Zero-Bail Policy Takes Effect in Los Angeles County Amidst Controversy
The implementation of the zero-bail policy in Los Angeles County has sparked heated debates and legal challenges from a dozen cities. This policy eliminates cash bail amounts for individuals accused of misdemeanors and specific non-violent felonies.
“This change just applies to a tiny segment of the pretrial system,” Jeff Stein from the Civil Rights Corps told ABC7. “It’s just about that window between when a person is arrested and when they see a judge in LA. That can last up to five days.”
The Los Angeles County Superior Court introduced the Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols in July, arguing that cash bail processes disproportionately affect minorities and impoverished communities. This decision came after a class action lawsuit was filed, highlighting the negative consequences faced by individuals who couldn’t afford bail, such as missed work, separation from their families, and lack of medical care.
Under the new policy, individuals arrested for non-violent or non-serious offenses may be cited and released or booked and released at local law enforcement stations. If charges are filed, they must appear in court on a specified date for arraignment. However, if they pose a threat to public safety or are considered a flight risk, a magistrate judge will review the case to determine whether they should be held in custody or released with certain restrictions.
Shortly before the policy took effect, a group of twelve cities in Los Angeles County filed a court action, expressing concerns about public safety.
“There is and has been grave public concern regarding public safety in light of reduced enforcement and criminal consequences for various categories of ‘low-level’ offenses that, despite the nomenclature, have profound and significant impacts on the day-to-day life of whole communities of plaintiff cities and others within the county,” the cities reportedly wrote in court papers.
The cities involved in the lawsuit are Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs, Vernon, and Whittier.
Glendora Mayor Gary Boyer expressed the hope of overturning or pausing the zero-bail policy to thoroughly evaluate its impact. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore also voiced concerns about the policy’s potential lack of deterrence for serious criminal offenses.
California District Attorney Jeff Reisig criticized the county’s zero-bail policy, citing a comprehensive study that revealed alarming statistics.
“They ignored the only thorough comparative study in CA on Zero Bail and its impact on statewide crime. My county,” Reisig said. “What our 2023 study found was frightening: 163% more crime + 200% more violent crime committed in CA by arrestees released from jail on Zero Bail.”
Los Angeles has experienced a surge in retail and personal theft in recent months, with theft cases increasing by 15% compared to the previous year. Organized retail thefts, including the smash-and-grab trend, have also been on the rise.
Mairead Elordi contributed to this report.
2) What are the concerns raised by opponents of the zero-bail policy regarding public safety and potential increase in crime rates?
Flight risk, they may still be held without bail.
The zero-bail policy has received both praise and criticism from various groups. Supporters argue that it is a step towards reducing the systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system. They believe that cash bail unfairly targets low-income individuals, who may languish in jail solely because they cannot afford to pay for their release. The new policy, they argue, will ensure a fair and equal pretrial process for all individuals, regardless of their financial situation.
On the other hand, opponents of the zero-bail policy express concerns about potential risks to public safety. They worry that individuals accused of non-violent crimes could be released back into the community without any financial consequences, leading to an increase in crime rates. They argue that cash bail serves as a deterrent and a way to ensure that individuals facing criminal charges show up for their court hearings.
Legal challenges have emerged from a dozen cities within Los Angeles County, including Beverly Hills, Palos Verdes Estates, and Manhattan Beach, among others. These cities have argued that the zero-bail policy undermines public safety and puts their residents at risk. They contend that it is the responsibility of the local government to prioritize the safety and well-being of its citizens.
One specific concern raised by opponents of the zero-bail policy is the potential for repeat offenders to go back to their illegal activities without facing any consequences. Critics argue that by eliminating cash bail, the policy removes a significant incentive for individuals to comply with the law. They fear that this may lead to an increase in recidivism rates and a strain on law enforcement efforts to maintain public safety.
Amidst the controversy, some cities have taken matters into their own hands by proposing alternative solutions. For example, the city of Beverly Hills has explored the idea of creating its own bail schedule for offenses occurring within its jurisdiction. Other cities are considering similar measures to ensure the safety of their residents while addressing the perceived inequalities in the cash bail system.
As the legal challenges continue, it remains to be seen how the zero-bail policy will ultimately impact the criminal justice system in Los Angeles County. Supporters believe that it will lead to a more equitable and just process, while opponents fear the potential consequences for public safety. Only time will tell whether this policy proves to be a positive step towards reform or a cause for further concern.
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