An End to Cash Bail? California Prop 25 Explained

Will California be the first state to eliminate the cash bail system? Learn more about California Proposition 25 and how it could impact detained criminal suspects in 2021.

What is Proposition 25? 

Proposition 25 asks voters to decide whether the cash bail system should be abolished or if it should remain in place. A “yes” vote on Prop 25 will uphold the 2018 law signed by former Governor Jerry Brown prohibiting the cash bail system in the state. A “no” vote would permit the cash bail system to remain in place. If California were to uphold the ruling that bans the cash bail system, it would be the first state in the nation to do so. 

The cash bail system has been called in question because many feel that it unfairly benefits wealthy Californians, who are able to pay money to be released from jail while waiting for trial. Poor Californians who do not have access to cash must either pay a bail bond company or remain in jail until trial. 

The measure would instead utilize assessment divisions who would perform risk assessments on detained suspects, in part using an algorithm to determine their level of risk. Based on the results of the assessment, individuals would be deemed low, medium or high risk of not showing up for their court date. This information, along with the recommendations of the assessment division, would be brought before a judge who would determine whether the defendant would be released or retained. 

Schedule your free consultation today. Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Joni Eisenstein.

History Behind Proposition 25 

Proposition 25 is considered a veto referendum. In August of 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB10 into law, which replaced the cash bail system with the risk assessment algorithm. Opponents of the law, specifically those in the bail bonds industry, obtained enough signatures to challenge SB10 and get Proposition 25 on this year’s ballot. 

Historically, when an individual is jailed after an arrest, a judge will determine the cash bail amount based on the crime, the individual’s criminal history and the perceived likelihood that the person will return for their future court dates. In most jurisdictions, there is a bail schedule that provides a framework for bail amounts based on the type of crime. Judges can adjust the bail amount up or down depending on other factors that could indicate that a person might be a flight risk. 

People with financial resources are more likely to be able to pay their cash bail out of pocket or obtain the money in some fashion. Poor individuals who are unable to post their own bail money must either remain in jail until trial or pay a bail bond company. The bail bond company posts the bail amount and adds a non-refundable fee, typically around 10 percent. 

Viewpoint of Supporters of Prop 25

The cash bail system is unfair. It adversely impacts people from lower economic backgrounds and minorities. Wealthy people in the same legal situation as poor people can afford to post their bond and get themselves out of jail while awaiting trial. Poor people will have to remain in jail or pay fees to bail bond companies. If jailed suspects did not have to pay bail money, they could potentially spend that money out in the community and support the economy.  

Proponents of Prop 25 include: Governor Gavin Newsom, the Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters of California, Californians for Safety and Justice, NextGen California, CA Medical Association and the CA Teachers Association. 

Viewpoint of Opponents of Prop 25

As you might expect, bail bondsmen are opposed to the measure because it would decimate their industry and shut down many family run bail bond businesses that have been in operation for many years. They argue that the new system would be no better than the existing system. They also state that the algorithm could result in more people being released who could potentially commit more crimes. 

Surprising opponents of Prop 25 include certain human rights groups who question the use of an algorithm to decide whether or not a person should be released while awaiting trial. They believe that people from low income families, people of color and minorities will still be unfairly held in jail. 

Opponents of Prop 25 include: the Republican Party of California, CA NAACP State Conference, CA Peace Officers Association, American Bail Coalition, CA Bail Agents Association, Human Rights Watch and Equal Justice Now. 

Proposition 25 in Summary 

As a criminal defense attorney in the state of California, Joni Eisenstein believes that voting “yes” for Proposition 25 in November will protect criminal defendants’ rights and allow low risk individuals to maintain their freedom while awaiting trial. If you have any questions about how Prop 25 may impact your freedom, contact the Law Office of Joni Eisenstein today for a free consultation with our experienced and reputable criminal defense attorney.  

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