Attorney General Becerra: New California Supreme Court Order Increases Fairness in the State’s Current Bail System

Thursday, August 27, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – Following a request joined by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Supreme Court late yesterday issued an order making a key part of the California First District Court of Appeal’s groundbreaking bail opinion in In re Humphrey binding on trial courts pending final resolution of the case. That opinion requires trial courts across the state to take into account an individual’s circumstances and ability to pay in setting bail. With this new order, trial courts may no longer unquestioningly rely on bail schedules, which, for low-income individuals arrested for felonies, amounts to “a virtual presumption of incarceration.” In the Attorney General’s letter to the state Supreme Court last week, the Attorney General reiterated that under the principles of due process, pretrial detention should depend on an individualized assessment of the need for a person to be detained, rather than on a defendant’s financial resources. Simply put, people should not be locked up before trial just because they are genuinely unable to afford bail.

“In making bail determinations, trial courts across California must now take into account individual circumstances and the person’s ability to pay,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Bottom line: this is a critical step forward for fairness in our bail system. I’m grateful to the California Supreme Court for taking swift action on this request. At the California Department of Justice, we’ll keep pushing forward in our broader fight for justice.” 

Attorney General Becerra is committed to improving public safety and the criminal justice system by advocating for reforms across the state and the nation, and working with local authorities to implement new policies. Earlier this month, he pushed back on an unlawful revision of Florida’s felon re-enfranchisement law, which restricted voting rights for people who are unable to pay court fines and fees. Last month, the Attorney General issued a report on the Sacramento Police Department’s policies and practices. In June, Attorney General Becerra called for a wide range of statewide police reforms aimed at proactive efforts to save lives. Last year, he secured an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District and its police department to address system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of African American and Latino students, and students with disabilities. In 2018, as a result of the Trump Administration abandoning its role, the Attorney General stepped in at the request of the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department to provide independent oversight of the police department’s reform efforts.

More information about today’s ruling is available in the court’s docket here. The Court of Appeal’s order is available here.

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