A recent appellate decision may lead to a major impact on the way bail is set in California. Currently, California has a money-bail system, where defendants can buy their freedom before trial by posting a certain amount of money. The amount of bail is set according to a “bail schedule” which is a table that has a predetermined amount of bail for a specific crime and/or enhancement. The bail schedules differs from county to county but follow the same principle that a higher bail is required for more serious crimes. This system favors wealthy defendants because it rarely takes into account a person’s ability to pay. Two people could be charged with the same crime and may get the same bail amount, but the wealthier person would be out of custody simply because that person had the ability to pay the bail.
In re Humphrey is a case where the appellate court argues that courts must take into account a person’s ability to pay bail because otherwise poor people are being discriminated against in money-bail systems. The appellate court also suggested that trial courts consider non-money-bail conditions of release, such as GPS or residential rehabilitation.
The San Francisco Public Defender’s office won this victory and a full text of the court’s decision can be found on their website here.
If you have more questions about bail, visit our website or call our toll free number (877-RIGHT-14) for a free consultation.