail Reform Act Paused?

Handcuffs on a California flag

Those that voted in the 2020 election in California had an interesting choice to make. Given that access to money can make it easier to get out of jail on bail, Golden State voters were allowed to decide whether to replace the existing bail bond system with something a little more equitable. After all, those without the means to post bail often languished in jail until their court dates while their well-heeled counterparts could walk free shortly after being booked.

This was the perfect breeding ground for the sentiment that bail shouldn’t be tied to someone’s finances, and the California cash bail law (also known as no cash bail or SB 262) was rolled out across the state in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Then something heinous happened.

A repeat offender by the name of Troy Davis was released under California’s no cash bail law, throwing the entire practice on hold. That’s because Davis committed a rape and murder after being released on zero bail, then proceeded to set the scene of the crime – the victim’s house – on fire, killing her dogs, too.

Following that grizzly murder, people came out in opposition to the zero money bail law, pointing to the fact that Davis was released under it. Some felt that bail reforms had gone too far, siding with criminals and other repeat offenders over the needs of the community. 

What is No Cash Bail?

For those wondering why the California bail reform act was paused, we have to go back to how California adopted no cash bail in the first place. No cash bail first started as an emergency rule implemented by California’s Judicial Council in April of 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, jails were finding it difficult to house and take care of inmates, and a zero bail rule made sense at the time.

However, months later, defendants were set free in droves, leading to an uptick in crime across the state as police struggled to keep up during the pandemic. By November 2020, Proposition 25, a statewide ballot initiative intended to rescind the rule, made its way to the ballot in the general election. Voters approved the initiative, leading to an amendment of SB 262, or the “no cash bail law”.

As for what no cash bail means in California today, that’s an ongoing process. While California counties are prohibited from operating zero bail policies, there’s hope that certain guidelines can be added to existing laws to help provide a way forward.

Problems With Bail Reform

Since the California bail reform act has been paused, bail processes operate today much like it did in previous years. Critics of the California no cash bail bill pointed to the replacement of a money bail system with a risk assessment system rife with potential problems. In fact, this new AI layer could be even more problematic since it could code institutional biases directly into the bail system. 

Indeed, those who originally sponsored the California no-money bail law have since done a 180, fighting the law that they once supported. Instead of public safety, the discussion seems to be shifting to one of civil rights, with new bail reform leading the way. Instead of losing bail rights completely, access to funds remains the best way to walk free after a booking.

The Future of Bail Bonds in California

At this point, most people see bail reform in California, at least under what’s currently being suggested, as worse than the existing system. Sure, money-based bail law can be problematic at times, but any solution should not introduce more problems than the existing system. Some may think that cash bail is on the way out, but then why was the California bail reform act paused? As for what bail may look like in the future, we’ll just have to wait and see.

For now, it’s business as usual.

If you need help fulfilling a bond payment, get professional bail help within minutes from My Bail Hotline. Our locations throughout California can help you or a loved one obtain freedom this holiday season. Contact us today!

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