What You Need to Know About the California No Bail Law

Word bail in black letters on white wooden dice on wooden gavel with justice figure in background

In 2020, California introduced a no cash bail law to help stop the spread of COVID-19 through the jail population. The law had significant implications for bail reform going forward; however, any bail reform measures in CA are currently on hold. Below, we take a look at how the no bail law works and what it means for future bail reform.  

What Is Bail in California?

Bail is an agreement between a defendant and the court system. 

A defendant agrees to meet certain conditions of release in exchange for getting out of jail while they await trial. Typically, this means they agree to attend all future court hearings and abide by any other court orders put in place.

Bail amounts are determined by preset bail schedules, but judges normally have some discretion when setting the bail amount.   

What Is the No Bail Law in California?

Bail reform has been a hot topic in California for a few years now. Here’s an overview of the most significant developments. 

The No Bail Law

In 2020, California introduced the “no bail law”, or SB 262. The law meant that defendants charged with minor offenses, misdemeanors, and certain felonies wouldn’t need to pay bail to secure their pretrial release. 

The goal of SB 262 was to reduce the number of inmates to help limit the spread of a new and highly contagious virus, COVID-19. However, the law also made the justice system fairer – defendants were no longer held in jail just because they had limited ability to pay.     

The Humphrey Decision

In 2021, during the pandemic, the Supreme Court of California passed a significant judgment in the re Humphrey case. The defendant was arrested for theft and faced exceptionally high bail amounts. In the end, the Supreme Court ruled that:

  • It’s unconstitutional to set bail at levels that defendants can’t afford to pay;
  • A defendant’s ability to pay should be considered when setting bail; and
  • Bail should only be unaffordable if detaining the defendant is the only way to protect the public.   

Taken together, the re Humphrey decision and SB 262 suggest that California is making significant strides towards bail reform. However, as of 2023, this is not the case – let’s consider why. 

Why Was California Bail Reform Paused?

There are two main reasons why the California no bail law is on hold right now. 

  • In 2021, when courts released defendant Troy Davis on zero bail, he brutally raped and murdered a woman in Sacramento before setting her house on fire and killing her dogs. 
  • More generally, there is some evidence to suggest that zero cash bail led to an increase in crime. 

Given the concerns that bail reform jeopardizes public safety, the no cash bail law was revoked in 2022. Bail reform efforts are, as of right now, on pause. 

What Is the Future of Bail Reform in California?

Despite the California Supreme Court decision, we’re still in a position where defendants can’t get bail unless they can afford to pay. It’s unclear how bail reform will proceed, but there’s hope that counties will be encouraged to start setting more affordable – and more equitable – bail amounts.  

H2: How Long Can You Stay in Jail if You Can’t Make Bail?

Under the California Penal Code, a defendant must normally be brought before a judge, or charged with a crime, within 48 hours of their arrest. After 48 hours, they must be let go unless charges are filed. 

There are exceptions for Sundays and public holidays, but this is the general rule.   

H2: How Can Bail Bondsmen Help?

If you can’t afford bail, you may be able to purchase bail bonds. A bail bond is essentially a guarantee that the defendant will comply with bail conditions in exchange for release while they’re awaiting trial. 

In California, bail bonds are usually around 10% of the total bail amount. You can purchase bail bonds around the clock – after all, the justice system doesn’t sleep. 

Get Bail Bonds in California

Do you need bail bonds in California? Whether it’s day or night, contact us. Our team is on hand 24/7 to get you the bail bonds you need to get your loved ones released as soon as possible. 
Visit our offices or call Bail Hotline when you’re in trouble and we’ll do everything we can to help!

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